- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 29, 2004

NEW YORK — A leisurely walk through the streets here would allow one to find it very believable that in this city of 8 million, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans almost 6-to-1 and that Republicans are not exactly the guests of honor.

“[President] Bush is bringing his show and his fascist ways to town,” said Ann Shirazi, 59, who is part of United for Peace and Justice, the group that has put together a rally scheduled for today, the eve of the Republican National Convention.

“The Republicans see the convention as a boost to the city,” added her colleague, D.J. Cicerchi, a 52-year-old union activist. “We see it otherwise.”

Stickers promoting “No Republican” marches, rallies and meetings grace the sides of pay-phone stalls, the sides of buildings and the windows of local merchants.

In music shops and bookstores are stacks of protest flyers next to the voluminous stacks of giveaway newspapers like the Village Voice and the New York Press.

Gays against Bush, mothers against Bush, comics against Bush, immigrants against Bush, transgenders against Bush. They’re all here and ready to rumble.

The Village Voice, the newsweekly that is a bastion of left-wing politics, this week offers “Your Guide to the RNC,” a glossy, color pullout section that is a guide to the dozens of planned protests in the next week.

Twenty-something volunteers with Democratic National Committee T-shirts stand on street corners with a pitch: “Would you like to help get Bush out of the White House?” as they try to register voters.

At 47th Street and Broadway on the north facade of the W Hotel in Times Square, an area to which most of the reporters and delegates will flock for entertainment and dining, a glimmering billboard with a constantly updated clock tallying the cost of the Iraq war greets the crowds.

Then there’s Gary Orioli, the 43-year-old owner of a floral design shop who has turned his small business into an anti-Bush rallying site at Fourth Avenue and 12th Street.

Already, one of the two “Beat Bush” punching bags has been flattened by overzealous Democrats stopping by. The four-foot toys feature a picture of the president.

They go well with the other accoutrements of anger on the walls and in the windows of the place, from the “Kerry for President” placards to the yellow T-shirt that reads simply, “Stop,” with an unflattering head shot of the commander in chief.

Mr. Orioli, a lifelong Democrat who lives on Long Island, started his political activism when radio shock jock Howard Stern was cut loose by Clear Channel Communications earlier this year, which Mr. Stern blamed on Republicans.

“I’m an average American,” Mr. Orioli said. “I’m one of the only ones who puts the flag out in my neighborhood, but that whole Clear Channel thing [ticked] me off. Now I’m a drop-off site for all these groups, like United for Peace and Justice, Planned Parenthood, they all come by here to give me stuff to hand out and to hang in the window.”

So with the pro-Republican axis wheeling into the Democratic city, there is civil combustion.

Even in Union Square, where activists have traditionally gathered, discourse is still civil and there’s even a little earnest, Hollywood-esque rebellion on hand most nights.

“We’re against a police state,” said a young man on Thursday night, clutching one side of a 10-foot wide banner reading “No Police State.”

“But, actually,” he added in a Marlon Brandoesque moment, “we’re against a lot of things.”

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