Chaos Descends on New York as Hundreds of Protesters Arrested
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Chaos Descends on New York as Hundreds of Protesters Arrested

Newsday | August 31 2004

Comment: I'm hearing stories of provocateurs who won't say which proest group they are affiliated with setting fire to trash cans and being protected by police.

As dusk descended on the city last night, chaos erupted at Bryant Park as police clashed with protesters, while a sudden and controversial police dragnet swept up 200 peaceful marchers at Ground Zero.

Later, marchers moved to Herald Square where a third stand off with police took place, resulting in more arrests.

At Ground Zero, a peaceful march turned sour after police claimed the protesters had failed to follow rules that they march two abreast on the sidewalk near Fulton and Church streets and obey traffic lights. But many detainees told reporters they did not they were not aware of the rules.

"They said as long as you observe the red lights, it shouldn't be a problem," said Bob Curley, who was arrested with his son. "Then we walked off the sidewalk and across the street and that was the end."

The chaos at Bryant Park by at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue began outside the public library when police reportedlhy pounced on two men unfurling a black-and-pink banner. Thousands of protesters immediately unfurled their own banners, chanting, "Let them go." Police then threw a woman to the ground. The crowd surrounded the officers, chanting, "Shame" and "The Whole World is Watching."

"It was unbelievable," Cyndy Bruce, 26, Chicago Illinois. "This is a public space. The officer said you can't hang it but you can hold it. As soon as they held it up, the officers swarmed in. They incited this violence. Not us. This was supposed to be peaceful. What they are doing is not acceptable."

About 600 protesters had shown up at the World Trade Center site with plans to march uptown to the site of the Republican National Convention to stage a die-in.

Some of the protesters and onlookers also traded barbs along the route to the Garden. Jan Meshon, 47, a cable television marketer from the West Village, wore a t-shirt, which said "New York City welcomes miserable failures." He argued about Bush's record in the war with a couple from Florida.

"I agree to disagree with you," Eleanor Schnell, of Broward County, Fla. told Meshon.

In the end, they argued for 10 minutes in front of the gates of the trade center near a cop with an automatic weapon who was watching them.

"Basically I want to talk to people and change their mind," Meshon told a reporter. "I want to try to stay calm. It's not easy for me."

"People are so set in their ways," Schnell said later.

Anolther of the largest protests of the day took place outside the Madison Avenue offices of the Fox news channel at 4 p.m., where an estimate 600 people chanted slogans like "Hey, hey, what do you say, how many lies tell today." Some arrests were also made there.

"Basically Fox is just a mouthpiece for the Republicans," said Sandi Dubowski, 33, a filmmaker from East Village. "They tow the party line."

"Fox does a disservice to language because they use words without respect to their meaning," Said James Traynor, 33, a sales representative from Boulder, Colo. "Fox has destroyed journalism as we know it. It's not even journalism anymore."

A Fox spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.

The late afternoon protests took a turn from what had been the scene earlier in the day, when demonstrations took on an atmosphere more like that of street theater.

At the New York Hilton, people in plastic pig snouts handed out fake $100 bills they called "Hallibacon bucks," a reference to Halliburton, the large defense contractor which has received several huge Iraq contracts. Vice President Dick Cheney is a former chairman of Halliburton, who has received several huge Iraq contracts.

But Jason Moore, a towering convention delegate from Odessa, Tex., told reporters, "Every company deserves to make a profit."

"It's ridiculous," said Florida delegate Jim Stelling. "You look like a bunch of pigs."

"You're very uninformed," said protester Mandeep Gill, 36, of Stanford Calif. Gill just received his doctorate in physics.

Later, at St. Marks Church on the Lower East Side, Star Hawk and Dave Solnit held a teach-in on protest tactics.

Participants role-played as police, delegates and protesters, and discussed how to deal with the media.

"It's always good to be reminded of this stuff," said Ben Long, 25, of Indiana, preparing for a protest at Herald Square last night. "People these days are very sophisticated about the media. My friend and I don't rely on mainstream media for our information."

After a role-play involving police, Hawk noted, "Ghandhi once said first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you, then you win."

Finally, protesters donned hoods and cuffed their own hands at a noon protest in a park near the federal immigration offices at 26 Federal Plaza to criticize detention of illegal immigrants on terrorism grounds.

They cited the case of Farouk Abdel Muhti, 57, who was held nearly two years in federal detention and then died of a heart attack shortly after his release. A judge ruled in April that the detention violated a U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting how long certain immigrants may be held.

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911:  The Road to Tyranny