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.
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry