The Republican National Convention (RNC) meeting in New York for the first time in its 150 year history, from August 30 -September 2, 2004, will face hundreds of thousands of antiwar protesters, poor peoples’ groups, environmental and human rights groups, labor rights activists and other social and economic justice groups from all over the country, who are saying “No to the Bush Agenda.”
The Republican-controlled city administration and Mayor Bloomberg who believes that First Amendment rights are “privileges,” are doing everything they can to repress basic rights of the protestors. For months, federal agents and city police have been questioning activists, monitoring Web sites and dropping in unannounced on organizational meetings. A state judge rejected a bid by United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella coalition of more than 800 anti-war groups, to hold a rally in the Central Park on August 29, 2004 after a march past Madison Square Garden, where the convention is being held. The reason offered for trampling the right to free speech and free assembly – The city officials are concerned that such a rally, which could draw 250,000 people, might trample lawns in the park!
But the New Yorkers have spoken!
A recent poll, released on Thursday August 26, 2004 shows that 71 percent of New York’s registered voters think protesters should be allowed to demonstrate in Central Park during the RNC, 68 percent approve of nonviolent civil disobedience, and that 11 percent plan to go to a demonstration themselves!
This is Democracy Uprising.
On August 26, 2004 a group of students and young professionals, trained by The Ruckus Society, unfurled a giant 2400 sq-foot banner in midtown Manhattan, off the front of the historic Plaza Hotel in Central Park. The banner had two giant arrows pointing in opposite directions – the top arrow said TRUTH; the bottom one said BUSH. This non-violent message was heard around the world. For more information on how to support efforts of the Ruckus Society and to view photos from the banner drop, visit click here.
On Friday August 27, starting at 7 pm at the Union Square in Manhattan, the Critical Mass – over 5,000 bikes forming a 45 block-long brigade of cyclists, skaters and pedestrians occupied the Times Square and rode past Madison Square Garden. According to the Independent Media Center, “approximately 800 Critical Massers ended up at St. Mark’s church in lower Manhattan, sanctuary for the protest and home to much of the organizing for the counter RNC mobilizing. Upon arriving at the church, the Critical Mass riders hoisted their bikes into the air, waving them overhead as they unleashed a long unified victory cry.” However this was soon disrupted by the police which started arresting participants. According to the police department a total of 264 people were arrested as of early Saturday, August 28, 2004.
For more information and to see photos of the Critical Mass, visit click here.
On August 30, the first day of the Republican National Convention, the Economic Human Rights Campaign of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union has organized a Poor Peoples’ March from the United Nations to Madison Square Garden. Led by homeless women and their children, public housing tenants, wheelchair-bound people without health care and poor people, the march will go ahead – with or without a permit – and is ready for mass arrests. Fearing violence from the police, Cheri Honkala of the KWRU has put out a call for international human rights observers to watch over her group. Anuradha Mittal from The Oakland Institute is proud to be one such observer!
August 31 has been designated for “direct action” – creative, nonviolent civil disobedience. The Oakland Institute will provide eye witness reports of these historic events as activists reclaim democracy and human rights in New York. After all as Leslie Cagan, head of United for Peace and Justice has said, “The right to protest is not nor has it ever been a privilege – it is a constitutionally protected right that everybody in this country enjoys.” 2004 – The Oakland Institute