- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

PHILADELPHIA — The protests at the Republican National Convention this week sputtered to an end, with 1960s-era activists calling them an embarrassment to the name of demonstrations.
Action wound down yesterday with tired activists protesting outside of one of the jails where their comrades were being held, while organizers were left trying to claim some successes and police were viewed as heroes.
"In the '60s, we wouldn't let these guys on our picket line," said David Horowitz, the 1960s-leftist leader turned conservative cultural critic, who has been in Philadelphia this week.
Protesters have lost momentum since they captured front-page headlines last fall, when 40,000 of them shut down the round of World Trade Organization talks in Seattle. They even underperformed compared to April when 10,000 of them annoyed, but failed to disrupt, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in the District.
And, maybe more damaging, activists fell far short of promises they made to news media throughout the spring, promising to eclipse Seattle's disruptions here in Philadelphia.
Judged by sheer disruption, protest leaders scored meager success on Tuesday, clogging up downtown roads during the afternoon rush hour and getting almost 300 demonstrators arrested.
Judged by their stated goal of getting their "message" heard, it's unlikely anyone will remember this year's Republican National Convention for its protests the way Seattle will be remembered for the WTO riots.
And judged by the standards of past protests, they failed.
"There's no traction," Mr. Horowitz said. "When I was out there, there were a couple of construction workers out there laughing at them and cheering on the cops."
But protest organizers said it's not that simple.
"The final word has yet to be written," said Julie Davids, a spokeswoman for the R2K Network umbrella group organizing the protests.
"The high point is the incredible diversity of messages that has happened here. So I think there have been 10,000 highpoints," Miss Davids said.
If those "messages" didn't reach the rest of the world, Miss Davids suggested, the blame lies with police tactics that broke up the protests.
"People should be aware of the extend to which there was a surgical strike against people violating no law," she said.
It's clear police here had the protesters' number.
Just like D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey did in April, Philadelphia Police Commissioner John F. Timoney and his commanders this week walked between the police and the protesters, keeping things calm.
With a search warrant and a few traffic stops, they confiscated some of the protesters' equipment. By arresting almost 500 protesters — many of whom were activist leaders — police broke the spirit of the demonstrators.
Michelle Solomon at the R2K legal office said they are trying to document "massive brutality" by police toward arrested protesters in jail.
As of late yesterday afternoon most protesters hadn't given their names to police, so police hadn't released them.
City leaders heaped praise on the police yesterday as protesters called off the final two days of planned action.
Marshall Wittman said the protesters violated the cardinal rule of protesting.
"You never want to have the police become a bigger hero than they are," said Mr. Wittman, now Congressional affairs director for the Heritage Foundation, but who said he was a "teenaged Trotskyite" in Waco, Texas, in the 1960s. "Timoney has become a folk hero."
Mr. Wittman said that during the 1960s the protests had a focus — the war in Vietnam. Globalization, he said, is a much tougher target.
And foes of globalization were but one of the voices. Other protesters included abortion and homosexual rights activists, gun-control advocates, proponents of universal health care, black militants and anarchists.
Mr. Horowitz called them "ideologically completely incoherent."
Last weekend, after getting their first up-close look at the protesters gathering for the week, some Philadelphia police officers predicted that dissonance would overwhelm the protesters.
Even when protesters did unify behind one slogan, it often didn't make any sense.
"Who likes the boom — the economic boom?" Mr. Horowitz recalled one chant, then laughed, "No punch-line!"
Los Angeles police have been in Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, observing the way those cities handled protesters.
And even though the protests seem to be getting weaker, Sgt. John Pasquariello, an LAPD spokesman, said they're taking no chances.
"We're preparing for the worst-case scenario," he said — meaning the original estimate of 50,000 protesters, even though Philadelphia fell far short of that, coming in generously at 10,000.
Sgt. Pasquariello said they haven't seen anything new from the protesters, and are sticking to their already-developed game plan.

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