NEW YORK – Activists planning to demonstrate against the upcoming GOP convention should be on the lookout for young conservatives gearing up to protest the protesters.
"To show that there is a group of people out there, there are Republicans that will protest them right back," said Tom Paladino, who leads the New York chapter of the newly formed Protest Warriors (search).
"We are the right-wing freedom fighters — we are out there and are just as animated as the protesters can be," said member Jason Sager, of Brooklyn.
Protest Warriors, which claims about 3,000 members nationwide, expects about 200 in New York for the four-day convention, which begins Aug. 30 and is expected to draw tens of thousands of opponents of President Bush.
Leaders say they know they won't have equal representation, but hope the contrast helps them stand out. They will be armed with their own picket signs and T-shirts, even video cameras to capture their mission.
"It's going to be the protest Olympics. They're all going to be trying to outdo each other," said Kfir Alfia, of Austin, Texas, who formed the group last year with Alan Lipton after they crashed anti-war demonstrations in San Francisco, carrying signs that said: "Except for Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism, War Has Never Solved Anything."
Activists hurled signs at them and hissed "Fascists!" as they marched along, Alfia and Lipton said. They said they were surprised to encounter animosity at a peace rally, and decided to publicize their experience.
They posted videos of their counterprotests on the Internet and began coordinating more actions. The movement attracted young conservatives from across the country, as well as stalwarts like Rush Limbaugh, who has hailed them.
This spring, the group protested anti-war rallies in several cities, including New York.
For now, Protest Warriors' convention plans are unclear because they depend on the anti-Bush groups. Some of those groups are still awaiting police permits for their demonstrations.