GEORGE HIXSON nation in 1948, “This is more than a political call to arms. Give me your help, not to win voters alone, but to win this new crusade and keep America safe and secure for its own people.” Truman had prefaced his remarks by noting he was paraphrasing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1932 acceptance speech. Republicans claimed Bush hit a home run. I score it a bloop single. Clearing the Notebook: Many Republicans are investing their hopes for a Bush victory in James Baker III, the former Houston lawyer who was recalled from the State Department to become White House Chief of Staff and chief fixer for the campaign. Baker slipped quietly into Houston to help Bush prepare for his acceptance speech and referee the policy debate within the campaign. Some predicted he would assume a role as deputy president in an effort to coordinate the White House command and end the waffling that has characterized the White House in recent months.. As White House Chief of Staff from 1981 to 1985, Baker was credited with shaping Reagan’s agenda during his most successful years, before Baker moved to the Treasury Department. Baker stepped down as Treasury Secretary in 1988 to take charge of Bush’s Presidential campaign. Meyer said Baker’s return to the White House was welcome news for Texas Republicans. “He’s a great decisionmaker. He’s got a great feel. He knows how to pull a team together. We brought in the coach and he’s got the star quarterback and the running backs are back on the team and he’s going to go,” Meyer said. Before, Meyer said, “It was extraordinarily difficult to get decisions [from the White House]. There were too many people making decisions.” Baker’s talent is in unifying and centralizing the chain of command. Houston police who ringed the demonstration area looked like they were ready to quell any insurrection, so the Battle of North Gate must have been a disappointment. A Houston city ordinance allows only one march each day, a rule that was enforced dur= ing the convention. Republican groups took permits for three of the four days, but left open one slot which ACT-UP took for a march from Hermann Park to the Astrodome Monday evening. The gay and lesbian rights group rallied an estimated 2,000 people for the two-mile march. The crowd dwindled as it approached the North Gate of the Astrodome, where marchers met mounted and club-wielding police officers. When, shortly after nightfall, members of the group began burning a flag, a Bush effigy and wooden barricades, the police charged into the crowd, swinging clubs and herding people, including media and onlookers, into a fenced area described by the Houston Press as a “boxed canyon” where they could not escape. Six peo GEORGE HIXSON ple were arrested and demonstrators said at least three people were injured, including at least two neutral observers from the American Civil Liberties Union who were struck with batons. Police later denied complaints of excessive force, but in at least one instance footage shot by Houston’s KTRK Channel 13 showed a man talking to police, then falling to the ground, surrounded by officers, as an unidentified voice said, “Don’t kick him when the lights are on. Don’t kick him when the lights are on.” Suzanne DonOvan, regional ACLU director, was at the scene and said none of the witnesses with whom she spoke heard a dispersal order before the police plowed into the crowd. “The Houston police overreacted completely to the protesters,” she said. “They had been projecting thousands of demonstrators coming into town during the convention and they were ready for trouble…. The city was prepared for massive civil disobedience and HPD was completely incapable of adjusting their response.” The following Wednesday, when ACT-UP activists returned, she noted, HPD turned out “probably 200 police in full riot gear,” along with a low-flying helicopter with spotlights. “It was surreal,” she said. “In my mind it amounted to harament of people exercising their free speech rights.” Paul Mullan, a march organizer, said the police charged the crowd at 8:30 p.m. when the two-hour time period for the march expired. “They didn’t charge because there was any imminent danger. They simply used the time limit to stage the attack,” he said. The ACLU has called for an independent investigation, as well as publication of a written policy on crowd control for police. About 40 anti-abortion protesters were arrested on the first day of the convention, as Rescue America and the Lambs of Christ broke THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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