Pubdate: Fri, 21 Jul 2000
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2000 The Washington Post Company
Page: A12
Contact:  1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
Author: David Montgomery , Washington Post Staff Writer
Note: Researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.
See: Sidebar below: Protests Planned In Philadelphia
Bookmark: MAP's link to shadow convention items:
Note: Shadow Convention websites:


Protesters Hope to Flood Philadelphia

In a secret garage in Takoma Park, Md., called the Dog House--as in
Wag the Dog, trick the system--the usual suspects are hard at work
with paint, papier mache and progressive zeal.

When last they convened, it was to protest global capitalism and clog
the streets of the District around the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund on April 16. Before that, some of them were in Seattle
for the World Trade Organization demonstrations.

On this rainy Sunday afternoon, they are building an 80-foot float
they call Corpzilla, a democracy-devouring corporate monster that will
roar into Philadelphia for the Republican National Convention in less
than two weeks.

"A16 mobilized so many people," said Brock Bourassa, 21, using the
movement's shorthand for the World Bank protests as he fashions
Corpzilla with sticky strips of Safeway bags. "After that they wanted
to stay involved."

Seizing the momentum of a surprising year of rebellion, organizers
from a range of left-leaning causes are preparing to flood the streets
of Philadelphia and Los Angeles with tens of thousands of
demonstrators for the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
The GOP event is July 31-Aug. 3; the Democratic gathering in Los
Angeles is Aug. 14-17.

The demonstrators are planning a blend of tactics, legal and illegal,
serious and silly. They promise no violence or property
destruction--though a spirited debate rages in one of their e-mail
discussion groups about whether breaking a few corporate windows is
such a bad thing.

There will be marches sanctioned by city permits, "shadow conventions"
featuring experts on issues supposedly ignored by the major parties
and civil disobedience of the street-blockade style practiced in the
District this spring, when nearly 1,300 were arrested.

The quadrennial ritual of elaborate American political pageants gives
the demonstrators a chance to shift their focus from global to
domestic grievances, before an audience of about 15,000 reporters. In
the protesters' view, it's not a great leap from world crises to
homemade ones such as campaign finance reform, poverty and the
environment. They charge that the same corporations that fund the
political parties are responsible for global depredations, while the
obsession with campaign cash shoves aside issues of social justice and
the environment.

"The unifying theme is, money in politics leads to misplaced
priorities and the neglect of major issues that have no financial
constituencies," said columnist Arianna Huffington, who calls herself
a "recovering Republican" and is a shadow convention organizer.

The protesters have formed the R2K Network to plan for the Republican
convention and the D2K Network for the Democratic event. Indulging in
one of the cheeky pop culture references of which they are so fond--in
this case to "Star Wars"--they dubbed their loose bicoastal
uber-collective the R2D2K Coalition.

Demonstrators will begin arriving in Philadelphia on Monday. They
promise to erect an unauthorized "Bushville" encampment of poor and
homeless people, reminiscent of the Hoovervilles of the Depression.
They also vow to fill Broad Street, the main thoroughfare between the
convention hotels and the convention hall, with thousands of marching
poor people. Hundreds of other activists are planning to get
arrested--they won't say how--and are sharing information on how to
endure pepper spray and tear gas.

"Unfortunately we have to spend a lot of time in those trainings
preparing for police brutality," said Amy Kwasnicki, an organizer with
the Philadelphia Direct Action Group, whose Internet site (at on the Web) recently proclaimed a to-do list for
Aug. 4: "Still not arrested? Victory Party!" "We're teaching people
skills that in a true democracy they wouldn't need," Kwasnicki said.

A number of demonstrators are seeking volunteer jobs at the Republican
convention to provide intelligence to protesters outside, according to
a demonstrator who already has been offered such a position.

Law enforcement agencies have been bracing for R2D2K for many months.
The Philadelphia police sent officers to study the demonstrators'
tactics during the protests in the District. Federal agencies
including the FBI and Secret Service have been gathering intelligence
and coordinating tactics.

Organizers accuse law enforcement of overly aggressive surveillance.
Reporters in Philadelphia spotted two men who refused to identify
themselves photographing protesters gathering for a meeting.
Protesters said the men had been taking pictures for weeks.

"I have been photographed extensively," said Michael Morrill,
executive director of the Pennsylvania Consumer Action Network and the
organizer of Unity 2000, a permitted march the day before the
Republican convention. "It's really frightening because it's clearly
meant to intimidate, and that shouldn't be the role of the police or
any government agency."

At a recent Unity 2000 news conference, according to Morrill, men with
video cameras said they were with the FBI and the Secret Service.
Spokesmen for those agencies declined to comment.

The Philadelphia City Council just passed an ordinance outlawing the
wearing of masks by anyone intending to intimidate or commit a crime.
"How the police are going to tell what anybody is thinking beats me,"
said Stefan Presser, legal director for the Pennsylvania branch of the
American Civil Liberties Union.

