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Inside Politics

Protesters disrupt convention events

Thousands form mock unemployment line outside RNC

From Jonathan Wald
CNN

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Eleven protesters from the AIDS activist group ACT UP were arrested Wednesday on the floor of Madison Square Garden after interrupting a Republican convention speech by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, the Secret Service told CNN.

The seven men and four women shouted and carried signs on the convention floor before security officers removed them. They will face charges of trespassing, assault and disorderly conduct, police said.

Three of the women and one of the men were among the first 11 protesters to be arrested last week when ACT UP activists took off their clothes and obstructed traffic outside Madison Square Garden.

One protester, wearing a T-shirt that said "Bush Global AIDS War," stood on a chair, pointing and shouting at the stage. One person on the convention floor tore a banner, which said "Stop Aids, Drop the Debt," out of the hands of another protester.

Police say one person was assaulted and a cameraman was injured in the brief fracas. Card did not acknowledge the protesters during his speech.

ACT UP spokeswoman Asia Russell said the demonstration was nonviolent and that there were seven other participants besides the 11 who were arrested.

The Secret Service, which has jurisdiction within Madison Square Garden during the convention, said the screening process is working and no one who has demonstrated inside the convention has had a weapon or posed a threat to anyone.

All of the hecklers had valid floor passes.

"The protesters got into the convention legally," Russell said, though she would not comment on how they obtained the credentials.

The New York City Host Committee is responsible for assigning passes to the convention.

Wednesday night, a 50-year-old Washington woman was arrested inside the convention hall during Cheney's speech, witnesses and police sources said. The woman was wearing a pink nightgown with "Fire Cheney-Halliburton" written on the front and "Cheney is in bed with Halliburton" on the back.

Symbolic unemployment line

At least 5,000 protesters stood on sidewalks Wednesday morning in a 3-mile line, waving pinks slips to highlight their dissatisfaction with the economy. The demonstration, which stretched from Wall Street to Madison Square Garden, formed a symbolic unemployment line for about 15 minutes to draw attention to the 8.2 million Americans unemployed as of July.

Tens of thousands of union members later rallied near the convention site to protest what labor officials say are the Bush administration's antiworker and antiunion policies.

"George Bush is the working person's worst nightmare,'' said Brian M. McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council

Six people were arrested Wednesday in protests around New York for trespassing, unlawful hanging of a banner and disorderly conduct, police said.

The total number of people arrested in convention-related protests since last week is now at least 1,768.

Most of those arrested have been taken for processing to Pier 57 on the west side of Manhattan, police said. The three-story, block-long pier has been converted to a holding pen so that city precincts won't be overrun by waves of arrests. The pier can hold 1,000 people.

About 200 people gathered at Pier 57 on Wednesday to protest the conditions at the holding pen. Katya Komisaruk, an attorney for some of the protesters held in Pier 57, called the former bus depot "Guantanamo on the Hudson."

"Forty people at a time are being crammed into cages, wire cages that are 10 by 12 feet and they are surrounded by razor wire. There is nothing to sit or lie on and the floor is covered with an inch thick layer of compacted chemical sediment," Komisaruk said.

"It's not Club Med; it's not supposed to be Club Med," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called the claims about conditions at Pier 57 "exaggerated."


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