Hundreds arrested in anti-Bush protests

REUTERS

Wed 1 September, 2004 03:06

By Grant McCool and Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Police have arrested at least 260 people as anti-Bush activists blocked traffic, staged anti-war protests and harassed Republican delegates on the second day of a convention to nominate President George W. Bush to a second term in office.

A day-long wave of civil disobedience raised tensions between police and protesters as activists opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq and other Bush administration policies attempted to seize the spotlight on the day the Republicans formally nominated the president to face Democratic Senator John Kerry in the November 2 elections.

Police have arrested more than 800 people since last Thursday in a variety of demonstrations.

Two hundred people were put in plastic handcuffs and led to police vans after the War Resisters League began an afternoon march from the World Trade Centre, which was destroyed in the September 11 attacks, to a planned "die-in" near the Madison Square Garden convention site.

In the early evening, thousands converged around the streets in Herald Square in central Manhattan, many chanting anti-Bush statements as hundreds of police in riot gear formed long lines in front of them and put up metal barriers.

Several activists ran through barriers to try to block buses used for convention delegates. About 50 were taken into custody in a "die-in" of protesters lying down in the street.

About half a dozen arrests were made near the main New York Public Library in an early evening protest. Law enforcement officials said there were actions all over the city and they estimated at least 260 arrests.

CONFRONTING DELEGATES

Protesters yelled at delegates attending a Texas Republican breakfast at the Hilton Hotel on 54th Street and shouted "go home" to delegates from Tennessee going into an event hosted by Sotheby's auction house.

Political activists and police had expected a day of confrontations. The A31 Action Coalition, named for the August 31 date, had vowed to stage a day of nonviolent civil disobedie nce to confront corporations and Republican delegates.

"The delegates were forced to listen to their critics despite the bubble the city and police put around them," said spokesman Eric Laursen.

New York's 37,000 strong police department is out in force on foot, horses, bicycles and in helicopters to monitor protests and to guard the city following government warnings of a possible terrorist attack during the election season.

At the scene of the World Trade Centre protests, several demonstrators said they followed police instructions to walk two by two on the sidewalk and were surprised to be detained.

One protester, Jim MacDonald of the DC Anti-War Network, said in an interview by mobile phone that the group did not have a permit to march and police "surrounded us when we started to walk."

"Why are we being arrested? Why are you people doing this?" some protesters shouted at police.

One man was arrested by about 10 officers after he climbed a tree to obtain a better view of a rally by fellow immi gration activists outside U.S. government offices, witnesses said.

Most of the demonstrations in the last six days have been peaceful, including an anti-war march on Sunday by several hundred thousand people past Madison Square Garden, one of the biggest rallies seen in New York in decades.

In one violent incident on Monday night, a plainclothes police officer was beaten unconscious during a demonstration.