Protesters have been spotted around Boston engaging in a variety of asymmetric tactics, throwing off convention-goers and drawing stares from Bostonians.
From the Billionaires for Bush (search) to the bicyclists, including some wearing Ho Chi Minh- and Castro-style hats, who slowed traffic on Boylston Street on Thursday, protests have been scattered around the city. But demonstators' numbers have been small and almost always outnumbered by police.
Protesters carried their civil liberties concerns as well as their anti-war and anti-globalization messages to Boston, but it seemed as if most were saving their energy for President Bush and the GOP convention, which begins at the end of August. Some even acknowledged that Boston was just a warm-up, and while they were not excited about Kerry, they would hold their nose and vote for him in November.
On Thursday, activists staged a rally outside the Fleet Center in an area that included the designated protest zone, and also spilled over to the adjoining street. Some notables, such as former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (search) and veteran activist Tom Hayden, spoke at the rally of several hundred protesters.
“I’m protesting a two-party system that continues to promote militarism,” explained Sam Diener, editor of the monthly magazine Peace Work (search). However, Kerry is not Diener's prime target. “I do believe that Bush is even more dangerous than Kerry,” he said.
The protesters’ support for Kerry may have been half-hearted, but most said they were demonstrating not against the Democratic Party, but to emphasize that Kerry's campaign must include progressive ideas.
Mariah Williams, who wore Kucinich stickers at the protest, said she would vote for Kerry “and then push hard afterwards to hold his feet to the fire.” She said it is important to back Kerry in order to turn Bush out, but it is also important to move the party to the left. “We’re building a movement within the Democratic Party, getting people fired up about these issues,” she said, citing the war, the Patriot Act and other issues.
Ea Ea, a Kucinich backer from Maine, wished the Ohio congressman was on the ticket and was not sure how he would vote in November. “I probably will get lots of people to vote for Kerry. I might vote for Nader,” Ea said. “I need to go with my own conscience.”
“I don’t want Kerry, but I certainly don’t want Bush,” said Elaine, a former Boston public school teacher who declined to give her last name. “I think Bush is worse, but Kerry is not good enough.”
Asked who she would vote for, Elaine said, “I was a Kucinich supporter. I don’t know; we’re going to see. … I may write in [Kucinich’s] name.”
Some protesters were angry about the designated protest zone that was covered with a net and behind a tell fence. One older, bearded protester in flip flops held a sign stating “You are now leaving the American sector.” As he greeted passersby, he called out “Check it out folks: the totalitarian zone.” Despite some complaints, most protesters seemed happy with the set-up and being able to stand in the open street next to the zone.
Not all those at the protest were attacking the DNC from the left. Two young women strolled through the crowd wearing Bush stickers. “I think the people are just dull here," said Boston native Sandra, referring to the demonstrators.
She said the “W” sticker that she was wearing on her back had attracted attention as she walked around Boston. “Some people said, ‘I don’t know how you have the guts to wear that.’” Others encouraged her, saying, “I wish I was wearing that.”
Police said that although three demonstrators were arrested after becoming rowdy and clashing with police, on the whole the protests on Thursday and throughout the week have been pretty tame.
“For the most part, [they're just] exercising their rights. A few people have caused trouble, but for the most part they’ve been pretty calm,” one Boston cop said.
In this rare police-protester comity, demonstrators praised the police as well. Diener said the police have been “very low key, at least in my encounters.”
Williams also praised Boston’s finest. “My experiences have been terrific.” They’ve been “very decent, very helpful … not at all oppressive, much to my surprise and pleasure.” She said she even held a dialogue with some cops who agreed with her political views.
“I think the Boston Police have done extraordinarily well,” added John Franehot, a legal observer working with the National Lawyers’ Guild (search).
While the biggest protest in Boston, Sunday’s anti-war demonstration, was estimated to number about 2,000, activists asked New York authorities for a permit for a quarter of a million people to march against Bush and Republicans.
Most activists told FOXNews.com that the GOP is an important target and they plan to travel to New York to protest there.