And *Yet Another* RNC Batch....
- News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
ZNet | Repression
Arrest-happy cops on the prowl
Even "polite" protestors and apolitical pedestrians are fair
game in RNC round-up
by Isabel Macdonald
September 02, 2004
Karen Agugliaro and her two friends, Cynthia and Cliff, were
standing on the curb on Manhattan’s West 34th Street, near
Broadway, on a balmy Tuesday evening, the second day of the
Republican National Convention, when a spontaneous protest
erupted on the sidewalk beside them.
A group of about 30 people converged on the corner singing
"these streets are our streets."
The three passers-by, who had no intention of getting
themselves arrested, dutifully obeyed the cops when police
officers ordered the crowd to stand by the wall on the side
of the sidewalk if they didn't want to get arrested."
"We said OK," Agugliaro recalled; the three friends heeded
the cops' warning, moving aside. To her surprise, when she
looked back at her two companions a moment later, they were
both being arrested. "There were my two friends, who were
co-operative and polite, caught up in handcuffs."
The police placed metal fences around everybody on the
sidewalk at the corner of Broadway and West 34th, informing
them they were being arrested for "disturbing the peace". I
saw a cop running after two passer-bys who tried to escape;
one man in an orange Buddhist robe managed to flee, though
not before the cop gave him a shove, and I watched another
man narrowly dodge out of reach of another police officer's
grasp and sprint away to the freedom of Fifth Avenue, with a
petrified expression on his face.
Agugliaro was enraged, and baffled. The reason for arresting
the people chanting on the street may have been obscure, but
the way her friends were being carted off in a paddy wagon
was plain nonsensical.
Similar situations seemed to be popping up every way I
turned in Manhattan that day.
That afternoon, I had witnessed police conduct mass arrests
at a peaceful march commemorating the casualties of war and
terror. The procession, organized by the War Resisters
League and School of the Americas Watch, had not even
advanced a block from its departing point at ground zero
when the police rounded up and arrested 80 people.
The arrestees had been walking in rows of two on the
sidewalk, like a procession of remarkably obedient
school-children on a class trip to a museum -- exactly as
they had been instructed to do by the cops. The first people
to begin marching, they had not even walked a block when
they were fenced in and surrounded by over a hundred police
officers, cruisers, vans and buses on the corner of Church
and Fulton Streets.
Eric DeCompte, the Outreach Co-ordinator of School of the
Americas Watch, stood with the remaining demonstrators on
the other side of Church St., hands on his toddler's
stroller, and calmly led a chorus singing for peace, as the
orderly lines of marchers were informed that they were being
arrested for "obstructing governmental administrations."
I heard the guy standing beside me, a kid in his early 20s
named Alex, wonder aloud: "the cops just seem confused."
He was not referring only to the scene unfolding in front of
us at the ground zero site; he was making a general
observation on the cops' manner of handling the
anti-convention demos over the past days. Despite the
abundant police and intelligence forces present in the city,
the authorities' seemed to lack a basic capacity to draw
simple cognitive distinctions -- for instance, between
protestor and unaffiliated pedestrian, between a veritable
threat to the peace and a procession marching so obediently
in double file that it attracted jeers from the young
anarchist punks it passed.
This week, in an article praising the "police restraint" at
the August 29 march organized by United for Peace and
Justice, The New York Times reported an incident in which
two deli customers making their way home with take-out food
were handcuffed by police. The cops were conducting a
round-up of protestors on bicycles in the vicinity of the
Sunday march, and the two take-out customers, who unluckily
happened to have arrived at the deli on bicycles, were
caught up in a wave of arrests. One of those arrestees,
Alexander Pincus, stated to the Times, "We were like, 'Look
at the food. It's still warm. They wouldn't listen to
anything we said." However, beneath the apparent confusion,
it's clear that there is a kind of logic in the police
tactics for dealing with the demonstrators: arrest as many
as possible, and stop protests before they even begin.
