NYC protests begin smoothly

By Michelle Goldberg
Published August 27, 2004 3:59PM (EDT)

Few expected Wednesday nights anti-Bush demonstration in New York City to be as big as it was. There had been a call to greet arriving members of the DNC2RNC march, a group of about 90 people whove spent the past month walking from Boston to New York, but it was one of many actions planned for Wednesday, and there didnt seem to be much organizing around it. So activists were thrilled when they arrived at Columbus Circle and saw hundreds of people milling about, chanting and beating drums and getting ready to march through Manhattan.

The un-permitted march, which went about 50 blocks through the center of the city from Columbus Circle uptown to Union Square on 14th Street, went off almost flawlessly. There was an overwhelming police presence, of course, but only a handful of arrests and none of the kind of explosive confrontations between cops and activists that some have feared.

Still days ahead of the Republican convention's opening, activists were out in force, the crowd largely comprised of direct action types. Red and black anarchist flags abounded. There were lots of out-of-towners like 19-year-old Rob, a New Mexico paramedic with a gas mask attached to his belt who carried surgical tape to treat protester injuries. A stranger he found on the Web site had given him the keys to his 17th-floor Manhattan studio apartment for a week.

When the procession reached Times Square, the cadres at the front of the crowd all tied red bandanas around their faces and began silently marching in unison, pumping their fists in sync in a somewhat surreal show of force. Occasionally, theyd take up chants against capitalism -- Thats bullshit/Get off it/The enemy is profit, a slogan unlikely to get much traction in money-loving Gotham. Other calls got a better response, though. We just hate Bush/We love New York, they chanted as they walked through midtown, prompting many cheers and whistles of approval from city denizens.

Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg is a frequent contributor to Salon and the author of "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism" (WW Norton).

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