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RNC Protesters Using Text Messages to Plan

Ruckus RNC 2004 was among the text-messaging groups available on the commercial UPOC.com service, which is best known for text alerts of celebrity sightings. More popular with protesters was the TxtMob.com site, developed expressly for activists by techies with the Institute for Applied Autonomy.

Users register their mobile phone number and e-mail address with the site and can join many of the 200 groups (some are private), some of which have hundreds of users. Messages sent by users are "broadcast" through the TxtMob server.

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TxtMob has 4,400 registered users, the site's administrator, who goes by the pseudonym John Henry, said in a phone interview. Users with several cell phone companies reported trouble receiving messages Tuesday and Wednesday. Henry wouldn't say what he thought caused the problem.

Reporters covering the protests were among TxtMob's more avid users, and Henry said he assumed police were also keeping up with its missives.

Tanya Mayo, 36, the national organizer of anti-war group Not in Our Name, said, "We've made some real advances in technology; so have the police. We have to assume that anything we have technologically is all accessible by the police."

The New York Police Department "is utilizing a variety of tools to monitor the activity of demonstrators in New York City," officer Chris Filippazzo said, reading from a department statement. "We are not releasing details of our tactics at this time."

Text messaging was far from the only technology protesters relied on during the convention.

Activists from Code Pink got nighttime voice mail alerts telling them where to go the next day. The women also used two-way radios to summon extra leaders when a rally at Fox News they had expected would attract 200 people attracted more than 1,000.

Ben Meyers, 34, of New York, said he watched the indymedia.org Web site Tuesday for minute-by-minute updates on what was happening where. The organization also offered a broadcast of marchers' mobile phone updates in conjunction with micro-radio station 103.9 in Brooklyn. Protesters with cable TV service could also watch a public access channel that was running nightly video of protests.

But texting was the demonstrations' most prevalent technology, and some protesters who lacked it felt uncool.

"I have to figure out that thing for the next protest, so I can do it," said Misha Rappaport, 56, of San Francisco, squinting at her cell phone across the West Side Highway from the pier where arrested protesters were being held.

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© 2004 The Associated Press