NEW YORK – Kat McIver was so disgusted with the Democratic and Republican parties that she walked 258 miles from Boston to New York to protest at both of their conventions.
McIver, a 22-year-old activist from Orange County, Calif., helped organize DNC2RNC (search), a march that began at the Democratic Convention in Boston and ended Thursday blocks south of Madison Square Garden (search), where the Republican National Convention will begin on Monday.
"The two parties are not representative of the people," she said. "They represent corporate greed."
Nearly a thousand people joined McIver and about 50 other fellow travelers from Boston at Central Park (search), the first large rally before a week expected to draw hundreds of thousands of protesters to the GOP convention. The event runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.
"I feel the country needs to be reclaimed and I want to show solidarity with the people who will help us get it back," said Paul Lambermont, 43, of Queens, who joined the marchers.
The DNC2RNC coalition, a mix of environmentalists, labor unionists and community activists, held aloft the red and black standard of the anarchist movement, American flags and a large banner that read "Democracy Uprising" as they wound their way down Broadway, flanked on both sides by hundreds of police officers.
The marchers chanted "No Bush, no Kerry, revolution is necessary" and "Drop Bush, not bombs" to cheers from some onlookers.
At a separate demonstration on Thursday, a small group of AIDS activists were arrested after they stripped naked opposite the site of the convention, demanding that President Bush make good on his promise to help HIV-positive people in the world's poorest countries. They were variously charged with public lewdness, disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment.
Earlier Thursday, police arrested four people for allegedly unfurling an anti-Bush banner out of the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue. The sign had the word "truth" on an arrow pointing north toward Central Park — where anti-war protesters want to rally — and another arrow with "Bush" pointing south toward Madison Square Garden.
Police said an officer needed 38 stitches for a leg wound he suffered at the scene, and the four protesters were charged with assault along with reckless endangerment, criminal trespassing and other offenses.
An additional five protesters were arrested Thursday night at Union Square, two for allegedly using a bullhorn without a permit and three on charges of obstructing governmental administration, police said.
Larger protests are still to come.
The anti-war group United for Peace and Justice (search) said it would stage a march on the eve of the convention past Madison Square Garden and ending at Union Square. The group also suggested that protesters could still gather in Central Park that day, despite a judge's ruling that it may not stage a rally there.
"To our supporters, we ask that you follow our march to the end and then make your own decision," said Leslie Cagan, the group's national coordinator.
United for Peace and Justice also announced that the Rev. Jesse Jackson, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and actor Danny Glover were expected to join the march.
A second group, which saw its appeal to stage a rally in Central Park on Saturday rejected in a Federal Court earlier this week, said that it has begun handing out fliers informing protesters of their right to congregate in Central Park.
The flier issued by the ANSWER coalition (search) outlines city regulations, which the group says allow protesters to bring political signs to the park as long as they are no larger than 2 by 3 feet.
"The fact is that people are coming to Central Park," said Brian Becker, national coordinator for the group. "It is their constitutional right to do so."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday that most of the demonstrators "want to voice their opinions in a peaceful way."
"I think there are a small number of people who want to come here and be disruptive, we're aware of that, were prepared to handle that," Kelly said in an interview on CBS's "The Early Show. "But again, the vast majority of people are going to be peaceful."
A poll released Thursday said 81 percent of New Yorkers approve of lawful demonstrations during the convention, and 68 percent approve of nonviolent civil disobedience. Nearly all disapprove of violent protests, the Quinnipiac University Poll found.
Eleven percent said that they would take part in protests this weekend or during the four-day convention.
Lisa Fithian, national co-chair for United for Peace and Justice, said the DNC2RNC march was just the beginning.
"We know Sunday when we march, we are following in the footsteps of people who walked 258 miles," she told the crowd. "It's the power of the people who are going to make a difference in this country."