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New York rolls out the unwelcome mat for the Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention is more than a week away in NYC. The city is positively abuzz with its defiant response to the Republican Party’s neo-conservative, rightwing agenda and the party’s plans to turn midtown Manhattan into a militarized police state during the convention. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take the streets in several marches the week of the convention.

What is especially poignant about the anti-RNC mobilizing is the grassroots galvanization of New York City. The GOP’s foolish decision to hold its convention in notoriously anti-Republican NYC is felt as a slap in the face to the U.S. city that suffered the most during and after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Many New Yorkers believe the Bush administration is acting to capitalize on the anniversary of the attacks by positioning the location and timing (Aug. 30 to Sept.2) of the convention in the heart of the tragedy. A hugely diverse and multi-national metropolis, NYC residents are quick to understand the backlash of U.S. foreign and domestic policy.

Jennifer Flynn of the NYC AIDS Housing Network, a member of the Still We Rise coalition, is busy organizing for a march on Aug. 30 that calls for affordable housing, jobs, healthcare and “sane policies regarding AIDS, immigration and education.?

“I think it’s an insult and distracting to our city that the RNC is here,? she said. The $91 million convention is “diverging funds that should go to housing and education. I think it’s an insult that the delegates get free Metro cards when many members of my organization have to panhandle to get (Metro) cards to see their doctors.?

Flynn noted that conventioneers are going to be isolated from the rest of the city by sequestering themselves to Madison Square Garden and their hotels, which are located in the predominantly white, upper-class portion of midtown Manhattan. The Still We Rise coalition plans to march to MSG on Aug. 30.

“We’re bringing the real New York to them. We expect lots of New Yorkers from different communities that the Republicans won’t get to see at Madison Square Garden, people from the Bronx and Brooklyn fighting for access to housing, education and health care,? Flynn said.

With the people of Iraq fiercely resisting the establishment of U.S. control in their country, the tanking of the economy and loss of popularity, the Bush administration is backed into a corner and sweating. What was supposed to be the administration’s finest moment has turned into its worst nightmare.

It’s everywhere: on the lampposts, walls, shop windows, newspapers, and banners hanging in the streets and everyone’s talking about it: in the theater, forums, festivals, neighborhoods, speak-outs and poetic exercises. New York City is ablaze with the message: “The Republicans are coming and we’ve got to stop them!?

It seems like everyone is opposed to the Republican Party grandstanding in the city. Cab drivers have launched a campaign of Lite Up Bush, where cabbies will drive with their headlights on during daylight hours to “shine light on the Bush agenda.? The NYC police union is threatening to picket Madison Square Garden during the convention.

Several dozen New York-based groups from the homeless, low-income, African-American, Latino and people affected by HIV/AIDS communities are joining for the most anticipated mass march of the week with the Still We Rise coalition.

Whitney Calathes of the NORNC Youth committee said there was a great feeling of unity amongst all of the organizers mobilizing against the RNC.

“The point is to not only show the Republicans that what they are doing is wrong but to show the city and the rest of the world that we are fighting the Bush agenda,? she said. “I think with the sheer number of people we have out in the street it will be self-explanatory.?

The mobilizations begin the weekend of Saturday Aug. 28 with a “New York March for Women’s Lives? across the Brooklyn Bridge. Organized by abortion rights advocates, the march opposes the Bush’s administration’s quest to deny women’s control of their bodies by making abortion illegal and cutting off funding for sex education.

Sunday, hundreds of thousands from all over the country are anticipated to turn out for the United for Peace and Justice massive protest against the Bush agenda for U.S. economic and military domination of the globe. UFPJ recently took the city to court to demand the protest’s right to free speech and assembly in a post-march rally in Central park. Monday is the day for the people of New York with the Still We Rise Poor People’s March, which will be followed by a Kensington Welfare Rights Union march later that day.

Adding to the marches is celebratory festival of resistance that has the potential of making the counter convention the largest scale manifestation of diverse opposition in recent history. Bike blocs are joining with revolutionary war street theater to take the streets on Aug. 24 in a ride to announce thearrival of the Republicans; youth and students are convening for the Books Not Bombs conference Aug. 28; immigrant workers are speaking out Aug. 27 and all of Staten Island is turning out for a peace festival Aug. 21. Film festivals from different collectives continue throughout the mobilization and benefit shows with dance against Bush nights are partying until the Republicans are brought down.

There’s enough going on for everyone to plug into the NoRNC activities. So much that tough decisions face a person daily, as they have to pick which event, meeting, training or banner-making party to attend. Bike enthusiasts can hook up with Times-Up, a collective advocating energy alternatives and self-sufficient modes of transportation. Times-Up planned a bike convention for Aug. 20-22 along with a critical mass ride on Aug.27, which can number up to 1,000 riders in Manhattan.

Theory junkies can look forward to the Life After Capitalism conference, which kicks off on Friday Aug. 20 with “Beyond Bush: An Evening of Visionary Resistance,? featuring Naomi Klein, Robin Kelley, Michael Albert and Vijay Prashad. The conference segues into a weekend of revolutionary soul searching with a strictly anti-authoritarian, anti-sectarian approach.

Aug. 30’s Still We Rise Poor People’s March and Rally for Justice stands as the most inspiring creation of the RNC. A broad coalition of NYC community-based organizations, Still We Rise coalesced from 34 groups based in the five boroughs to include housing and healthcare advocates, homeless coalitions, HIV/AIDS activists, Latino community groups, immigrant groups and groups for racial justice.

Dennis Strong of Still We Rise said no one is going to be disappointed with the protest. “I know for a fact we are going to be heard; these are vital issues,? he said. “I haven’t seen a demonstration of this magnitude come together in a long time.?

Enthusiastic plans for direct action are growing along with the mobilizations. Organizers stress the use of non-violent civil disobedience tactics to counter the demonization of anarchists and direct action being done by the press and the city government. Decentralized autonomous actions are flying throughout the city during the convention week to make delegates uncomfortable and to unwelcome them.

A bloc of mice will swarm Broadway the night convention delegates head to Broadway shows. Nothing can scare an elephant better than a mouse. People are planning to crash delegate parties and to gather at delegate hotels to deliver wake-up calls.

Affinity groups and clusters have planned for Aug. 31 as a day of waves of direct action to result in civil disobedience. Actions begin in the early afternoon throughout the city with the confluence of the actions reaching Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. The War Resisters League will march from Ground Zero of the World Trade Center and engage in a massive die-in upon arrival at Madison Square Garden, The pagan cluster joins with the West Coast Breen Bloc to hold Herald Square and manifest its vision of true security. A street party in the style of Reclaim the Streets will roam the area in support of other actions.

As always the resolute Indymedia movement will be there to offer non-corporate coverage of the week of protests. The NYC Independent Media Center secured a convergence space in the financial district at 40 Worth St. where hundreds of media activists will inform their communities and publications about the happenings at the RNC and offer a different story than the corporate media. NYC IMC’s print publication, The Indypendent, just published 200,000 of its latest editions, which offer the most comprehensive guide to the protests and acts as a formidable outreach tool.

Expect updates on pre-RNC activities from Richmond IMC and stay in touch about what Virginians are doing in New York.


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