[sixties-l] Protests Rock GOP, End in 282 Arrests

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Date: Thu Aug 03 2000 - 02:01:17 CUT

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    Protests Rock GOP, End in 282 Arrests
      John Nichols, The Nation
    August 2, 2000
    PHILADELPHIA, August 1 -- "Whose streets? Our streets!" chanted thousands
    of activists as they poured into the downtown
    Philadelphia for what may well have been the most raucous day of
    demonstrations outside a national convention since Chicago in
    By nightfall, hundreds of demonstrators had been arrested after having
    blocked key downtown intersections for hours (a
    Philadelphia Police statement released at 11:15 p.m. Police said they were
    holding 282 people, most for misdemeanors, but at
    least 10 for felonious assault). As protesters were hauled off to the
    Holmesburg Prison, a once shuttered jail that was reopened
    to house dissenters from George W. Bush's coronation, they shouted from the
    Police buses: "Go home GOP!"
    The protests delayed the arrival of hundreds of Republican National
    Convention delegates and reporters to a convention night that
    featured a tear-inducing tribute to Ronald Reagan and a fighting speech
    from Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.
    But, in Philadelphia throughout much of Tuesday, the big story was in the
    streets. Demonstrators from around the country came
    to throw a wrench in the machine that tomorrow night will nominate Texas
    Governor George W. Bush for the presidency.
    Many were animated by an issue closely associated with Bush: the death
    penalty. During Bush's five years as governor of the
    state that leads the nation in executions, more than 100 Texas inmates have
    been put to death, including Gary Graham, a man
    whose protests of innocence drew an international outcry.
    "Death penalty is my issue," shouted Bernadette Moreno, an 18-year-old
    college student from the Pittsburgh area. "I'm here to
    help stop at least some of the delegates from getting to the convention. I
    want to make it harder for them to nominate George W.
    Bush for president."
    Moreno was part of a group of protesters who filled the streets outside
    Philadelphia's City Hall for most of the afternoon and
    early evening. With other mostly young activists, few of whom were old
    enough to recall when anti-war protests rocked the
    Chicago Democratic National Convention of 1968 -- she joined running
    clashes with police on horseback and in riot gear.
    Chants of "George Bush: serial killer" went up again and again from the
    crowd. But capital punishment wasn't the only complaint
    of the crowd.
    "My goal is to bring attention to the injustice of the whole
    prison-industrial complex," said Jennie Sheeks, 22, a recent graduate of
    Hampshire College in Massachusetts. "I want the Republicans to know we
    disagree with their policies, and even if we don't stop
    their convention, I want to build a movement that will be big enough to
    block conventions four years from now."
    The protesters didn't slow down the Bush bandwagon much. The convention,
    which is taking place almost four miles from
    downtown, opened on schedule at 7:30 p.m., despite the fact that some
    delegates had a hard time rolling away from their hotels.
    Convention officials said they did not know how many delegates were
    delayed, but at one point a bus full of them was surrounded
    by protesters. Pennsylvania's delegation had to be slipped out the back
    door of a downtown hotel by state Secretary of
    Transportation Thomas Judge.
    "The protestors just came from everywhere," said Philadelphia Police Sgt.
    Craig Smith, as thousands of roving demonstrators and
    helmeted police faced off in intersections around the city Tuesday
    afternoon. There were direct clashes at many intersections,
    some of which came to blows. But there were few injuries, except to the
    party atmosphere that has pervaded the city since
    Republican delegates began pouring in over the weekend.
    Long after nightfall, there were scattered reports of confrontations
    between police and protesters. And there were signals that
    Wednesday would bring more street demonstrations.
    "This is happening because people are fed up with the use of the criminal
    justice system to deal with the effects of social
    problems," said Matt Ruben, a coordinator with Philadelphia Direct Action
    Group, one of a dozen progressive groups that have
    scheduled protests throughout the week. Asked what to expect from the
    protesters as police carried 30 of them, one-by-one, to
    waiting jail buses, Ruben replied: "More, more, more."

    This report was compiled from The Nation's Election 2000 Web site.

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