Pre-Emptive Arrests Mark Republican Convention

Outside of New York, Boston and the independent media, the corporate dailies carried little news about protests at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Half a million people marched through the streets of Manhattan on Sunday, August 29, the eve of the Republican National Convention. While most had more than one reason to oppose the Republicans under George Bush, the demonstrators' greatest common denominator all week long was opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Tuesday, August 31 was dedicated to decentralized nonviolent direct actions across Manhattan. Police used a variety of tactics and equipment to isolate activist groups where they gathered, before large masses could converge. Typical was the response to a march sponsored by the War Resisters League, SOA Watch, and others, from Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood, towards Madison Square Garden and the convention. Thousands had gathered and begun marching, when just a block away, police surrounded more than 200 marchers in the lead and several bystanders with orange plastic net construction fencing, then arrested them all. Most of those not arrested made their way towards the Garden nonetheless, where many more were arrested in a die-in..

Throughout the day, at more than a dozen locations across Manhattan, police preemptively plucked peaceful protesters and luckless locals off the streets, arresting more than 1,000, and nearly 2,000 total during the week. Hundreds were held for up to 48 hours in a large, toxic-contaminated warehouse at Pier 57, hastily converted for the purpose. A court order September 2 finally brought about the release of over 500 of those detained, some for 60 hours by then. The Mass Defense Committee of the New York City National Lawyers Guild is coordinating legal defense of those arrested, and has also filed suit against the NYPD over the false arrests and dangerous temporary jails.

Code Pink and Act-Up activists managed to defeat the high security checks on several nights, only to be pushed, pulled and carried off the convention floor after giving voice to their convictions.

Protests at the Democratic National Convention in Boston were muted by comparison, with less than a dozen arrests reported.

The Nuclear Resister
October 2004