Sunday, March 28, 2004

Thousands of protesters plan to converge on New York this summer for the Republican National Convention and already are promoting their antiestablishment events through Web sites and word of mouth.

One site facilitates lodging in the nation’s largest city; another collects postings on street demonstrations; and yet another provides a map of Manhattan with a large red star next to Madison Square Garden, where the convention’s official proceedings will take place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.

“Over 1,000 groups have filed applications for demonstration permits,” said Kevin Sheekey, special adviser to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “Some are large, some are small. And we’ve got the people to handle this.”

The protesters expect opposition to President Bush will lead to big turnouts for their events.

“There is a high level of interest in New York City, where so many people did not support the war in Iraq and the city was used as a reason for the war on terror, quote unquote,” said Bill Moss, media coordinator for United for Peace and Justice, which is organizing an Aug. 29 march down Eighth Avenue.

“This will be a summer weekend, there will be people coming from out of town, and there are plenty of people in the city who are going to be part of the activities during the week,” he said.

The 36,000-officer New York Police Department will handle most of the street action, which usually results in arrests and detentions, and sometimes violence.

In a passionate plea for funding earlier this month, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau told the City Council that arrests during the convention could reach 1,000 a day, three times the city’s normal volume.

Mr. Morgenthau’s request is indicative of the weight that the city — emotionally devastated by the September 11 attacks — is giving to convention security.

“New York is a unique target, and it always will be, which is why we now also require resources from the federal government,” Mr. Sheekey said, referring to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s designation of both major party conventions as national special security events.

Mr. Ridge’s declaration hands over coordination of security to the Secret Service.

The Secret Service was not available to comment. Mark Pfeifle, director of communications for the convention, did not return calls.

Before September 11, 2001, protests routinely were handled as impediments to traffic and pedestrians, said Paul Browne, deputy police commissioner for the New York Police Department.

“But post 9/11, we have to assume that any large gathering that is highly publicized might be a target,” Mr. Browne said. “In the past, we did not have officers assigned to intelligence to make sure there are no efforts to create havoc or loss of life. Now, we have a counterterrorism overlay.”

Although the Democrats’ convention in Boston also is expected to draw demonstrators, the New York gathering is the big event, partly because of the presence of Mr. Bush.

The massive Aug. 29 march down Eighth Avenue starts at Madison Square Garden and ends in Central Park. Another group, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, is planning a march at the United Nations on Aug. 30.

Others are promising 20,000 campers in Central Park.

Although United for Peace and Justice says it is the largest antiwar coalition in the country, with more than 750 groups under the umbrella, dozens of other groups are ready to descend on the city., for example, is “part of a collective,” said Will Etundi, who helps run the site. “Only we’re intended for people in New York, from the neighborhoods who are angry that Bush is going to exploit the city for his own gain.”

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