Protesters Wait for GOP Convention Invite
Many Hope to Disrupt Event in New York, but Permits Are Not Easy to Obtain
By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 17, 2004; Page A05
NEW YORK -- There are moments -- and this could be one -- when the Republicans may wonder why they decided to locate their national convention in Fun City.
So many are working so hard to ensure that the Republicans obtain a cacophonous New York experience. The antiwar, anti-Bush folks at United for Peace and Justice want to obtain a permit to march 250,000 people past Madison Square Garden -- home to the Republican convention -- and up to Central Park for a vast rally on the Sunday before the convention.
City parks officials have so far denied the permit, arguing that too many feet could cause irreparable harm to the grass.
A group known as the "hacktivists" vows to unleash a fury on the Republican convention Web site. Another one, Shadowprotest.org, encourages New Yorkers to volunteer to serve as goodwill ambassadors -- but not show up to work. "I don't need to reach every New Yorker," said David Lynn, the organizer of Shadowprotest.org. "I just need to find a couple thousand malcontents."
Firefighter and police unions will rally to protest their city contract offers. Anarchist bikers plot random street swarms. The Missile Dick Chicks want a permit, as do the Trotskyites and Billionaires for Bush, which wants to hold a benefit for corporate welfare.
The Yippie Party applied for a camping permit for 20,000 people in a Lower East Side park. To sweeten the request, it offered to provide cops and National Guard soldiers -- should they show up -- with free massages, bongo serenades and medical marijuana.
The Yippies leader (a relative term, that) acknowledged that the probability of obtaining such a permit was very low.
"We were denied in four days. We think that's a record," said John Penley, a Yippie elder. "Now we plan to open a welcome center staffed by punksters and anarchists and squatters. We just want to help out."
None of this has much amused Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R), a billionaire media mogul who converted from Democrat to Republican just in time to run for mayor in 2001. He lobbied hard to persuade the Republicans to come to New York City, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 5 to 1. He billed the convention as a "nonpartisan event" and appointed former mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, as his goodwill ambassador.
Many soirees are planned, not least a night out at the Broadway theaters. (Every delegation will go to a musical, and not one is viewing "Urinetown.")
"We're a special city with special problems," Koch explained. "I want the Republicans to loove us!"
Still, Bloomberg has grown weary of watching the plans for demonstrations grow and grow. So he is poking back. The firefighters and police can complain to Republicans about their contracts, but that is not "very intelligent," he opined. As for that request for a permit in Central Park?
"You'd ruin the lawn," the mayor replied.
Civil libertarians note that more than 20 groups have applied for march and rally permits, and the city has not approved one. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed more than 300 complaints against the city for its treatment of demonstrators at a march just before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Since then, police have several times denied requests for high-visibility rallies.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company