Demonstrations and protests bubbled up around New York again Wednesday, as thousands of people formed a symbolic unemployment line extending 31/2 miles from Wall Street to within yards of the Republican National Convention.
Another 40,000 or so union workers, from subway motormen to teachers to electricians and steelworkers, stretched for seven blocks on Eighth Avenue just south of Madison Square Garden to protest President Bush's labor and economic policies. Speakers complained that more than a million jobs have been lost under Bush and that real income has declined.
"I'm kind of insulted that George Bush would come here for a convention," said Kenny Bowers, a thickly muscled bus cleaner from Staten Island and a member of the transit workers' union. "He comes here to make his political points, but the rest of the time he's for the big corporations, not the little man."
The National Organization for Women, meanwhile, held one of the few legal rallies in Central Park Wednesday night, attracting more than 3,000 people.
And once again, a few protesters penetrated the seemingly ironclad perimeter at Madison Square Garden and raised a voice of protest inside. A dozen activists with ACT UP/New York got onto the floor of the convention, pulled off their shirts and began blowing whistles and chanting anti-Bush slogans. They unfurled a banner reading "Bush Global AIDS Liar" during a speech by White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., even as security officers descended and hauled them off the floor and arrested them.
In all, police reported 17 arrests by 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Still, it remained far calmer than the storm of protests that swept Manhattan on Tuesday. Police made 1,187 arrests as roving bands of protesters -- most of whom considered themselves anarchists -- roved Midtown, stopping traffic and running down side streets to get near Madison Square Garden. Some demonstrators walked to the Midtown hotels, where they yelled unpleasantries at delegates. Separately, other activists conducted a "Shut Up-A-Thon" throughout the day at the headquarters of the Fox cable news network, which they see as a conservative news organization.
"Most of us regarded yesterday as a huge victory, despite the arrests," said Eric Laursen, a spokesman for the A31 coalition of anarchist groups. "Mainly, we pierced the bubble that [Mayor Michael R.] Bloomberg and [Gov. George W.] Pataki tried to put up around the Garden."
Bloomberg warned Wednesday that police would continue to arrest demonstrators who break the law. "If you want to get arrested and storm a barricade, go ahead and we'll accommodate you," Bloomberg said at a lunch for Republican delegates at the Bronx Zoo, the Associated Press reported.
Legal observers say that many of the arrests have appeared routine and justified, as demonstrators blocked traffic or tried to pass through police lines. But they said that perhaps another 300 arrests seemed arbitrary.
Among those: Police arrested more than 200 members of the War Resisters League, a pacifist group, as about 1,000 people walked north on the sidewalks from Ground Zero to Madison Square Garden. Demonstrators intended to conduct a mock "die-in" on the streets outside the convention, where they would be arrested in acts of civil disobedience.
"It's clear the police are trying to exercise very tight control," said Christopher Dunn, a senior attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union. "They often lost sight of the difference between legal and illegal activity. In the United States, you're allowed to walk on the sidewalk."
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said officers were willing to let the demonstrators march uptown so long as they agreed to walk two abreast and not block the sidewalk with their banner. When the demonstrators began to spread across the entire sidewalk, police moved in, Browne said.
"I would concede this was not a violent group," Browne said. "But there was nothing preemptive about these arrests at all. We moved in when they broke the law."
Browne noted that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had congratulated organizers of the quarter-million strong Sunday protest afterward for working with authorities to ensure a peaceful rally. One of those organizers, Bill Dobbs, noted that the Republican convention has acted as a galvanizing force for activists. The city has experienced a sea of protests, concerts, theater and symposiums on the war in Iraq, on the economy and poverty -- events that have drawn collectively more than a million people.
"By coming here, Bush has sparked people to far more than just wear a button or jump into a demonstration," Dobbs said. "Bush happened to pick a city that's been a center of antiwar organizing."
Special correspondent Michelle Garcia and staff writer Mary Fitzgerald contributed to this report.