Gathering Storm in NYC

Police Clampdown vs Anti-RNC Protesters

Revolutionary Worker #1247, July 25, 2004, posted at

Page one of the New York Times declares "FEARS OF ATTACK AT CONVENTIONS DRIVE NEW PLANS" and discusses intense federal and local police moves around the Democratic and Republican national conventions. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge trot out in front of the media to warn of a potential major al-Qaida attack around the time of the conventions and the presidential elections. Government officials float out the possibility that the November elections could be postponed or even canceled because of a such an attack.

In New York City, people who live near the Republican convention site are advised to "stay inside" while the convention is in session. The media reports on NYPD drills for "bioterrorism." Posters in the subway warn "If you see something, say something," with a picture of bags under seats with no one sitting nearby.

Ridge, Ashcroft, and other Bush administration officials offer no specifics about their warnings of al-Qaida attacks--and so far they have not raised their color-coded "threat level." Whether their warnings are based on anything real, these officials are not acting out of actual concern for people's "safety." These warnings are being used to create an overall atmosphere of fear and intimidation and to justify measures to restrict protest and dissent against Bush and all that he stands for.

The warnings are gaining frequency and volume as the Republican convention approaches. Not In Our Name and others have called for more than a million people in the streets of New York City to deliver a resounding "NO!" to the Bush agenda when the Republicans meet there August 29-September 2.

The Bush team cynically hopes to capitalize on the holding of the Republican convention in the city of 9/11 "ground zero" to advance their plans to declare a "mandate" for their agenda in this year's elections. But their "cakewalk" in Iraq has turned into a bloody quagmire. People around the world--and increasing numbers here in this country--oppose the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq. A massive outpouring of resistance and protest against the RNC would be a big blow to Bush and those he represents. This is the backdrop to the heavy police preparations and battles around protest permits now taking place in New York.

Police Mobilization

When the Democrats met in New York in 1992 to nominate Bill Clinton, the NYPD mobilized 1,800 cops for convention duty. When the Republicans gather at Madison Square Garden at the end of this summer, up to 10,000 cops will be mobilized--which amounts to two cops for each Republican delegate to the convention.

The NYPD will post cops in every hotel tied to the convention and has been systematically "conducting surveys of each property connected with the convention, studying floor plans, mechanical systems and staffers."

According to Newsday , "Most [of the cops] will be in uniform -- on the streets on foot, on rooftops with high-powered rifles, on horses and scooters and in helicopters. Hundreds of other officers will be in plainclothes, and many more will be posted inside Madison Square Garden, working closely with the Secret Service and FBI, or guiding explosive-sniffing dogs through each train coming into Penn Station."

The federal government has allotted an additional $25 million in security funds for the RNC. The New York Times reported in relation to the FBI in the city that "nearly all of the more than 1,100 agents in the office, the bureau's largest field division, will be involved in collecting intelligence and other security tasks before the convention."

Battle for Permits

While plans for massive police mobilization are an open threat, the authorities are also using rally and march permits to disrupt protests. At the end of June the NYPD began trickling out permits for various demonstrations during the RNC. But with a little over a month to go until the RNC, only some of the permits have been issued so far. This is a deliberate tactic by the NYPD to knock wind out of the protest plans by leaving it up in the air whether particular rallies or marches will receive permits (and for what location).

One permit that has been issued reveals how the NYPD is trying to restrict protests through this process. The Central Labor Council, an umbrella group of unions, won permission to rally on Sept. 1. But the Council had to agree to not have feeder marches emptying into the larger rally site. And the approved rally site consists of a part of Eighth Avenue--starting across the street from Madison Square Garden and spreading south--which is penned in by police barricades and at least one lane of traffic.

As of July 17, the city still has not issued permits for various locations to Not In Our Name (NION), Code Pink- Women for Peace, the Green Party, the National Council of Arab Americans, United for Peace and Justice (UPJ), and other organizations.

The UPJ permit application--co-sponsored by NION and many others--has been covered widely in the media. UPJ's original request to hold a rally in Central Park was rejected by city officials--who gave the ridiculous excuse that the demonstrators would damage the lawn at the site! Their request for a rally at Times Square was also turned down. The police have made a "final offer" for the rally site--a blocked-off section of the West Side Highway, a narrow strip of asphalt with police barricades on one side and the Hudson River on the other.

In short, the permit process is being used to contain, marginalize, and suppress dissent. The message from the authorities is: You can demonstrate--IF you accept all our rules, and IF you don't plan on resistance that has any actual impact.


Police repression against protesters and in general has also been intense in Boston, where the Democratic National Convention is taking place July 26-29. The Hartford Courant reported at the end of June about the anarchist group known as the Bl(A)ck Tea Society: "At least one Bl(A)ck Tea Society meeting has been shut down by MIT security, and according to a report in Newsday , intelligence officers from the New York police monitored another."

In a precedent-setting move, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is sending cops into subways and commuter rail stations to check bags of riders. The Boston Globe reported, "The MBTA plans to send teams of officers to randomly selected subway and commuter rail stations, to stop individuals on a random basis and inspect their bags before they enter the system. During convention week, that will intensify, and T police `will be getting some help' to cover more stations, Mulhern [general manager of the MBTA] said. In addition, any rider with large bags during that week will be subject to automatic search and no large bags will be allowed on the Orange Line." A number of groups formed a coalition, Safe and Free T Alliance, to oppose this fascistic move.

Time to Make History

"This is the time to make history with the most massive outpouring of resistance ever."

from the NION call for "More Than a Million in the Streets When the Bush Team Meets"

The Bush team and those around them are dead set on declaring a "mandate" and forging ahead with their schemes of world domination. On the other side are the millions who are disgusted and outraged at the whole lying bunch heading up this government.

John Timoney, who headed the police in Philadelphia when the Republicans met there in 2000, told Newsweek (6/13/04), "What's really complicating the whole security scheme is that, on top of all the protesters and terrorism stuff, is this president. There just seems to be this visceral dislike of him, more so than anyone we've seen in the past. The expectation is that you're going to get a lot of motivated people showing up."

The dire warnings from those in power about potential terrorist attacks in the U.S. are meant in part to blunt this anger against the Bush White House. But such warnings turn reality upside down. As reggae rebel Peter Tosh sang, "Everybody's talking about crime, crime, tell me who are the criminals."

The people of Iraq and Afghanistan now live with the daily reality of U.S. troops kicking in their door in the middle of the night and dragging off men to dungeons of torture. Iraqi parents mourn the loss of the children from "Washington bullets" and bombs. U.S. missiles go "off target" and destroy homes and blow up people--while officials in New York complain that anti-war protesters might mess up the precious lawn in Central Park.

Anyone who looks at reality as it is and stands for what is right in the world should be filled with urgency to resist in a way that will challenge this compilation of crimes--the horror set loose by the U.S. imperialists on the people of the world. New York City at the end of summer will see a historic moment--a time when big contradictions play out in a small geographical space. This is a time for resolve, determination, and courage.