- The Washington Times - Monday, August 30, 2004

NEW YORK — The Republican National Convention opened yesterday to a sedate street scene, as protesters — many sunburned and weary from a massive march on Sunday — turned out in smaller numbers for a demonstration that ended three blocks from Madison Square Garden.

The protest, organized by Still We Rise, a New York-based coalition of 40 groups, moved slowly from Union Square to the corner of Eighth Avenue and 30th Street. Thousands marched in the humidity-soaked heat, a stark contrast to the six-figure turnout on Sunday. There was one arrest.

The crowd included a number of people thought by police to be part of a group of self-proclaimed anarchists who have a history of breaking off from peaceful demonstrations to commit property crimes.

“I won’t give away any of our intelligence,” said a police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “But yes, we have identified a number of people who are here to create chaos. They are the ones also responsible for setting fire to the dragon on Sunday.”

Police arrested 14 persons on Sunday in a skirmish near Macy’s department store near Madison Square Garden after a papier-mache dragon was set ablaze.

The group that was tailed by police yesterday, though, was orderly and jovial. At some points in the march, five uniformed officers walked to the side of the group of a dozen twentysomething protesters.

“You have those people on tape yet?” one New York police officer asked another, who was watching the march from the sidewalk through the lens of a small video recorder.

He had it on tape.

Other officers worked the crowd undercover, dressed down in shorts and T-shirts, some riding old bicycles.

“Watch his hands,” one of them said to the other, pointing to a young man in the crowd at the rally site of yesterday’s march.

The watchful eyes, police say, are warranted after an officer was struck with a bottle during Sunday’s protests.

Yesterday’s march was similar in demographics to Sunday’s: Predominantly white, average age of mid-30s and split evenly between men and women.

Organizers said it drew 50,000 people; police said fewer. At its peak, the crowd extended four city blocks. Although the anti-Bush sentiment was still high, much of the crowd held signs more focused on social issues, including AIDS funding and a higher minimum wage.

“It was a success, and it was peaceful,” said Jennifer Flynn, a spokeswoman for Still We Rise. “All the people behaved and sent a message to whoever our next leader will be in this country.”

A less-organized rally of about 2,000 people formed outside U.N. headquarters late in the afternoon.

As the rally concluded, leaders from the organizing group, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, began to march to Madison Square Garden. The demonstrators walked through the streets, escorted by police, who made a few more arrests and pushed their scooters at the protesters to keep them in line.

“We didn’t know anything about this,” said a New York police detective, one of many who arrived to oversee the rally. “They have no permit, but as long as it’s orderly, it’s fine.”

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