Monday, July 26, 2004

Protests precede convention

By Theo Emery
The Associated Press

BOSTON - As delegates arrived Sunday for the Democratic National Convention, protesters clamored for attention, staging demonstrations and marches across the city against the Iraq war, abortion and a host of other issues.

An estimated 3,000 demonstrators, most of them protesting against the war, rallied on Boston Common before winding their way through the city and marching past the FleetCenter, the downtown arena where delegates are nominating hometown candidate John Kerry for president this week. They were accompanied by a ragtag group demonstrating against everything from oppression in Haiti to better funding for schools and health care.

The protesters passed the FleetCenter before looping back through City Hall Plaza and returning to the Common - a 50-acre park that is the starting point for the Freedom Trail and was once used for public hangings.

"This is just the beginning of a week of protests," said Larry Holmes, spokesman for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, the coalition of activist groups that staged the march.

At Faneuil Hall, the historic meeting house where patriots gathered before the American Revolution, an estimated 1,000 anti-abortion protesters staged a rally before a smaller group set off on their own march toward the FleetCenter.

A brief scuffle broke out on the Common between some of the peace demonstrators and a man carrying a graphic anti-abortion sign. Witnesses said the man was pushed to the ground and his shirt was torn, but he was unhurt.

The anti-war and anti-abortion groups crossed paths again a few blocks from the FleetCenter and exchanged angry words. A handful of anti-abortion marchers lay in the street in the fetal position as their fellow protesters drew chalk outlines around them. Police moved them along, and the marches continued their separate ways after a few moments of confusion.

Authorities took two people into custody. One was later released without charges.

State police in riot gear lined Beacon Street during the anti-war march. A half-dozen cruisers and 18 police vans followed slowly along the parade route. Representatives of the National Lawyers Guild and other civil libertarians accompanied the march, wearing hats reading "legal observer."

The crowd ranged from teenagers to war veterans. They carried flags, banners and signs reading, "Bring the troops home now," "Health care, not warfare," and "Veterans for Peace."

Some protesters criticized the Bush administration and the decision to go to war in Iraq.

"How dare we go into another country and tell them how to run it, how to make it better when we cannot even better our own government?" said Christina Densmore, 31, of Springfield, Mass. "Our own people are dying."

Others took issue with both Republicans and Democrats. Fernando Suarez Del Solar, 48, said his son, Jesus, 20, was a lance corporal who became the first Marine killed in the Iraq war, seven days after the U.S.-led invasion began.

"Mr. Bush lies," said Del Solar, of Escondido, Calif. As for the Democrat, he said, "Mr. Kerry is very confused. On one side, he says the war is wrong. On the other side, he says we need more boys in Iraq."

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