Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
For four days beginning on 30 August 2004, Republican delegates from across the country gathered at Madison Square Garden, New York for the Republican National Convention. A massive security operation, unprecedented in its scale, swept down over the city. The convention site was heavily guarded by tactical units, soldiers and the secret service, and surrounded by metal barricades. Many streets in the neighbourhood were closed.
Even though NYC resembled a police state, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against Bush and the Republican administration. Smaller acts of civil disobedience were carried out earlier in the week, before the convention started. Protesters managed to hang a large anti-Bush banner on the front of the Plaza Hotel on the corner of Central Park. A small group of Aids activists stood nude near the convention site with slogans painted on their bodies to protest the administration’s stance on Aids education and third world debt. They were quickly ushered into police vans and arrested.
Large, organised protests kicked off on Friday 27 August with a ‘Critical Mass’ bike ride. Thousands of bicycle riders, taking their pro-environment stance to the streets, wound their way around the city for several hours, creating traffic chaos at many locations, including Herald Square, just north of the convention site, and Times Square. Police ended up arresting more than 200 riders for obstructing traffic.
The next day, activists marched across Brooklyn Bridge to a rally at City Hall in a ‘March for Women’s Lives’ organised by Planned Parenthood of NYC, a pro-choice advocate, and other women’s groups. Tens of thousands participated to express their opposition to Bush’s stance on reproductive health issues.
The largest demonstration, a march organised by United for Peace and Justice (UPJ), took place on the Sunday (29 August). Estimates put the crowd at 150,000 to 500,000. The day began with a morning rally in Chelsea attended by Michael Moore and Jesse Jackson. With several helicopters and a NYPD blimp watching overhead, the diverse and colourful crowd streamed north towards the convention. The mood was upbeat as the march began, but the chants grew louder and angrier as the marchers neared Madison Square Garden. Although united against Bush, the groups marching were as diverse as the city itself. Parents marching with young children and strollers; labour unionists; army veterans; university students; senior citizens; anarchists; peace activists.
For several hours, protesters snaked down Seventh Ave and passed Madison Square Garden. The protest route, packed with marchers, stretched for several miles. As marchers reached the convention site, many paused in front of the metal barricades to stare at the lines of security and voice their displeasure at the Republicans. Protesters waved their homemade placards, shouted slogans and jeered at the police. Impromptu concerts broke out as protesters banged on the metal barricades with drumsticks. One group marched with mock coffins draped with US flags, which represented soldiers killed in action. The ‘Missile-Dick Chicks,’ a group of about 20 women wearing wigs, red, white and blue outfits, and mini-skirts adorned with a large missile-like phallus, performed a skit in front of the Garden. The Korean American Alliance for Peace and Justice, staged a traditional Korean dance, with elaborately costumed dancers, loudspeakers and a large group of musicians.
Things took a dramatic turn later in the afternoon. Around 3pm, marchers carrying a large papier-maché green dragon arrived at the Garden. Soon afterwards, they poured gasoline onto the large puppet and it went up in flames. Police jumped into action: large units of officers moved in and pushed onlookers away. The fire was quickly extinguished, but not before a large cloud of black smoke rose up in front of the convention site. Scuffles broke out when police went into the crowd to snatch the purported instigators of the fire and arrested them. The march was penned in at Herald Square for about a half hour before it was allowed to continue.
The rest of the afternoon proceeded without incident as the march wound its way south around the convention site and headed towards Union Square; the last of the marchers reached the square around 5pm. The protests didn’t end there. Despite the city’s refusal to grant a rally permit for Central Park, thousands of marchers headed uptown for the park. The scene was mellow and calm at the park as police and journalists looked on while thousands of tired marchers picnicked, played music and relaxed on the grass. As dusk fell on an unprecedented, largely peaceful day of protests, tired protesters trickled out of Central Park.
Though Sunday, UPJ march was the largest day of action, activist held a myriad of events throughout the week. Marches by advocates for social issues and poor people, and anti-war groups were held on Monday and Tuesday. More than 1,000 were arrested on Tuesday (31 August) alone, the designated day of direct action. Hundreds were held for more than 40 hours in a warehouse on the banks of the Hudson river without being arraigned, informed of their rights, given access to an attorney or adequate food, water or sleeping facilities.
Despite the heavy-handed policing, protests continued for the duration of the convention. A symbolic unemployment line formed by protesters holding pink slips stretched several miles down Broadway from Wall Street to Midtown on Wednesday morning. A candlelight vigil to commemorate victims of the ‘War on Terror’ was held on Thursday night as Bush formally accepted his nomination.
As the convention drew to a close on Thursday night, a collective sigh of relief could be heard. Terrorist attacks, launches of chemical and biological weapons did not materialise. The city returned to normal as trucks rolled through the streets to collect metal crowd control barriers and heavily armed officers disappeared from street corners. There was the usual post-demonstration rhetoric: the mayor heaping praise on the police for their ‘benevolent’ handling of protesters; protesters claiming victory and groups filing civil right complaints against the city. The New York Times called the week’s protests ‘the largest in the history of political conventions’. Hopefully, the resounding message of opposition to the Bush agenda will carry through to Election Day on 2 November 2004.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament