New York City; Aug. 28, 2004 – Activists in New York City demonstrated for womenâ€™s health care, workersâ€™ rights, economic justice and peace today during the third day of major protests against the Republican National Convention.
The morning began with a massive pro-choice rally and "March for Womenâ€™s Lives" organized by Planned Parenthood, a reproductive health care provider and advocacy group, and other organizations supporting the constitutional right for women to choose abortions.
Just three days after another federal judge struck down (NewStandard Coverage) a controversial ban on so called "partial birth abortions," thousands of pro-choice activists took their message to New York City and the Bush administration, which has relentlessly attacked abortion rights since taking power almost four years ago.
The demonstrators, many of them mothers accompanied by small children, rallied at a park in Brooklyn, marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and rallied again at New Yorkâ€™s City Hall. The walk across the bridge, which reportedly took three hours, was a half a mile in length, according to the Associated Press.
"The administration is cutting health care for women and the right to choose," demonstrator Radikelly Kupowski told the Washington Post. "That's terrorism for women."
Sara Breman, a 22-year-old student from Austin, Texas, told the Associated Press: "I'm affected personally, in terms of birth control. I demand and cherish that right. Under Bush, that right is being threatened through sex education that teaches only abstinence."
Organizers said the purpose of the march was to demand appropriate sex education, access to safe and legal abortions, the right to sexual privacy, equal access to health care, access to birth control and funding for global family planning programs.
At another event, later in the day, union organizers and their supporters protested at a midtown Starbucks, where workers have been fighting for their right to collectively bargain for better working conditions. Police arrested two of the organizers who have been working with the Industrial Workers of the World to unionize the local shop.
Todayâ€™s Convention-related arrests, numbering 25, according to the AP, were few compared to yesterday, which saw 264 people arrested for riding their bicycles. More than 5,000 cyclists participated in a loosely organized protest ride, known as "Critical Mass," which wound through the city, passing the Convention site, halting traffic and creating "massive disruptions," in the words of a New York City police spokesperson who talked to CNN.
As the day drew to an end, thousands gathered at "Ground Zero," the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Centerâ€™s twin towers, to advocate diplomacy instead of war. The solemn event was organized by RingOut, a group that uses bells to demonstrate unity and solidarity at protests.
Calling the event a memorial for the WTC victims and all victims of violence around the world, participants completely surrounded the site and rang bells, which echoed across the eerie space of Ground Zero. Moments of silence interspersed the two-hour event.
In inviting people to the demonstration, RingOut wrote that they would "ring in a week of harmony and many voices expressing their visions of peace and justice in NYC and around the country."
Martha Giardina, an organizer of the event from Georgia, told The NewStandard, "It is a nonviolent use of sound, something that everybody has access to and that anybody can participate in."
Sydney Gillett, a nurse practitioner from Berkeley, California said she had not visited the site since the attacks. "I got a little choked up, a little emotional," she said, adding that the ringing was a creative way to express her reaction. "I donâ€™t have to march, shout or cheer -- I can just be here and sit with my thoughts."
Marla Zubel, a student from San Francisco, California said, "A lot of times protesters are accused of either not respecting the dead of 9/11 or just being heartless in some way, or unpatriotic; this specific tactic of ringing the bells was a good way to get a message across, almost without words.
"This sent a message to people who are critical of protesters," she added. "People donâ€™t want to see any more ground zeros in the world. One human life isnâ€™t worth anymore than another, whether it is American or Iraqi, or you name it."