GOP Convention Closes with Milder Protests

A week of rallies, marches and nearly 1,800 arrests left anti-Bush protesters drained and the city refuting allegations that demonstrators were held too long in police custody.

But as Republicans and out-of-town protesters prepared to depart, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) said he was pleased with how the Republican National Convention (search) had gone and that he was optimistic it would prove to be an economic success.

"You think about 8 million people and all the opportunities for things to go wrong, and they didn't," Bloomberg said outside a party after President Bush's speech. "A very small number of people got out of hand. People had a right to protest, they came, they got their message out and they didn't take away others' freedom."

Protesters gave the GOP a mostly mellow send-off Thursday following days of rowdier demonstrations. A noisy but nonviolent group gathered outside the convention site, and a candlelight vigil in Union Square (search) later turned into a late-night march.

"It's been a long week," said demonstrator Sam Nolan, 37, of Queens, as he walked away from the protest. "The cops really wore us down. I guess people got intimidated."

Police said fewer than 50 protesters were arrested Thursday and early Friday. But the city spent Thursday processing demonstrators who were arrested earlier in the week and waging a court battle with the protesters' legal advocates over how long hundreds of detainees were being held.

Some protesters spent almost three days in lockups, and city officials blamed delays on the sheer number of arrests. Lawyers for the protesters alleged that people were detained to keep them off the streets during the president's speech, a charge the police department denied.

But all of the protesters — except six who were arrested on the convention floor — were freed by late Thursday after a Manhattan judge ordered their release and imposed a fine of $1,000 for every protester held past his declared 5 p.m. deadline.

The judge, State Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo, did not revisit the issue of the fines after the protesters had been released.

City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo called the fines unwarranted and said the city would consider its legal options when the fines are assessed.

Though Thursday's protests were milder than those earlier in the convention, demonstrators remained determined to make their opposition to Republican policies heard.

Inside the convention hall, security officials removed at least two protesters from the crowd while Bush was delivering his address.