On the eve of the Republican National Convention, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Manhattan to speak out against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Several dozen bicyclists were arrested, but a heavy police presence helped keep the march largely peaceful.
The rally kicked off with a speech by the father of Nick Berg, a 26-year-old American contractor who was beheaded by Iraqi kidnappers in May. "George Bush must go. He has stolen my son away from me. He has stolen an election. He has stolen our democracy. He has our freedom and our security and our peace of mind," he said.
Many protesters called for American troops to leave Iraq.
Some carried coffins draped in American flags, to represent coalition soldiers killed in Iraq. Others carried a variety of anti-Bush posters and signs. Some wore their messages on their clothes, like Zaum Dertaulian, an Armenian-American.
"My shirt says 'Bush Lie Number Nine: I will acknowledge the 1915 Armenian genocide by the Turks.' I especially made this because I feel that America is a land of immigrants, its been stolen from the Native Americans and since a lot of people here are from other places, we do need to have a balance of information about every single indigenous freedom struggle in the world," he said.
Prior to the demonstration, some New York newspapers had published reports about the potential for anarchist violence during the march, which was put together by United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella group of some 800 organizations.
Protester Jason Kapoor, part of a small group called the No Police State Coalition, said he read about himself in the paper, but that his group had no plans to start trouble. "We are one of the so-called five violent groups that the NYPD intelligence sources said we are planning violent attacks When all we do is come out here in Union Square and promote free speech," he said.
Tens of thousands of police officers filled the streets of New York City and along the route of the march. Protestor Eva Braiman said it was clear that police officers came prepared for the worst. "When I came in this morning from the Bronx, all along 10th Avenue there were hundreds and hundreds of police with, you know, riot batons and all kinds of equipment," she said.
Plenty of demonstrators just came out for a good time, like this group, called the Radical Cheerleaders.
The marchers passed by Madison Square Garden and then headed back toward downtown. Sunday's march was the largest gathering organized against the Republican National Convention, which begins Monday in New York, but more demonstrations are planned throughout the week.