- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2005

NEW YORK — Inside the U.N. General Assembly chambers this week, presidents, prime ministers, kings and dictators spoke of unity, collaboration and world peace.

But outside, in the Manhattan humidity, their detractors walked the walk, with former Chinese communists sharing water with Iranian exiles and more than a few Spanish speakers wearing Falun Gong buttons.

“It is fine to have these other people here, we have no problems,” said David Gao, a physical therapist who said he represented 40 million Chinese who had left the Communist Party.

“I do know the Chinese see us when they drive past, because we have these signs and that truck has banners.”

Behind him stood a Korean couple seeking a Japanese apology for World War II-era atrocities, Iranians demanding a new constitution and Cambodian dissidents dismissing Prime Minister Hun Sen as “Vietnam’s puppet.”

Faced with a flood of groups demanding permits to demonstrate near the United Nations, the New York Police Department came up with a novel approach this year: Let all the protesters share a designated space under police scrutiny.

More than 22 groups had been granted permits to demonstrate on the plaza at 48th Street and First Avenue, just two blocks north of the United Nations, according to police officers at the scene.

By midafternoon, there were no incidents, the officers said.

Groups were separated into lanes by wooden police barricades, guaranteeing each demonstration a little bit of prime First Avenue real estate and plenty of room for socializing toward the rear.

It made for strange alliances, as well as surreal competition.

With each passing motorcade or pedestrian, the groups would swing into action, waving signs denouncing the Chinese Communist Party, an African dictator, the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

There were Togolese who wanted a deposed leader restored, Iranians demanding a new constitution, and Cambodian dissidents opposed to Mr. Hun Sen.

“We had 20,000 people here yesterday,” said Nasser Sharif, a salesman from Los Angeles who said he came to New York to protest Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Today, not so many but we are also sharing with others.”

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