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AIDS Protesters Disrupt Republican Convention - 2004-09-01

Protests are continuing throughout New York City on the third day of the Republican Presidential Nominating Convention. A handful of AIDS activists briefly disrupted an informal morning session inside the convention hall.

The AIDS activists made it past security to the convention floor where they interrupted a speech by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, blowing whistles and shouting before they were taken away by police. Questions are being raised about how they managed to bypass the exceedingly tight security at Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention.

Earlier, thousands of protesters lined up along a route from Wall Street to the convention site, almost five kilometers long, waving the so-called "pink slips" that employees receive when they lose their jobs. New York City Council leader Gifford Miller participated.

"1.2 million Americans have lost their jobs," said Mr. Miller. "This is a crisis in our county with growing poverty. The poor are getting poorer. We need to draw attention to that, because this administration is not."

The poor were also the center of attention at a nonpartisan rally held at the landmark Riverside Cathedral Tuesday evening. After a religious service, hundreds of participants lined a 50-block route along upper Broadway, chanting hymns. Reverend James Forbes spearheaded the event.

"Interfaith Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, gathered to sort of say [that] whatever else you do, remember a great nation is demonstrating its capacity to care for the least advantaged among us. We have not heard much in any campaign about the poor," said Mr. Forbes.

The Tuesday evening religious service followed a "day of action" and civil disobedience throughout the city, resulting in more than 900 arrests.

The arrested protesters were brought to a temporary jail set up in an old bus terminal on a pier that they are calling "Guantanamo on the Hudson," a reference to the U.S. detention center in Cuba. Those who spent the night, like Rebecca Vaughn, are complaining about the conditions.

"Because it is evidently an old bus depot, the floor is covered with a layer of oily, greasy soot," said Ms. Vaughn. "And that is what we had to sleep in."

Some long-time observers say the street action rivals the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, the rowdiest in recent times. So far, about 1600 protesters have been arrested on a variety of charges from blocking traffic to assaulting police.