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.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Aug 03 2000 - 04:59:12 CUT