At A16, bandanas soaked in vinegar were a favorite device to ward off
the effects of pepper spray--and they were also used by some vandals
to conceal their identities. Presser said he already has legal papers
drawn up to take into federal court "within a matter of minutes" if
Philadelphia police use tactics employed by the D.C. police, such as
wholesale arrests of everyone on a single block.

Police in Philadelphia have firm ideas about what potential
troublemakers look like: "young white males and females . . .
especially those who dress in rag-tag clothing and dye their hair in
multi-colors," according to a tip sheet uncovered by the Philadelphia

The stereotype stings. Organizers were embarrassed by the relative
lack of minorities among the ranks in Seattle and the District. "We
anticipate this is not going to be one of those demonstrations where
afterwards people say, 'Where were all the people of color?' " Morrill

On a recent evening in a Quaker meeting hall in Center City,
Philadelphia, Morrill is addressing about 80 people planning the Unity
2000 march. An intense yet soft-spoken man with deep-set eyes, he's
brimming with excitement. "We're going to have a progressive movement
change the face of the way politics is done in the U.S. for decades to
come," he exclaims.

Unity 2000 will be one of the largest protest events of the GOP
convention, with a permit for at least 20,000 marchers. The ACLU sued
in federal court to obtain the permit, after the city appeared
reluctant to grant one. The city has designated a protest zone across
the street from the First Union Center in South Philadelphia, where
the convention will occur. But most protesters are shunning what they
call the protest "cage" or "pit." Unity 2000 will take place on
prestigious Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City, in view of many
of the Republican delegates' hotels.

To spark alliances on the Left, Unity 2000 organizers threw the march
open to a range of progressive groups, each of which will have
speakers at a rally.

Other members of the R2K Network include the Philadelphia Direct
Action Group, planning three days of civil disobedience and
"disruption" of the convention. In preparations mirroring the prelude
to the April protests in the District, activists are being trained in
such subjects as nonviolence, human blockades and jail solidarity.
Organizers claim 20,000 will take part. Training of protesters and
construction of giant puppets and floats will be scattered around the
city, in part to avoid what happened in the District, where police
raided the protest headquarters on Florida Avenue NW.

The shadow convention will take place at the University of
Pennsylvania, with about 2,000 or 3,000 people, planners say. Sen.
John McCain (R-Ariz.) is scheduled to deliver the opening address--and
later speak at the Republican convention.

The shadow convention will focus on campaign finance reform, "the
failed drug war," and "poverty and the wealth gap." There will be a
roll call of states in which residents will say how much money special
interests have given their senators and House members.

Around the country, activists are preparing to journey to one or the
other of the conventions. A local collective is organizing a couple of
hundred local residents for the trip to Philadelphia.

Corpzilla will debut at the Unity 2000 march. The creators are members
of the Washington Action Group (WAG), ranging in age from 21 to 65. As
15 members of WAG worked on the monster in the Dog House last weekend,
a battered boombox played "Democracy Is Coming to the U.S.A." by
Leonard Cohen and "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy.

The monster's toothy head will fit over the cab of an 18-wheeler. On
the flatbed, a giant papier mache pig holding a martini and wearing a
tuxedo stuffed with mock money bags will preside over a mud-wrestling
ring filled with real mud. In the ring will be activists wearing Bush
and Gore masks.

"Mass mobilization is working," said Sarah Austin, a student at
American University, fashioning a papier mache woman crushed by
corporate greed. "Seattle and A16 illustrated for people the kind of
attention this kind of movement can get."

And it's all about getting attention--which, they hope, will lead to

R2D2K will be a success, said WAG member Adam Eidinger, if people look
back and say, "Those conventions weren't really about the conventions.
They were about the protests."



Major protests planned around the Republican National Convention:

July 29: Call to Action to Save Health Care: Permitted march and
rally for
universal health care. No crowd estimate.

July 30: Unity 2000: Permitted march and rally for a range of causes,
including social justice, workers' rights and the environment.
Organizers expect at least 20,000 marchers. Kickoff of "shadow
convention": Organizers expect 2,000 to 3,000 people.

July 31: March for Economic Human Rights: Unauthorized march of
thousands of
poor people and supporters from Center City to the convention hall.
convention takes up campaign finance reform.

Aug. 1: Unspecified civil disobedience against the "prison industrial
complex" and in support of death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Philadelphia Direct Action Group says 20,000 will participate in
direct action over next three days. Shadow convention takes up "the
failed drug war."

Aug. 2: Unspecified direct action and "convention disruption." Shadow
convention takes up "poverty and the wealth gap."

Aug. 3 Unspecified direct action and "jail solidarity." Shadow
convention reacts to Bush's acceptance speech and concludes.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake