Anti-G.O.P. protest on the highway
By Albert Amateau
United for Peace and Justice, the national organization seeking a permit for a place where an estimated 250,000 demonstrators could protest the Republican National Convention, has reluctantly accepted the citys offer of the West Side Highway at Chambers St.
We were forced to eat the highway, said Bill Dobbs, an organizer of the protest. The city didnt give us any choice and we still have issues to settle.
The protest march will begin at noon on Sun. Aug. 29, the day before the convention, on Seventh Ave. at 23rd St. and proceed up Seventh Ave. past Madison Sq. Garden to 34th St., then west to the West Side Highway and down the highway to just north of Chambers St., where the stage will face north.
At least a few residents in Battery Park City and Tribeca have expressed concerns about the noise from the demonstration.
It will be quite disturbing to people in Tribeca, said Diane Lapson, president of the Independence Plaza North Tenants Association. I know people have the right to protest and Im happy we have freedom of speech, but I think Central Park would have been preferable. Im afraid there might be violence between protestors and police. They should be able to protest in a safe place.
The city denied the groups original request for Central Park because the Parks Dept. said the crowds would damage the lawns. City Police and Transportation officials denied subsequent applications including Third Ave. at 43rd St. and Times Sq.
The top priority for U.P.J. is that police do not use metal barricades to set up pens to confine protestors. We want to make sure theres easy and safe access in and out of the rally site, including the use of Hudson River Park, Dobbs said.
Theres been no decision regarding the protestors and no plans so far, said Chris Martin, spokesperson for Hudson River Park Trust, which operates the park. In October of 2003, Red Bull paid the Trust $125,000 for Flugtag, an all-day event that brought several thousand people into Hudson River Park. The Flugtag crowd trampled flower beds in the Village segment of the park.
Because were forced to rally on the highway under the direct sun, we want the city to help provide drinking water were not asking for bottled water, but maybe for water trucks, Dobbs said. U.P.J. is also asking the city to help cover the cost of an adequate sound system for a crowd that could stretch along the highway from Chambers to 34th St. A sound system for the highway could cost $150,000 more than a system adequate for the Great Lawn or the North Meadow in Central Park, according to U.P.J.
Because the city plans to provide Republican National Convention delegates with free MetroCards, U.P.J. wants free bus and subway access and shuttle service to and from the Aug. 29 West Side Highway rally. However, Ed Skyler, spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg, told The New York Times that corporate sponsors are funding the MetroCards for convention delegates.