Delivering The "No" To Bush
And Everything He Stands For

Osage Bell

Revolutionary Worker, online August 30, 2004, posted at

NEW YORK AUGUST 29, 2004—I heard the roar before I actually saw the crowds.

Turning down a side street to get to the avenue where the march was starting, I heard what sounded like huge ocean waves crashing against rocks and felt what could have been a giant subway train rumbling beneath the street. And then I saw them...hundreds of thousands of people creating a river of humanity that rocked and moved with the angry yells and spirited shouts of people who urgently wanted something more. More than living in a society built on fear. More than living in an empire – a new Rome – that puts itself before and on top of the rest of the world. More than being forced to rely on a lying, murdering president. They came despite the tremendous repression – the threats from city officials, the massive police presence, the stalking of protesters and the painting of them as terrorists. They came to feel, again, the full force of their collective power – in one unified voice, crying, "NO!"

They were told they could not rally in Central Park, so they burst the concrete seams of the city, filling more than 40 blocks, saying NO with their very bodies to being corralled or silenced into barricaded, isolated protest ghettos. It was hammered at them again and again that dissent is criminal, that thinking critically under a system that promotes fear of thinking is outlawed and dangerous. And that being so "radical" as to visibly disagree with the Bush regime is extremist or worse.

So, of course, the people didn’t listen.

Instead, they poured out into the streets of Manhattan in their hundreds of thousands, with their baby-strollers, their grandmothers, sisters, even their pets—to fight over the direction of the country. They held signs high above their heads declaring their non-complicity with this juggernaut of war and repression. They refused to be "good Germans." They wore shirts that said, "BUllSHit" or carried plastic effigies mocking Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.

The most reviled, hated, distrusted, disliked, ridiculed president in the history of this country inspired what the New York Times called the "most emphatic" election year protest "since Democrats and demonstrators turned against each other in fury over Vietnam in Chicago in 1968."

With great urgency and intensity, people came out to show they would not go quietly or obediently into Bush’s future. They came to declare that another future, another world, is possible, desired and very much needed.

And none of this was supposed to happen.

King George W Bush was supposed to come to New York and capitalize on the grief of this city from 9/11 for imperial aims. Instead, the city had to build a fortress. He was supposed to be able to come to this city and feel welcomed and congratulated for the internationally-deeply-hated war and occupation of the people of Iraq. At this moment, when the power structure needs the backing of the people – where they need to say this is a unified homeland – he was supposed to come to the "city that never sleeps" and celebrate in the glory of all their red-white-and-blue balloons. But just as the hopes of the American occupiers—who were supposed to be greeted with flowers by the conquered but "grateful" people of Iraq—were shattered, so the hopes of King George for a warm welcome by the people of New York City were shattered on Aug. 29.


Claiming that the Republican National Convention was a target for terrorists, the city created an atmosphere of fear around the protests. The level of repression and focus from federal agencies was unprecedented. The head of the Department of Homeland Security himself, Tom Ridge, came out to show off the level of security forces in the city – their new weapons, the use of all 40,000 cops in NYC, the more than 30 police agencies working together—and touted the island city as being covered from "land, sea, and air." They brought in the National Guard. They created a "frozen zone" in the blocks around Madison Square Garden, where the RNC would be; and in that 19-block radius alone, they were going to concentrate 10,000 cops. On the 29th itself, they had cops on foot, on bikes, on horses, in helicopters, and in armored-type vehicles.

The FBI came out in the weeks before the RNC with an announcement that they were going to have serious surveillance on 56 groups and individuals. And they went out stalking and interrogating protesters (some in other parts of the country), even interviewing their families. They wanted to intimidate these individuals, as well as scare the broader forces who wanted to come out.

Two futures were converging on this city simultaneously – and like polar opposites, they couldn’t just peacefully coexist together, tolerant and equal. No – these two futures are diametrically opposed to each other. So, they pushed against each other, fighting to win out, and one side won out on the 29th. The protests dominated the nightly and daily news – in both English and Spanish media.

