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August 30, 2004
Takin' It To The Streets

The New York Times reports on what I missed with my late arrival yesterday, the day before the opening of the Republican National Convention, but the unnerving effects of having a half-million people in the street certainly accounts for the tension I felt on my arrival:

A roaring two-mile river of demonstrators surged through the canyons of Manhattan yesterday in the city's largest political protest in decades, a raucous but peaceful spectacle that pilloried George W. Bush and demanded regime change in Washington.

On a sweltering August Sunday, the huge throng of protesters marched past Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican National Convention opening today, and denounced President Bush as a misfit who had plunged America into war and runaway debt, undermined civil and constitutional rights, lied to the people, despoiled the environment and used the presidency to benefit corporations and millionaires.

The protest organizer, United for Peace and Justice, estimated the crowd at 500,000, rivaling a 1982 antinuclear rally in Central Park, and double the number it had predicted. It was, at best, a rough estimate. The Police Department, as is customary, offered no official estimate, but one officer in touch with the police command center at Madison Square Garden agreed that the crowd appeared to be close to a half-million.

Robert McFadden glosses it up just a bit when he calls it "peaceful", as the police department had to contend with protestors throwing ball bearings and marbles onto the street where their mounted units deployed, and spot incidents of violence occurred along the two-mile protest. Later on, of course, the hard-core protestors that couldn't be satisfied with merely marching had to come back for more:

After the march, hundreds of protesters in a more belligerent mood made their way to Times Square and blocked the entrances of two Midtown hotels, while another group harassed Republican guests at a party at the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park. ... At a news conference last night, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said there had been about 200 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct, though nine people were charged with felony assaults on officers who were seizing a 10th suspect for setting a small fire outside the Garden, and 15 members of an anarchist group called Black Block were arrested after they knocked down police barriers and hurled bottles at police lines at 34th Street and Avenue of the Americas.

What we have here is the last gasp of the people who have been proven wrong by history over and over again -- and I think they know it. United for Peace and Justice, as McFadden reports, organized nuclear-freeze protests all during Reagan's terms in office, attempting to achieve peace through appeasement. (Hugh Hewitt noted last night that counterprotestors should carry pictures of Neville Chamberlain, but at least Chamberlain finally learned from events.) The anarchists likely participated in the Seattle-WTO protests last decade, and they still insist on protested free trade even though it helped advance the American and world economy for more than a decade now.

Now we have all of the foaming political Luddite masses in one place here in New York, and the nation can see what they represent -- a retreat not just to September 10th, but a return to isolationism and protectionism that died with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Most of the protestors were born into a world defined by American power, as I was. Unfortunately, most of them have never studied the history of the world before that, where international power vacuums encouraged by the illusions of "internatoinal law" promoted by weak multilateral organizations led to chaos, war, genocide, and the deaths of tens of millions of people.

I'm sure I'll see plenty more of the chaotic and barely peaceful protests while I'm here. I'll bring you pictures of anything that comes up, but I can tell you that nearby the hotel and Madison Square Garden, the NYPD are on the job and not taking anything for granted. In fact, after further reflection, the two most welcoming people in my long odyssey last night were the young officers on the barricades who kept me from getting to the hotel but took the time to chat with me about the city they obviously love.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 30, 2004 4:48 AM

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I just wanted to remind you that Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters is one of the credentialed few to blog the Republican National Convention. I think Ed, as you already know if you've been reading EIKIW for any length of [Read More]

Tracked on August 30, 2004 2:59 PM

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