On the last day of the Democratic convention Thursday, several hundred protesters wound through downtown Boston and stopped at the iron gates guarding the DNC. They refused to go to the police-sanctioned protest pen which is enclosed in barbed wire fencing. [includes rush transcript]
Demonstrators from a group called the Bl(a)ck Tea Society, began the demonstrations near Copley Square at midday. The protesters eventually wound up near the FleetCenter, where they set fire to a two-faced effigy of President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. The protesters faced off with an equal number of police and other secuity personell one block away from where delegates were entering the convention. Three protesters were arrested were arrested by police officers donning shin protectors, padded vests and helmets. The city of Boston has spent $50 million on security for the convention, mobilizing some 5,000 law-enforcement officers from two-dozen local, state and federal agencies. Democracy Now! was at the scene of the protest yesterday at the gates of the FleetCenter.
AMY GOODMAN: We bring you the sounds and sights of the street.
PROTESTERS: Bring the troops home now! Bring the troops home now!
LESLIE CAGAN: My name is Leslie Cagan. I’m the national coordinator of united for peace and Justice. We are a national coalition but we are here in Boston to send a message to John Kerry and the Democratic Party, an anti-war message. We are here today with a number of Boston groups trying to do a rally on Canal Street. Canal Street is up against the so-called protest zone that the city set up. We originally were going to be in that zone but when we got here last week and saw what the city had actually done in terms of fencing and barbed wire and patrols by the National Guard and everything else, we felt that actually going into that area, one would not be very safe for people but also it would be undermining our basic constitutional right to freely assemble much the constitution doesn’t say you have a right to assemble it says a right to free assembly. That’s what we are trying to do here today. So we are here as close as we can get to where the delegates are entering into the last night of the convention.
CATHOLIC WORKER PROTESTER: I am out here because I am part of the catholic worker and I think it’s really important to remember why we are out here. Really, I think what gets lost in the political rhetoric and anger is our inability as a country to grieve and to feel grief and that this is all sad at a really basic human level. That what’s happened to democracy, what’s happened to state rights, but especially what’s happened with war. So many people have died and suffered including soldiers, Iraqis, Palestinians, Afghanis, the nation’s poor. I think we need to reconsider how we are approaching the system because the system is really hurting people at a basic human level. If we continue to argue, capitalism is bad or socialism is bad or communism is bad, we forget, we get lost in our own egos and we have to remember that the only thing that we can do as individuals is live out personally, nonviolence and live out certain ideals that we believe. I think that we have to disarm each other, we have to stop yelling at each other, cop versus protester, democrat versus republican. War is bad for everybody. Killing is wrong. That’s why I’m out here. It makes me so sad. This makes me sad, the pen makes me sad.
PROTESTER: We cut the fence. We have cut this big hole in the fence. We cut another hole down there and our intention was to get as much of it down as possible and the police came and took our bolt cutters and then walked way. So I mean, the main point is that, and what I told the reporter earlier is that, it’s unfortunate that in America when you have an important message, when you have a message about justice and liberty and freedom that you have to do something extreme to get any attention.
PROTESTER: I am out here because I hate the two-party system. The one-party system masquerading as a two-party system. That’s not democracy at all. We need to show people there’s another form of democracy and how to do it.
PROTESTER: I’m out here because I don’t agree with what’s going on and I want to see something ut there. This is my chance to at least have a little bit of a voice.
PROTESTER: We are trying to take an action toward things. You know?
PROTESTER: Democrats and republicans sold this country. They are selling the country right now in that building.
PROTESTER: One of the participants in the march read from the constitution. Read the specific article that explains and mandated that it’s illegal for soldiers to be used on the American people or on the citizens and we are here to respectfully request that they obey the law. We invited them and requested that in the name of the people that they stop breaking the law.
AMY GOODMAN: Your name?
CHARLES SHAW: Charles Shaw.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re with?
CHARLES SHAW: I am organizer of the Green Party and chair of the Peace Action Committee.
AMY GOODMAN: Why are you out here today?
CHARLES SHAW: To try to keep some peace. Demonstrate against the war, against the police state, the PATRIOT Act, the unfair trade policies and the escalation that is surely to come under John Kerry’s leadership should we be permitted a fair election and he actually gets a win.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you see happening?
CHARLES SHAW: Well had we got here, we had told them on Monday that we, as a collective, would not go into the pen which is behind you. We refused to be caged like animals. So with some direct negotiation with the upper level of the Boston police department, they allowed us to come down here right to the edge of the FleetCenter and protest against this 10-foot-high wrought iron fence that they have here. We came down again today in the exact same man are that we did Monday. Monday went off without a single incident. We came down here to do it gone and a couple of kids raised up an effigy of Bush and Kerry. They set it on fire. The police had no problem with this. The kids were dancing around the fire having fun and then randomly out of the blue, a bunch of police who snuck in from the back side grabbed a bunch anarchist kids out of crowd and tackled them.
AUDIO SOUNDS OF ARREST
DUNFORD: It was a hoax device. When the officer saw it, it appeared to be to him to be a Molotov cocktail.
REPORTER: So, It’s a protest statement.
DUNFORD: No, it was a provocative act.
AMY GOODMAN: As it turned out, the protester was dressed as a pirate with a papier-mâché hook for an arm. That’s what the commanding officer, Robert Dunford, was showing to reporters, though never said that. When I questioned the commanding officer of the entire security operation, Dunford, who was in the thick of the action against the protesters, about why the police had dragged this young man halfway down the street and saw another protester slammed to the ground, he slammed my arm down as I was trying to record his response.