900 Jailed as Police Scramble to Follow Protesters

Times Staff Writers

Police arrested more than 900 antiwar demonstrators Tuesday in Lower Manhattan and other locations during a day of planned civil disobedience targeting the Republican National Convention.

The protests erupted at the former World Trade Center site, outside the headquarters of Fox News Channel and the main New York Public Library, as well as in Herald Square and other areas. There were no major incidents of violence or injuries, police said.

Police reported the arrest of a man who they said had kicked and punched a plainclothes officer unconscious during a march late Monday near Madison Square Garden, site of the convention. The suspect was arrested as he participated in a demonstration at Union Square, police said.


Throughout the day and night, demonstrators moved without warning from one site to the next, staging impromptu protests, as police scrambled to keep up.

Many actions disrupted traffic and brought hundreds of officers racing to the scene. But the protesters failed in their goal of trying to reach the heavily guarded convention site.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the city’s mood continued to be peaceful and law-abiding, and he praised police and demonstrators for showing restraint.

Some organizers, however, warned of increasingly militant actions during the last two days of the convention, which ends Thursday.

The latest arrests bring the total to about 1,400 since Thursday. Among them was a 21-year-old Yale student who had entered a restricted area Monday night near Vice President Dick Cheney’s booth at the convention.

The student, Thomas Frampton, allegedly came within 10 feet of the vice president and shouted antiwar slogans. But Cheney was never in any danger, said authorities, who noted that Frampton was charged with assaulting federal officers.

During Tuesday’s largest protest, a midafternoon march from ground zero to Madison Square Garden turned to chaos when police halted it after one block.

Officials said the marchers, who did not have a permit, had ignored repeated warnings to walk two abreast on the sidewalk.

But members of the War Resisters League, which sponsored the event, complained that their march was stopped illegally, without warning and for no apparent reason.

“I don’t know why I’m being arrested,” shouted Neal Curley, a 17-year-old protester from Philadelphia as he was being handcuffed and led to a paddy wagon. “They haven’t told us anything, and it’s all confusing.”

Many of those arrested were young men and women in jeans and T-shirts.

James Flynn, 27, who identified himself as a special-education teacher at Humanities Preparatory Academy in Manhattan, said he was taking photos of the demonstration for a yearbook when he was caught up in a police sweep that corralled everyone on the sidewalk.

“I had no intention of getting arrested,” Flynn shouted as he sat crossed-legged on the street with other handcuffed detainees. “These people aren’t anarchists. They’re citizens -- peaceful citizens.”

Benjamin Bernard, 26, of Brooklyn said he was an observer with the National Lawyers Guild. More than 500 observers, who wear distinctive green caps, have been posted to monitor police during demonstrations this week.

“We were trapped,” Bernard said as a police officer stood beside him. “We were obeying their orders and trying to leave when they just moved in and arrested everyone. They haven’t even told us why we’re being arrested.”

The march, which had been expected to culminate in a “die-in” at Madison Square Garden, initially drew several thousand demonstrators to the World Trade Center site. As their numbers grew through the afternoon, so did the ranks of police officers on motor scooters and bicycles and on foot.

“I’m not into giving arrest estimates,” said Det. Lewis Camacho, who supervised the arrest of marchers as they were lined up near St. Paul’s Church, one block from ground zero. “But this is a good-sized crowd.”

Earlier, nearly 500 protesters gathered in front of the Fox News Channel headquarters in the News Corp. building near Rockefeller Center on 6th Avenue.

The chanting throng gathered for the “Shut-up-athon,” which was a play on Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly’s use of the phrase “shut up” when arguing with program guests.

Demonstrators -- some hanging from light poles, waving rainbow flags, beating drums and brandishing signs -- shouted slogans such as “Shut the Fox up!” and “The less you know, the more you watch.”

The protesters mostly gathered behind metal barricades erected by New York police, who ringed the area by the dozens in riot gear.

Across the sidewalk, behind another set of barricades, stood dozens of Fox News employees and other office workers, gaping at the crowd.

Pediatrician Alan Meyers, 53, of Boston called the commentators on the cable news channel a “pack of liars.”

Later in the afternoon, police surrounded a group of demonstrators who had draped a banner over a statue on the steps of the New York Public Library.

According to those who escaped arrest, officers herded people down the steps and arrested anyone who was not able to get away. Other protesters said police had arrested people who sat down on the steps and sang. About 75 people were arrested on the library steps or the sidewalk, a police officer at the scene said Tuesday.

Activists had urged protesters to gather at the library and adjacent Bryant Park at 6 p.m. to prepare for a march to Madison Square Garden as part of a planned “day of nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action” organized by a coalition called A31, for Aug. 31.

The march never reached the convention site, but hundreds of demonstrators began moving toward the area later in the evening. They staged an impromptu disturbance that in effect shut down northbound traffic through Herald Square -- one block from Madison Square Garden -- for several hours.

Police made several arrests -- including some protesters who had blocked a delegate bus -- and opened the way for traffic.


Times researchers Susannah Rosenblatt and Jonah King contributed to this report.