NEW YORK – Activists plan to hold sit-ins at delegate hotels, take over city intersections, block doors to major corporate offices, confront GOP bigwigs and infiltrate events when Republicans come to town for their political convention.
They say the aim is not to cause harm or even stop the convention from proceeding inside Madison Square Garden (search) from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2. They will use what they call creative mischief to call attention to their disgust with the Bush administration.
"It sends that message loud and clear, that people feel so strongly that they are willing to put their
While some protest groups have tangled with city officials over permits for marches and rallies, others have been planning acts of nonviolent civil disobedience for months.
They expect to make their debut by swarming Times Square as thousands of Republicans arrive for a glamorous night of Broadway shows on the eve of the convention. A loose council of protesters will call for mass civil disobedience on Aug. 31, the second day of the convention, and activists expect to target GOP events with sit-ins and street theater.
The Manhattan district attorney has said he foresees 1,000 arrests per day throughout the four-day convention — three times the normal daily arrest volume — and these unpermitted protesters are likely to make up the majority.
The actions also protest the city's permit process itself, which critics say unfairly herds crowds away from the convention. After new terrorism warnings were announced Sunday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) said protest permits will help police focus the deployment of officers and better control the location and flow of large crowds.
"We're prepared to accommodate peaceful demonstrations," said the New York Police Department's chief spokesman, Paul Browne. "We're also prepared to deal with anyone who breaks the law."
Demonstrators say they plan to offer an alternative to the Republicans' official program.
"Inside the convention, there's a monologue," activist Tim Doody said, "a dog and pony show that runs on the fuel of corporate dollars and not on people's interests, and we want to show the majority of people whose beliefs aren't being represented inside Madison Square Garden."
They plan to create zones around the Garden, with a site for a mass sit-in and areas for street theater. Organizers also want a festive area, where activists make art, music, food and "create the kind of world they want to see," Doody said.
But their discontent — with everything from the Iraq war to the president's desire to ban gay marriage — is more likely to be the emphasis. These activists, many of whom are veteran protesters championing an array of causes, want to seize the rare chance to communicate their anti-Bush message through the world media in town for the convention.
Organizers advise protesters not to wear masks, which are illegal at New York City protests, and to find alternatives to all-black clothing. Khaki is less intimidating, one group suggests. It will also let them blend in.
"They won't know who to arrest or pepper-spray just by looking," a Web site says. "Plus, the crowd will look much more like the average American instead of a marginalized gang of malcontents — not that there's anything wrong with that."