Protesters gear up for Republican convention
By Bruce Morton
CNN National Correspondent
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- Will people protest here in Philadelphia? Yes, many.
A recent rally in the City of Brotherly Love grew out of the videotape of police beating suspected carjacker Thomas Jones. Speakers included New York's Rev. Al Sharpton.
"We don't need permission from anybody to stand up and fight for ourselves. If you don't want of fight for yourself, good. Shut up, and let me fight for myself," Sharpton told cheering supporters at a Philadelphia church.
Philadelphia Mayor John Street: "We're going to do the best we can to make protesters welcome, just as we will make the delegates welcome."
Across town, on the same very day, a local radio talk show host led a rally in support of the Philadelphia police.
"There will be violence," said talk show host Dom Giordano. "Even the more mainstream (protesters) are citing the spirit of Washington and Seattle in their protests, and these are the mainstream protesters."
Many of the protesters coming to Philadelphia were active in Seattle and Washington during meetings of the World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund. The Seattle protests, which drew 40,000 participants, caused an estimated $3 million in property damage and temporarily closed the city's downtown area.
Police brutality, the death penalty, economic rights for poor people and the global AIDS crisis are just some of the issues the protesters plan to raise during the four-day Republican gathering.
Police have additional worries. The Jones incident and a recent fatal shooting of a unarmed man by Amtrak police at the railroad station could intensify the planned protests
The capital punishment issue here is already mixed up with the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on death row after being convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.
Protesters plan to take to the streets on behalf of Abu Jamal, who has gained a following as a black activist and author. Meanwhile, lawyer and talk show host Michael Smerconish plans a counter-protest on behalf of Faulkner's family.
"We filled out the necessary paperwork, and procured a permit so we can protest. What's unique is, we're protesting the protesters," said Smerconish.
"There doesn't seem to be much news coming out of the convention, and therefore the stage would appear to be set for the protesters to be the dominant story," he added.
The protesters would like that, of course. The Republicans and the city establishment would not. Philadelphia's police are training for what could be the biggest demonstrations in the city's history.
"We have done a tremendous amount of training, visual training, team training. We have a real good deployment," Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney said.
No one expects a repetition of Chicago in 1968, when the city's police attacked anti-Vietnam war demonstrators in what a later investigation called a "police riot."
"This is the cradle of democracy. This is the greatest city, we think, in the country. And we're going to do the best we can to make protesters welcome, just as we will make the delegates welcome," Philadelphia Mayor John Street said. "This country has a rich tradition in allowing people to say what they have to say."