Anti-War Group Asserts Right to Protest RNC in Central Park

StoryAugust 11, 2004
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New York City again rejects a request by protest group United For Peace and Justice to the rally in Central Park before the opening of the Republican National Convention. [includes rush transcript]

A group of family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks, are walking from the Democratic National Convention in Boston to the Republican National Convention in New York where some of them join antiwar protests in Manhattan. But where they will be rallying is still unknown.

New York City has once again rejected a request by protest group United For Peace and Justice to hold rally in Central Park before the opening of the Convention.

The group submitted another permit request yesterday but the city rejected it within hours. Now, protest organizer Leslie Cagan, said the group may take their case to federal court.

Cagan held a press conference yesterday in New York to announce the group’s decision to hold the rally in Central Park.

  • Leslie Cagan, national coordinator for United For Peace and Justice speaking at a press conference in New York on August 10, 2004.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday at United for Peace and Justice, the major anti-war group in New York, a press conference was held by a cross-section of peace and social justice groups, calling on the city to allow the rally to take place in Central Park. Leslie Cagan is with United for Peace and Justice. This is what she had to say:

LESLIE CAGAN: This morning we inform the New York City Police Department that we are not going to use the Westside Highway for the site for our rally on Sunday, August 29th, the day before the Republican Convention begins. We also, this morning, submitted a new application to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, seeking a permit for the use of the great lawn, the north meadow, and the east meadow for our rally on that day. We believe that exiling a rally to a remote stretch of sun-baked highway makes a mockery of the constitutionally-protected right to freely assemble. We were forced to accept the Westside Highway site before major issues had been resolved with the city and we have put every effort into making this site work. But it simply does not work. I also want to be very clear that we are still planning on assembling in the area agreed upon with the police department, and we are planning on marching past Madison Square Garden. I want to take a quick moment to explain why we made this decision. First, we always have had serious problems with the Westside Highway. And when we agreed to use it, we articulated a number of concerns and things that we needed from the city to make this a workable site. The city has not agreed to address any of our needs in a positive way. The major issues that have always been with us are 1) the city’s planned use of metal barricades to pin people in. We have strongly objected to that, and we have not heard from the city that they will not use those barricades to create pins; the lack of water in that area, in an area that has virtually no shade and no facilities to access water; the need for free shuttle buses to transfer people back from that area to subway stations. And, of course, the much higher cost for a sound system along the Westside Highway. We have received no commitments from the city to help with any of these or other important issues. In the last few weeks, we have also gathered other new information. Our medical people have advised us against taking people into this area. The costs for a sound system are even higher than we initially thought making it virtually prohibitive to have a rally there. Press reports have indicated that the great lawn renovations were done, in fact, with the intention of making that space usable for large numbers. And a public opinion poll recently done indicated that 75% of New Yorkers believe that demonstrations should be allowed to take place in Central Park during the Republican Convention. We also have heard from many of our constituent groups that they simply will not participate in a rally at such a terrible site. United for Peace and Justice believes Mayor Bloomberg, as he has done in the past, is trying to suppress and undermine freedom of speech and assembly in this city. We know that New Yorkers will not sit by quietly and let this happen. We are hopeful that the city will agree to issue the necessary permits to allow us to rally in Central Park on August 29. But, however the details play out, our voices will be heard. We will march against the Bush agenda, against their agenda of war, greed, hate and lies.

AMY GOODMAN: Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice. The city rejected the request for a permit to march in Central Park just hours after the request was put in. The group says they may now go to federal court.

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