There were so many people it took six hours for the march to be completed – the front had reached the end of the march route before the back of the march had even begun to move. Everywhere you went, on the subways, in and around the different parks – you saw anti-Bush protesters. And the majority were not people who are actively and regularly involved in politics and political struggles. Most were everyday people, largely democrats who simply could not stand by as the country accelerated on its path to swoop up the world in its imperialist net.

With great determination and passion, they came to say no to prison torture in foreign lands and round-ups of immigrants here. Fists pumped in the air against bedroom police and the outlawing of same-sex love. Wearing the I Say NO! t-shirts, lifting the Earth flags and holding the signs from Not In Our Name, declaring "NO!" Jumping up and down to drums, trumpets and make-shift musical instruments, they declared protest to be liberating and war to be criminal. They came from Hawaii, Ohio, Montana, Wisconsin, Maine, North Carolina, California, Texas, Arizona, Chile, Canada, and Germany, and more.

And they are so sick of the lying. Of the manipulation and deceit. Of not being able to trust their government or rely on politicians. One contingent marched with 1,000 coffins with U.S. flags draped on them, representing the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many marchers were angry they had to come out into the streets – because their very own Democratic Party has refused to mobilize them against the war.

And there were many others—rebel youths wearing masks and revolutionaries from the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade showing people that they don’t have to settle for "anybody but Bush"—that they can fight for a radically different and completely liberating future. Everywhere you went, you saw red flags or people with the Revolutionary Worker newspaper, and could hear the chant: The earth is quakin’/ Follow Bob Avakian/ The empire’s shakin’/ Follow Bob Avakian!


On August 29, in New York City, a visible and powerful NO was delivered. But this NO needs to be expressed—in signs and symbols, in the streets, online, on our t-shirts, in our windows, and in acts of resistance—making it very clear that millions of people are determined to say NO to Bush and everything he stands for, and that whatever happens on election day, the fight for a whole different direction in the country and the world will continue.

As the afternoon gave way to evening, I watched the tall buildings stretching beyond the heights of the trees in Central Park; the city lights bouncing against the dusk. The city had denied us a permit to rally here, but the fight for the park and the refusal of people to be penned up in an official protest site on the West Side Highway had caused a furor and made a lot of people mad. As the march ended, people defiantly filtered into the park until we numbered in the thousands. Some lay on the grass, while others played on the baseball diamond, drawing anti-Bush slogans in the dust with our fingertips. People crowded around drummers and trumpet players, dancing to the rebellious and joyous rhythm. This is a celebration, a coming-together, a moment to reflect on what we are bringing forward.

There’s just something about being in a large park with thousands of others who represent how the world could be different; all kinds of people joining up to celebrate a day of fighting for the future. This is what parks will be like in the future.

On my back on the thick, green grass, my eyes searched to see stars in the city-glow sky, and I hear the poet Walt Whitman in my head. Whitman once wrote that grass is "the beautiful uncut hair of graves" and I think of the people around the world who needed this day to happen—who needed to see that there are so many here who stand with them and not Bush...who have been struggling to see the truth through the thick lies that tell them America is united. The millions who wake up each morning in Iraq and Afghanistan seeing more of the country in ruins; all those desperately needing to see the American empire come tumbling down: this day held so much for them.

And it is also because of them—and the very future of this world—that August 29 needs to be a beginning. A spark. A dawn of a new movement of resistance that builds itself with its sights set on stopping all this—putting an end to the predatory wars for empire, the fear, the repression and hatred—and at its core, we need hearts filled with dreams of a world where the ideas of nations dominating one another and the whole dog-eat-dog way the world works now will be something people read about in history books. Their must be a growing rhythm of fearless desires that gives us strength and spirit; a nourishing vision that shows we are the seeds of a future that is so possible and so necessary.

As we left the park, the smell of the grass was sweet, and the roar of the crowd was still in my head. (END)

Osage Bell is a correspondent to the Revolutionary Worker and part of the Revolutionary Writers and Artists RNC team covering the protests in New York at the Republican National Convention.