Mixed in with mainstream liberal organizations, more radical groups are flocking to New York City to protest outside the Republican National Convention. Tensions on the left, already running high over the war in Iraq and what they perceive as encroachments on civil liberties, increased when judges confirmed the city’s decision to deny protesters’ request to gather on the Great Lawn in Central Park on August 29, the day before the convention opens. Some protesters promised to show up anyway.
While the media have discussed threats of violence from anonymous anarchist groups, named organizations are threatening disruptions. The website of a coalition of radical groups, A31, promises “non-violent civil disobedience and direct action” to disrupt the Republican convention on Tuesday, August 31. It promises that at 4:00pm that day, “A wave of actions will occur around the buildings of war profiteers, Republican donors, and the corporations that have hijacked our air, water, land, pensions, and voice.” Later, the action will move to the area outside Madison Square Garden, it says.
A31’s website features a message from Tom Hayden, the pro-Communist Vietnam War protester, former husband of Jane Fonda, and member of the “Chicago 7” who encouraged disruptions at the 1968 Democratic convention. A31 includes radical groups such as Code Prink: Women for Peace, Radical Queers, and the Ronald Reagan Home for the Criminally Insane, which is promising to bring “guerilla theater” to New York during the convention. A31 coalition member Don’t Just Vote, Take Action says “elections in this country are the reddest of red herrings” and promises the “power of direct action and to present direct democracy as a viable alternative to representation.”
International ANSWER is perhaps the largest radical group organizing protests in New York. It took the lead in organizing anti-war rallies around the country after the Afghanistan invasion until its connections to pro-North Korean Communists became too embarrassing. Then the more mainstream United for Peace and Justice was formed in October 2002, and which also will be protesting in New York.
International ANSWER’s ANSWER Coalition of anti-war activists (ANSWER stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) features on its website openly Communist members, such as the New Communist Party of the Netherlands; Patrik K√?∆? ¬∂bele, chairman of the German Communist Party; and Maher Kouraytem of the Lebanese Communist Party. In fact, said Herb Romerstein, “International ANSWER is the Worker’s World Party.” WWP describes itself as a group of “independent Marxists” but supports the policies of Communist North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. International ANSWER also includes more domesticated Marxists such as Howard Zinn. The national Muslim Student Association, whose chapters often host radical Islamic speakers on campuses, is on International ANSWER’s steering committee.
Apologists for North Korea’s extremely brutal totalitarian regime in which freedom of speech, religion, and the press are nonexistent are common among the protest groups and are included in the mainstream coalitions. For example, Heesook Kim of the pro-North Korean Young Koreans United of USA is one of the signatories of an August 25 open letter to the media signed by many protest group leaders, including Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of the most mainstream of all, United for Peace and Justice.
Another of the largest protest groups, Not in Our Name, has leaders including Joe Urgo, a former member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and a participant in its Kansas City meeting at which violent overthrow of the government was discussed, and Mary Lou Greenberg, spokeswoman for the New York chapter of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Baring Witness, which specializes in using nude women to attract attention, plans to send people to protest the convention, as does the Association of World Citizens, which wants to subsume national identities into world citizenship.
The RNC Not Welcome Collective has on its website an article called “The Art of Pieing,” which describes how to blend in with normal people (“keep your hair short”) in order to hit an “evil-doer” in the face with a pie, citing a successful pieing of Milton Friedman for encouragement. The article reports that the pie-thrower, called “Agent Apple,” told Friedman, “Mr. Friedman, it’s a good day to pie.”