Sept. 3, 2004 – Demonstrators continued to protest both inside and outside the Republican National Convention in New York City as the four-day event came to a close on Thursday. Several demonstrations took place throughout the city addressing a multitude of issues, while the father of a soldier killed in Iraq and other activists protested inside the convention center, causing multiple disruptions.
During morning rush hour, between 100 and 200 demonstrators organized by the group Housing Works, a New York City-based community organization that works around the issues of HIV/AIDS and homelessness, descended on New Yorkâ€™s Grand Central Station. They unfurled banners and shouted "Fight AIDS, not war!" Police arrested approximately twelve participants in the protest.
In Harlem, a group called Artists & Activists United for Peace highlighted the lack of jobs, affordable housing and healthcare, as well as police brutality and what they call a "war on immigrants."
Demonstrators said they were marching in Harlem to show the amount of activism in the Harlem community and among people of color more generally.
Richard McNight, speaking to Democracy Now! radio/TV, called attention to the high unemployment rate among African Americans living in New York as well as what he said was a severe lack of city services in Harlem. "There are city services that are being neglected in Harlem," he said. "There are fire houses that are closed. Thereâ€™s a lack of schools."
McNight added, "People are here to voice their opinions against the Bush agenda as well as to voice their opinions as to the lack of representation for the people of Harlem."
In the evening, the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) coalition held a loud and heavily policed demonstration near the convention site. And in Union Square, large numbers of demonstrators gathered throughout the day and into the night before holding a spontaneous, non-permitted march to Madison Square Garden, site of the Republican Convention.
Meanwhile, Jorge Medina, the father of a soldier killed in the Iraq war, became the second father of a fallen US serviceman to infiltrate the Garden in protest of President Bushâ€™s war on Iraq. Medina revealed a T-shirt depicting the photo of his son, Irving, and the words "Bush Lied, My Son Died."
Later in the evening, two activists from CodePink, an womenâ€™s antiwar organization, managed to access the Convention floor for the third night in a row, this time disrupting President Bushâ€™s speech as he accepted his partyâ€™s nomination for president.
The disruptions yesterday came on the heels of a Wednesday protest inside the Convention Center staged by the group ACT UP. During a speech delivered by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Cardâ€™s to a group of Young Republicans, the eleven demonstrators stood on their chairs and stripped off their outer clothing to reveal shirts that read, "Bush lies. Stop AIDS. Drop the debt now." They chanted and blew whistles security personnel briskly removed them from the Center. Though they are being charged with assault and inciting a riot, a WABC video of the protest shows members of the Young Republicans assaulting the protesters, including one Republican youth kicking an ACT UP activist on the ground.
In a press statement released moments after the disruption occurred on the floor of Madison Square Garden, Sharonann Lynch, member of ACT UP, was quoted as saying: "We continue to call on the Bush Administration to support cancellation of the global debt owed by poor countries to international banks and donor countries. "Right now, sub-Saharan African nations are pouring $15 billion a year into repaying debt to wealthy nations. That money could and should be used to provide treatment to the millions of people on the continent living with HIV/AIDS. The Bush Administration must move to save the lives of people in the worldâ€™s poorest countries by supporting 100 percent debt cancellation now."
As the Republican National Convention came to a close Thursday night, a few hundred demonstrators continued to protest. A large group launched an impromptu march from Union Square toward Madison Square Garden.
"Donâ€™t ever try and do this again, New York," yelled Velma Alvarez, about the Republican National Convention being held in her city. "Donâ€™t ever bring this convention to this city again. Theyâ€™ve turned their backs on us and exploited our tragedy for their own gain. All these protests, marches or whatever, show what New York feels about the Republicans."
Near Madison Square Garden, many people began leaving as midnight turned.
As sanitation trucks moved in and police officers began disassembling barriers, sixteen people sat in a row, arms interlocked, making their last stand at the Convention. To the surprise of many fellow demonstrators, media and legal observers, and the bewilderment and bemusement of police officers, the group had no plans to move. Some tried to dissuade them, but the lot refused to budge.
Upon learning the sixteen intended to be arrested, one Lieutenant said: "Tell them to come back tomorrow. Maybe we can accommodate them then."
The diehards finally got their arrest wish around 1:30 a.m. One by one, the protestersâ€™ hands were placed in plastic cuffs behind their backs, and walked to the waiting police vehicle. The crowd clapped and a couple of those being arrested chose the moment to speak out against the war, against the republicans, and against the system.
One National Lawyers Guild legal observer, who asked not to be named, remarked of the incident, "This is the most poignant anti-climax Iâ€™ve ever seen."