Updated: 10:21 a.m. ET Aug. 18, 2004
NEW YORK - Mayor Michael Bloomberg turned down requests to allow an anti-war demonstration in Central Park on the eve of the Republican National Convention, but he offered protesters something else: cheap tickets to a Broadway show.
All they have to do to get discounted tickets, reduced hotel rates and other perks is play nice when they come to town.
"There is no reason we shouldn't welcome them in the same way we are welcoming the delegates and the press," Bloomberg said Tuesday. "The right to protest is a basic American right ... and New York City is a place where you can come and get your message out."
Buttons showing the Statue of Liberty welcoming "peaceful political activists" will be given to protesters who obey the law and groups that have permits to demonstrate. Participating restaurants, museums and others will provide the treats.
"It's no fun to protest on an empty stomach," Bloomberg said.
The offer of hospitality didn't impress protest groups, who questioned whether hotel rooms remain unreserved and theater tickets unsold because Bloomberg has alarmed potential visitors.
"They probably realize now that you're going to see more demonstrators than convention delegates and they'd better cater to them, too," said Tanya Mayo, national organizer for Not in Our Name, one of the groups seeking the park permit.
Protest organizers have threatened to sue to gather 250,000 demonstrators at Central Park rather than use a site proposed by the city.
The Republican convention will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at Madison Square Garden.