This strategy was apparent last Friday, when cops began
doing mass arrests at the Critical Mass bike ride through
Manhattan. The ride is a monthly event, in which the New
York Police Department has historically played a supportive
role by helping to block traffic to clear the road for the
cyclists. On the eve of the Republicans' arrival in NYC, the
ride garnered unprecedented numbers; organizers estimate
that 5000 cyclists participated, and the cops responded by
arresting 264 people.
One cyclist from Rochester recalled the way the event turned
from a peaceful ride to a tense scene of mass arrests: "They
had undercover cops on scooters driving through bikers; they
put up netting on one street, basically caging us in like
He noted police intimidation tactics began before the ride;
"The cops had been sending out these very intimidating
letters to bicycle groups warning them not to go on the
ride." At the time of writing, on September 1, Democracy Now
is reporting an estimated 1500 arrests since the beginning
of the weekend. Those arrested are now being held at the
processing centre at Pier 57. According to recent reports
posted on Indymedia, there are between 1000-2000 people
inside, and multiple reports of oil and chemical residue on
the floor. Also, one caller reported dehydration, verbal
abuse from guards, and complained of having no room to sit
down. People are being held without charges and without
having been read their rights.
Sep. 3, 2004. 01:00 AM
New York fined for detentions
Judge orders immediate release of 470 protesters
Mayor Bloomberg equates yelling with terrorism
by SARA KUGLER
NEW YORK -- A judge ordered city officials yesterday to
immediately release nearly 500 anti-GOP protesters, then
held the city in contempt for not complying and imposed a
fine that could total almost a half-million dollars.
State Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo fined the city
$1,000 for every protester held past a 5 p.m. deadline he
had set for their release. It was unclear how many detainees
were still in custody, but Cataldo had ordered the release
of 470 people.
"These people have already been the victims of a process,"
Cataldo told the city's top lawyer. "I can no longer accept
your statement that you are trying to comply."
Cataldo then ordered the release of the 470 detainees, who
had been in custody for anywhere from 36 to 66 hours. The
decision was immediately hailed by lawyers for the
"They have to release them right now," said veteran civil
rights lawyer Norman Siegel. "The judge, to his credit,
Protests continued during the final day of the convention
yesterday, with 26 arrests made by 9:30 p.m. Verbal
harassment of delegates also continued, leading New York
Mayor Michael Bloomberg to draw parallels between the
protesters and terrorists.
"It is true that a handful of people have tried to destroy
our city by going up and yelling at visitors here because
they don't agree with their views," he said.
"Think about what that says. This is America, New York,
cradle of liberty, the city for free speech if there ever
was one and some people think that we shouldn't allow people
to express themselves. That's exactly what the terrorists
did, if you think about it, on 9/11. Now this is not the
same kind of terrorism but there's no question that these
anarchists are afraid to let people speak out."
City officials blamed the delays in releasing the suspects
on extraordinary volume. On Tuesday, for example, there were
nearly 1,200 arrests in four hours -- one of the largest
mass arrests in the nation's history -- compared with the
roughly 300 arraignments that take place daily in Manhattan
Once arrested, detainees are supposed to be through the
system within 24 hours.
'We can't just open the jails of the city of New York and
let everybody out'
-- Michael Cardozo, Corporation Counsel
There were accusations the city was deliberately holding the
protesters longer so they would not be in the streets during
U.S. President George W. Bush's speech at the Republican
National Convention last night.
"The evidence shows that the city told defendants that they
would not be released until George Bush went home," said Dan
Alterman, of the National Lawyers Guild.
The New York Police Department denied this. "The allegations
that the NYPD was purposely holding demonstrators until
after the president of the United States left New York City
was part of a deliberate misinformation campaign," police
spokesman Paul Browne said.
At a hearing during which Cataldo determined the city had
failed to comply with his release order, Corporation Counsel
Michael Cardozo tried in vain to convince the judge the city
was trying desperately to comply.
"We can't just open the jails of the city of New York and
let everybody out," Cardozo said. "We're not trying to flout
Your Honour's order . . . We're doing everything humanly
Siegel, the civil rights lawyer, was representing the mother
of a 17 year old arrested Tuesday. He said the teen's mother
claimed she was told by Manhattan booking officials that her
son would be held until Bush left town.
