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August 30 Recap

Poverty issues on top, a mostly successful day with a couple moments of chaos.
The two main protest marches of August 30, the first day of the Republican National Convention, focused primarily on issues of poverty, homelessness, AIDS, and other issues of social inequality. The first of these, the Still We Rise march, was a permitted event, leaving from Union Square at 1 PM and heading to Madison Square Gardens, where the Republican National Convention is being held. There were about 4,000 people on the march, which was organized by a coalition of advocacy groups. The crowd was very racially diverse, loud, and lively, with singing and chants, some in English, some in Spanish. The march ended at the intersection of 29th St. and 8th Ave., where the police had set up a barricade, keeping 29th clear, while on the other side of the barricade was a stage with a podium, inside another barricade. Only press and organizers were allowed in this pen. Madison Square Gardens was visible about two blocks away.

While the assembled crowd sweltered in the humid midday sun, speakers - from Chuck D of Public Enemy to youth organizers in NYC - stressed issues of social inequality and urged the audience to rise up and take freedom and representation for themselves. While the speakers criticized the Bush administration, many of them also noted that neither Democrats nor Republicans are serving the interests of the nation's poor.

The second march of the day - the March for Our Lives, or Poor People's March, organized by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign - was unpermitted and convened across the street from the United Nations building on 1st Ave and 45th St at 4 PM. The speakers at the rally represented all kinds of excluded groups; from the homeless, to the deaf, to the disabled, to the youth, immigrant workers, ex-prisoners, and the terminally ill. The speeches stressed much the same issues as those of the earlier rally, but there was an added tension in the air, as it was uncertain how the police would react once the crowd began to march. The city had refused a permit to the march, and the police department only agreed at the last minute to let it go forward. With that in mind, perhaps - and knowing that the media was present - the MC had the crowd repeat several times before the march began "I am peaceful, I am non-violent, and I am marching with brothers and sisters who are deaf." A group of organizers linked armed and formed a protective ring around all parents with children; this group moved at the front of the march.

The march went forward, about a thousand strong, with a heavy police escort, heading once again towards Madison Square Gardens. The police attempted to arrest several people on the way, although at least one of them was released when the crowd gathered around and chanted "Let him go!"

Upon arriving at the corner of 8th Ave and 27th St., the crowd found itself stopped by the same barricade that had been in place during the Still We Rise protest, with a line of police behind it. At this point, according to Robert Corsini of Not in Our Name, undercover police materialized from the back of the march and began setting up a barricade on 29th St., effectively seperating the march into two sections and hemming in the front half in one block between two barricades. The purpose of this, apparently, was to prevent too large of a crowd from gathering in one block. However, the police did not communicate this to the crowd, and many people assumed that they were being boxed in and were about to be arrested en masse.

"People started to panic - they didn't know which side of the barricade they wanted to be on," Corsini said. "They were pushing back and forth over the barricade."

During this process, an undercover officer on a motorcycle reportedly rode into the back of the protest. Another officer was injured and taken away in an ambulance. Several protesters were arrested, including one woman who was writing "Freedom of Speech" in chalk on the street. However, as it became evident that mass arrests were not ensuing, the crowd calmed down and some people began to disperse while others played guitar and lay on the ground to write the word "Peace."

The night ended with one final police/protester standoff at the corner ove 2nd Ave and 7th St, outside of a restaurant where some Republican delegates were reportedly dining. However, by that point, this reporter had gotten cranky and headed home, so it will be left to someone else to tell the story.
Awesome Marches! 31.Aug.2004 07:12

gk

The 2 marches sound awesome! How beautiful to surround/protect the families with children at the front of the march. That one is arrested for writing in chalk on sidewalk is balogna/unfair. Thanks for actions. I heard the heat/humidity is hard there and you are bearing up. I watch and listen with all my heart. My body is home, but I am with you in spirit. Stay safe.

any pics? 10.Sep.2004 21:38

Liah la465@nyu.edu

Hi:

Thanks for your post. I am one of the arrestees...Do you have any pics of the chalk writers? I plan to carry out a civil suit against the NYPD.

Peace and Solidarity,

Liah