We speak with William Dobbs of United for Peace and Justice, which has been battling for over a year with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Parks Department to hold a massive anti-war march on the eve of the Republican National Convention. [includes rush transcript]
"Anarchy Threat to City: Cops fear hard-core lunatics plotting convention chaos"
That was the banner headline stretched across the cover of the New York Daily News on Monday. The paper warned of chaos at the Republican National Convention in New York City where hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to arrive in August. Inside the two-page spread, the Daily News article promises anarchist vandals will douse themselves with gunpowder to wreak havoc at the convention. The only named source in the article is New York police chief Raymond Kelly. No activists are quoted.
One organization, United for Peace and Justice has become the poster child for protesters. It has been battling for over a year with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Parks Department to hold a massive anti-war march on the eve of the convention. The planned demonstration would be the largest held in the city during the GOP convention with an estimated 250,000 people. UFPJ has applied for a permit to hold the rally on the Great Lawn in Central Park, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said it would ruin the lawn.
- William Dobbs, spokesperson for United For Peace and Justice.
AMY GOODMAN: UFPJ has applied for a permit to hold the rally in Central Park at the lawn. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said it would ruin the lawn. William Dobbs is a spokesperson for United For Peace and Justice. Your response.
WILLIAM DOBBS: Thanks, Amy. Yes, we’ve been planning a very big protest for the eve of the Republican Convention for over a year now and it is a very simple plan to assemble in lower Manhattan, march up past Madison Square Garden and end in a very large rally in a close, comfortable spot, which is Central Park. We’ve run into a brick wall with the Bloomberg Administration over the rally site. After a year, we’ve finally gotten the police to agree that we can march by Madison Square Garden. We’re asking people to call and fax New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I’ll give the phone number, which is: area code 212, 788-3000. Once again, that’s area code 212, 788-3000. And you can find out much more information on our website, which is www.unitedforpeace.org.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what’s happening? I mean, other groups like Planned Parenthood, have been given permits. But UFPJ hasn’t. I believe Mayor Bloomberg has said that you have stalled or refused to negotiate.
WILLIAM DOBBS: We’ve met with the police numerous times, about six times now. We’ve met with the Parks Department. But we’re very conscious of what happened to us on February 15, 2003, which is the Bloomberg Administration and federal government officials worked very hard to scuttle what became a massive protest. They did serious damage to it. They prevented it from reaching its full power, and in this case, what’s happening is the Bloomberg Administration wants to push us on to a stretch of highway that they would close off and we’re very concerned about that because it’s clearly on the edge of the city. It’s not easy to get to. It’s not easy to be seen and stretching out a crowd of 250,000 for three miles on hot pavement is not a good idea. Meanwhile, the Mayor of New York, who happens to be a Republican, has given a $5 million personal contribution to the RNC. He is rolling out the red carpet for the Republican Convention and even giving them free metro cards. It’s certainly a matter, not only of the First Amendment, but also of public safety that a crowd of this size take its place in Central Park. And Central Park is a venue that’s been used, as you know, over many decades for some of the most important and largest protests and events in this city because there’s very little open space. I’m talking about Anti-Apartheid rallies, the massive 1982 disarmament rally, Paul Simon concerts, Pearl Harbor mass rally, all of those things have been in Central Park. The idea that we’re going to ruin the lawn? Who knew that Central Park had become a Lawn Museum. Please do call Mayor Michael Bloomberg and urge him to change his mind because the protests, the number of people we’re expecting from around the country is going to dwarf the number of delegates.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the New York Daily News is not alone. Watching Fox over the last few days, talking about anarchists, equating them with terrorists, you know there are terrorists abroad and there are terrorists at home. But "Anarchy threat to city, cops fear hard-core lunatics plotting convention chaos."
WILLIAM DOBBS: If you look at the recent history of big protests in this city, the threat of violence and the actual violence have come from people with badges on. This is nothing but convenient fear mongering to distract us from the fact that the Bloomberg Administration has dragged its feet in granting permits and has failed to respect the Constitution.
AMY GOODMAN: William Dobbs, thank you for joining us. spokesperson for Peace and Justice.