New York Ready To Unleash Fury On Republicans
A recent survey showed that 83 per cent of New Yorkers did not want the convention in their city. 'We all live here,' said Angela Coppola, an office worker who has joined the protest groups. 'We were the victims of 11 September and now they are coming to terrorise us with their asinine convention.'
Standing on the rubble of the twin towers days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush vowed to track down and capture Bin Laden, "Dead or alive." He later abandoned that pledge to launch an illegal, unilateral attack on Iraq, saying that Bin Laden didn't matter. Since that time, New York City has remained under a high terror alert level, spent millions on clean-up and anti-terrorism funding, and has weathered recent warnings that terrorists may strike at its financial institutions or nearby structures in New Jersey and Washington DC and seek to disrupt the political elections. It makes no sense to site a national Republican convention in this liberal, battered "target" city, but here they are, like oblivious, unwelcome house guests.
New York ready to unleash fury on Republicans
Sit-down protests and traditional dances as Democrats use every weapon to beat Bush
Paul Harris in New York
Sunday August 15, 2004
The smiling face of former New York mayor Ed Koch beams down from posters all over the city. 'The Republicans are coming,' it says underneath. 'Make nice.'
Fat chance. New York is bracing for one of the biggest showdowns in its political history as the Republican national convention comes to town at the end of the month. Meeting the army of delegates, politicians and lobbyists will be a vast array of protest groups that intend to make the Republicans' Big Apple stay as unpleasant as possible. Trying to keep order on the streets will be 20,000 police, secret servicemen and National Guard units. A quiet week seems out of the question.
Jamie Moran certainly hopes so. He is one of the main driving forces behind the protest movement which has sprung up since the Republicans announced they would gather in New York. He and others have been collecting information on all aspects of the convention.
They run a 'snitch line' where people involved in the convention can leak details of events and where delegates have been staying. The protesters are widely believed to have infiltrated several people into working at the convention who will smuggle information out. Moran's plan is to send out teams of activists to disrupt as many events as possible.
'It's all coming along well,' he told The Observer at a meeting of protest groups in a city church. Moran, 30, son of a local cop, has become a minor media star in New York, but he is far from alone in plotting to make the city a place the Republican party will be reluctant to return to. In all, more than 250,000 protesters from all over the US and the rest of the world are expected to converge on the city during the four-day event.
Maps of where Republican events are being held have been distributed. They contain details of where delegates are staying, lobbyists' parties are being held and major corporate headquarters are located. Streets will be shut down, impromptu marches held, meetings disrupted and parties invaded.
Sit-down demonstrations will block traffic, protesters will chain themselves together and delegates' hotels will be infiltrated. There will be organised protests and marches, with City Hall permits, that are expected to attract hundreds of thousands of demonstrators.
John Flanigan and Tim Doody are two other protest co-ordinators aiming to make 31 August a day of direct action. They said they would shun the idea of applying for any form of permit.
'We already have a permit. It is called the American constitution. The idea that I have to ask for permission to protest my own government is ridiculous,' Flanigan said.
Sitting on the steps of St Mark's church in the East Village, the pair typified the anger felt by protesters that the Republicans are holding their convention in a city that prides itself on its liberalism. 'This has really shaken everyone out of their complacency. People are outraged,' said Doody.
Polls support that reaction. A recent survey showed that 83 per cent of New Yorkers did not want the convention in their city. 'We all live here,' said Angela Coppola, an office worker who has joined the protest groups. 'We were the victims of 11 September and now they are coming to terrorise us with their asinine convention.'
New York was chosen by the Republicans with an eye on associating the party with the terror attacks of 2001. But now it runs the risk of having the media coverage turn into pictures of street battles and mass arrests. However, that may not necessarily upset Republican strategists. TV footage of besieged delegates inside Madison Square Garden may boost George Bush's poll ratings in key, socially conservative Midwest states.
New York police are preparing for the worst. Manhattan's District Attorney's office has said that it expects 1,000 arrests a day during the convention, three times the normal rate. Police will have 'non-lethal' weapons such as tasers (electric stun guns), plastic bullets and pepper spray. Any illegal protest is expected to be cracked down on immediately.
At a press briefing last week, mayor Mike Bloomberg was firm about the police attitude to protesters without permits: 'If you disrupt traffic, if you behave in a way that is against the law, the NYPD will enforce the law. Period.'
Huge preparations have been made to combat the threat of terrorism. New York, along with Washington and Newark, New Jersey, is likely to still be on a heightened state of terrorist alert. Checkpoints will be set up around the convention centre, helicopter flights over the city will be banned and New York-bound trains will be searched by anti-bomb units using sniffer dogs.
The convention itself, featuring speakers such as Senator John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, will culminate in the prime-time acceptance speech of Bush himself. But by then it is possible that events on the streets will be all anyone is talking about.
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