Peaceful Protests Erupt Into Violence Near Republican National Convention


| August 2004


NEW YORK (Monday, August 30) -- Between 5,000 and 10,000 activists who gathered at the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) rally at the United Nations yesterday were allowed to march through mid-Manhattan despite the lack of a permit, thanks to last minute deals brokered between the campaign's organizers and the New York Police Department. But most had no idea what awaited them at the corner of 8th Avenue and 29th Street shortly before 8 p.m.


Just two blocks away from Madison Square Garden where the 2004 Republican National Convention was entering its first evening, the police suddenly split the parade in two with barricades and batons. Eyewitness reports confirmed that an undercover police officer in a scooter rammed his way into the throngs of protestors, driving as fast as 20 miles an hour, as the police were splitting the crowd, before being knocked off and beaten by an angry demonstrator. The Associated Press identified the instigator as detective William Sample. The detective was later hospitalized with head injuries that were not life threatening.

'What kind of person would ram into dozens of people in a scooter with a line of police behind him?' asked protestor Gonzalo Hereda afterwards in disbelief.

Police reacted to the melee by angrily shoving their barricade gates into the crowds to push them down 29th Street and up 8th Avenue, away from the skirmish. Despite holding media credentials in full view, this journalist and others packed into the crowd like sardines were bludgeoned by the barricades and forced to retreat an entire city block by police who were engaged in a profanity-laced tirade.

'They kept coming at us with barricades, knocking people down, and hitting them. They never told us what they were doing,' said Michael Duke, a local writer. 'A lot of people found themselves jammed up against the barricades.'

A protestor named Keeley reported seeing a policeman with a moustache tackle a young woman who weighed no more than 100 pounds and pull her down by her backpack. Keeley said his wrist was hit repeatedly with a police baton.