About 50 of the detainees launched a hunger strike yesterday
to protest their extended time behind bars.
Last night, some 2,000 people attended a candlelit vigil in
Union Square organized by United for Peace and Justice,
which also sponsored a huge rally Sunday.
With files from New York Times
Weary Protesters Unsure Of Their Impact
By JOHN JURGENSEN
Courant Staff Writer
September 3 2004
NEW YORK -- Political intensity is not the only measure of
an activist's mettle. Stamina was just as vital for the
people who settled in here almost a week ago to fulfill a
packed schedule of dissent.
"My friends are at home. They're done for the week," Leia
Jools Jimenez said Thursday, the closing day of the
Republican National Convention.
"Their feet are broken from marching. They want to go home."
Their departure back to Minnesota, however, depended on how
much gas money Jimenez could muster, strumming her guitar in
Union Square Park.
Protest fatigue is temporary. But the lingering issue for
the participants -- fair-weather marchers and entrenched
anarchists alike -- will be the impact they had on the GOP
juggernaut and the voters who watched it.
Members of the media and other observers had a mixed
appraisal of the reach of the week's demonstrations.
Having experienced both the ebullience of a massive,
well-covered march last Sunday and the frustration of so
many arrests, many protesters were ambivalent as they looked
"Going to jail was really a deadening experience
emotionally," said Kaya Weidman, 21, who lives in an
encampment of about 10 people in an upstate New York forest.
She was one of roughly 200 people arrested during a peaceful
rally Tuesday near ground zero. That led to about 15 hours
for her in cramped holding pens. At one point, she said, she
took turns on a mattress her friends had made of a trash bag
stuffed with crumpled milk cartons and rejected bologna
"The Republicans, I don't think they care. The media, who
knows?" she said. "I think the most significant part has
been the strengthening of the community."
But what could be more crucial in terms of the coming
election is how the protests were portrayed to people
outside her insular community. And that, of course, depended
on how the assembled press corps weighed its coverage
Jeffrey Schneider, vice president of ABC News, said he
believes his network had fully covered events occurring both
inside and outside Madison Square Garden.
"I'm not sure there's been a broadcast that's gone by that
hasn't directly discussed what's gone on outside," he said.
The Republican visit to relatively hostile territory held
the possibility for widespread violence, a potential
scenario that probably led to certain expectations in the
"Unfortunately, the press -- especially TV -- does not give
prominent coverage to largely peaceful protest," Los Angeles
Times reporter David Zucchino said. "Sadly, it usually takes
either deaths, violence or destruction of property to make a
With the exception of Sunday's march, protest coverage on
CNN has not run during prime time but would play during the
day, said David Bohrman, the network's Washington bureau
chief. He called this schedule "perfectly reasonable."
"The only ball we dropped was when 800 or 1,000 people got
arrested a couple blocks away and I didn't know about it,"
Bohrman said. "If I had, we would have had something."
But the opinion of observers outside New York is probably
influenced less by the quantity of the protest coverage than
by the tone of the demonstrations themselves, said Jeremi
Suri, an expert on protest movements at the University of
The author of a book called "Power and Protest," Suri based
his opinions on what he gleaned from the news. "It's been a
remarkably orderly set of protests. But that works both
ways. On one hand, it's difficult for people to slander the
protesters and accuse them of being violent anarchists. On
the other hand, since they've been, shall we say, polite and
contained, they've not been able to break the Republican
The arrest of about 1,100 people on Tuesday -- a record
number for a single day in New York -- made headlines. But
not only did these arrests sweep many protesters (and,
reportedly, more than a few bystanders) off the streets, it
also distracted them from their original mission.
"It was more about fighting the police than expressing
people's views," said Rachel Hyman, 23, who found her plans
for an unsanctioned street party aborted when most of her
friends were put away.
Jamie Moran, an oft-quoted local anarchist in the run-up to
the convention, singled out the highlight of the convention
so far. As he stood with friends Thursday at Union Square,
he recalled dancing around a group of Texas delegates,
loudly singing, "Y'all don't come back now, y'hear?"
