- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

Police and would-be demonstrators in Philadelphia are engaging in a battle of wits as each side prepares for protests during next week's Republican national convention.
Philadelphia police last week said they are closely watching people at the activists' private planning meetings, but officials denied accusations that undercover officers were infiltrating protest groups.
Meanwhile, activists have spread their forces throughout the city to prevent a pre-emptive police strike before the first major demonstration on Saturday, citing events during massive protests in the District in April.
Yesterday, activists accused police of trying to intimidate them by following organizers, using electronic listening devices, putting black-clad spotters on rooftops and breaking into activists' headquarters.
Several members of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, an advocacy group for the poor, found electronic devices for listening and tracking a vehicle's location in the trunk of a car and in a building they were using over the weekend, a spokeswoman said.
The devices were not sophisticated, and the group speculated that authorities are using the "bugs" more as a scare tactic than for real surveillance, the spokeswoman said.
"Their primary objective is to put us on the edge and scare us away," said Beka Economopoulos, an organizer with R2K, the umbrella organization of protest groups.
Miss Economopoulos noted that a community arts center for puppet-making that a city agency had declared unsafe and shut down on Friday was reopened later that day after critical news coverage.
"That's consistent with the pattern of pre-emptive strikes" police used in the District of Columbia, Miss Economopoulos said. "We're obviously frustrated, but we're not going to allow that to derail us. We have nothing to hide."
D.C. fire and police officials in April shut down activists' headquarters the day before they were to begin massive protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Activists in Philadelphia also said that black-clad police officers have broken into their offices and photographed supplies, Miss Economopoulos said, adding that the officers refused to identify themselves to an activist who saw them.
Police officials did not return telephone calls about surveillance of activists yesterday.
Police have monitored Web sites the groups are using to organize the demonstrations, a Philadelphia police official told The Washington Times last month.
"Some of these kids in some of these organizations are looking for a confrontation," said Deputy Police Commissioner Robert J. Mitchell.
"They're taking a perverse delight in trying to make things very uncomfortable for us, to really thwart our security planning and delay the delegates," he said.
Authorities said they don't expect demonstrations of the same intensity as those in the District, where more than 1,200 activists were arrested, or last year in Seattle, where nearly 600 were arrested during protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO).
But police have made preparations similar to those taken in the other cities a mass-arrest plan, extra police and sending officers to crowd control training, or "Riot 101," Commissioner Mitchell said.
A small number of officers have reviewed the use of pepper spray, but Commissioner Mitchell said that is "one of the tools of last resort."
Philadelphia police will have at least two advantages over protesters that D.C. police didn't a wrought-iron fence and a relatively open area around the convention site.
The fence around the First Union Center, where the Republican convention will be held, was installed when the center was built. It can't be shoved down like the portable barricades used in the District and is much harder to climb.
D.C. police contended with protesters who quickly amassed large groups in between high-rise buildings and surprised officers at barricades. Philadelphia police will be better able to spot large pockets of protesters and adjust officers accordingly.
Unlike Seattle's WTO demonstrations and the District's IMF protests, Philadelphia activists are not calling for a shutdown of the Republican convention.
"We all know what will happen inside. It's just a coronation," Miss Economopoulos said, referring to the likely presidential nomination of Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Instead, activists will march throughout the city to highlight a variety of causes, though some human blockades to disrupt the convention are likely, protest leaders said.

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