Delegates mostly take protests in stride
Many say they welcome debate but disagree with tactics
By Sean Loughlin
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Delegates attending the Republican National Convention found that the theatrics weren't just on Broadway. Organized protests and spontaneous sidewalk encounters with anti-Bush demonstrators became part of their New York experience, a contrast to the unified and harmonious message found inside Madison Square Garden.
The vehemence and prevalence of the protests -- daily and all over the city -- surprised some delegates. But most appeared to take it in stride.
"Everybody has the right to their opinion," said Toni Anne Dashiell, an Alabama delegate. "You just have to respect it."
"The environment really hasn't affected me because security has been so good," said Catherine Davis, a Georgia guest delegate running for Congress against former Rep. Cynthia McKinney. "I didn't notice the protesters, I didn't notice what was going on, until I get back to the hotel and see the news."
Kim Parker, a Kansas delegate, said the protesters have made little impression on her.
"To be honest, I saw four protesters at a cafe, and they had no impact on my comings and goings," she said. "The security here is so complete."
Some delegates said they welcomed the discourse.
"It's just great to be in a place where there is so much political rhetoric," said Danielle Fox, a New Jersey guest delegate and officer for the College Republican club of New York University. "As long as they have constructive things to say, and they are not just making up silly catchphrases that really have absolutely no meaning, then I absolutely support people having a say."
But others said that some protesters took things too far.
Chris Healy, an alternate delegate from Connecticut who was part of the GOP platform committee for John McCain in 2000, has seen a lot more protesters than he did four years ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Healy said he respects the right to demonstrate but has been disturbed by some protesters' vitriol and tactics.
"It's not in the spirit of political discourse -- like, what [California Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger did ... was fun, he was making fun of himself and playfully toying with the opposition, it was harmless in a way," Healy said, referring to several remarks Schwarzenegger made during his speech Tuesday. "But their tone is, there's such a lack of humor, there's such a lack of subtlety, it's all so retro-60s stuff."
Wayne Turner, a Texas delegate, described running into some "rag tags" using "foul language" about Republicans. "But for the most part, they're welcoming," he said of the city's reception for its GOP visitors.
Bonnie Sachs, another delegate from Alabama, recalled demonstrators who began banging on the buses of delegates after a reception.
"When we left, it was getting a little rowdy," she said. But Sachs, a frequent visitor to New York City, professed her love for the Big Apple and said the demonstrations did little to dampen her affection for the city -- or weaken her political convictions.
The same goes for Turner, he said. The protests haven't swayed him, but he said the convention helped energize him.
"It's our party," he said of the convention.
CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.