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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

More Freaks on Parade

Aug 31, 6:31 PM (ET) By Mark McSherry and Grant McCool

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Police arrested more than 125 people on Tuesday as protesters opposed to Bush administration policies marched near the World Trade Center site and blocked streets in the city's financial district on the second day of the Republican political convention.

More than 100 people were put in plastic handcuffs and led to police vans after the War Resisters League began a march from the trade center site -- destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks -- to a planned "die-in" near Madison Square Garden, where Republicans were holding their convention to nominate President Bush to a second term in office.

"Why are we being arrested? Why are you people doing this?" some protesters shouted as police stopped the march and led them away. 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."

"There were many among us who did not want to be arrested," he said.

About 24 people were arrested earlier on Tuesday. Seventeen were detained for illegally blocking traffic on foot or on bicycles in the Wall Street financial district and six were taken into custody for illegally wearing masks at a Harlem subway station, police said.

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

Political activists and police had expected a day of confrontations as protesters attempted to take the spotlight away from the four-day convention.

The A31 Action Coalition had vowed to carry out a day of nonviolent civil disobedience to confront corporations and Republican delegates. The group said the day would end with "civil disobedience and resistance" not far from the convention site.

"To spend a few hours or a day in jail is really a small sacrifice ... compared to people who have been subject to Bush administration policies," said War Resisters League activist Elizabeth Broad at an A31 news briefing.

ANTI-WAR AND ANTI-BUSH

Since last Thursday, about 700 people have been arrested in demonstrations across the city to protest the U.S.-led war in Iraq and other Bush administration policies.

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

The Republican convention continued for a second day on Tuesday under tight security. The convention ends Thursday night after Bush accepts the nomination to face Democratic Sen. John Kerry in the Nov. 2 presidential elections.

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.

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