In the context of the anarchists' stated goal of creating a
local movement that continues after the GOP leaves town, the
antagonistic dance seemed a little silly. But it seemed to
show how dissenting actions could be vital to the people
"I felt it was very cathartic," Moran said. "It was a pure
expression of my feelings."
Courant Staff Writer Liz Halloran contributed to this story.
Protesters, police agree on one thing: this week was
By SARA KUGLER
Associated Press Writer
September 3, 2004, 3:18 PM EDT
NEW YORK -- Swarming the streets this week, anti-GOP
protesters made their voices heard. The police put on an
unprecedented show of force, assuring things didn't spiral
out of control.
Both sides accomplished what they set out to do -- a point
illustrated by one episode on the convention's second night.
Twelve demonstrators wearing black hoods linked arms in a
circle and sat down in the path of a bus carrying Louisiana
With hundreds chanting "WHOSE streets? OUR streets," the
protesters were promptly arrested, along with 150 others who
swarmed the street in solidarity. Police deftly cleared the
intersection, the delegates made it to the convention and no
one was seriously hurt.
For protesters it had all the elements of success -- a
nonviolent protest in a landmark Manhattan intersection
witnessed by Republicans with journalists on hand to capture
the moment. Police would call it a triumph because they
never lost control of the situation and there were no injuries.
In fact, that's how the majority of this week's anti-GOP
demonstrations, attended by as many as a half million people
and policed by thousands of officers who made more than
1,800 arrests, played out.
So who can claim victory?
"Both," said Sidney Tarrow, professor of sociology and
political science at Cornell University. "This is a very
well-disciplined police force and they have been successful,
but the protesters have been successful as well in
demonstrating their opposition to this war and this
Sunday's anti-war march that twisted through midtown was the
largest demonstration at a political convention ever, and
dozens more actions came in the days that followed.
They marched, chanted, blocked streets, banged drums,
unfurled giant banners, rang bells, lighted candles and
stripped naked in protest. They harassed delegates, slipped
onto the convention floor and infiltrated Republican parties.
"We're all mad, we all had that one message, and it really
worked," said Jennifer Flynn, who helped organize a march
and rally on Monday advocating poor people's issues.
They protested the war and demonstrated for more AIDS
funding, better treatment of the poor, women's rights, gay
rights, and in memory of 9/11 victims. They started planning
more than a year ago.
It helped that they were organized, even the anarchists.
Many communicated by text messages on their cell phones,
using the service to establish meeting points, warn about
police activity and update on actions as they were happening.
"Need protesters at 38th and Park Ave, Bush arriving any
sec!" came one message Thursday morning from a church where
the president was to attend a prayer service.
Some groups obtained permits for their gatherings, but for
others, defying that process was the point. Most of the
1,827 arrests were for disorderly conduct -- and a handful
"We have every reason to be proud," Mayor Michael Bloomberg
said Friday. "The NYPD did a great job."
The 36,500-member New York Police Department planned for 18
months a "rapid response" strategy to dispatch teams of
officers on scooters, bicycles, horseback and foot
throughout the city as demonstrations erupted. They used
plastic netting and metal barricades to corral and disperse
"We knew we had to be mobile and flexible," Commissioner
Raymond Kelly said.
In several cases, groups who threatened to march without
permits, risking arrests and confrontations with officers,
were allowed to do so after last-minute negotiations at the
scene with police eager to avoid conflict.
While city officials have expressed reserved praise for
peaceful demonstrators, civil liberties groups and the
protesters have criticized police for making sweeping
arrests too quickly and for detaining prisoners in a filthy
facility. The New York Civil Liberties Union said Friday
that some protesters are likely to sue the city for how they
Despite their successes this week, activists say their work
is just beginning. A coalition of groups already has issued
a call for nationwide civil disobedience the day after the
presidential election, regardless of who wins, "because the
crisis with our democracy did not start with Bush and won't
end with Kerry."
"Now people have a sense of what's possible," Flynn said.
"Now, we know we cannot only do this, but we can do bigger."
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