RNC, continued from page 16 Fox reaches millions. Even though many of the activists are hoarse from yelling, Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention, awaits, but police have effectively cordoned off the area. Armed men and barricades block every turn. The group makes its way to 28th Street and Broadway where a “die-in” of activists has just ended in arrests. The bloc finds itself, along with other protesters, penned in by police on a side street. A young Asian girl starts reading the First Amendment, with the crowd repeating each line after her, as she slowly walks to the front. The police charge all four corners of the intersection, pushing the activists back toward another line of cops coming from behind. After five minute of the activists’ repeated requests for a dispersal order, the cops allow the protesters to leave. “I really think that 15 minutes of the First Amendment worked on the watch commander’s head,” says Boudreaux. The bloc moves on to Union Square Park on 14th Street, where various protest strands turn into a single conga line around the park. Many of those in the line want to try to get to the Garden again. The bloc holds a hurried conference on the sidewalk. More experienced activists like Parkin and Tish Stringer are ready to get a few beers and call it a night. Boudreaux, who is scheduled to fly home the next day, echoes many of the younger members when he says he wants to go “to the Garden party?’ At about 8:45 p.m., a fateful decision is made to split up. The marching Tejas Bloc members, traveling in single file or in twos, make it as far as 17th Street and 5th Avenue before police men wielding orange netting stop them. The leader of the march yells down the column that the police are working out a parade route. Suddenly, a squad of about 25 cops on mopeds swoops in and backs the line up against a building wall. Without giving the activists the opportunity to disperse or even to know what the charges against them are, the police Another happy Texas Republican photo: Jana Birchum start going down the line handcuffing people. One of the bloc calls Parkin to inform him of their arrest. After a 45-minute wait, two buses arrive to take the activists to Pier 57. Once a chemical storage area, the pier has been converted with chainlink fences and concertina wire into what activists dub, “Guantanamo on the Hudson?’ The prisoners are herded tightly handcuffed into large pens without bathrooms. Tejas Bloc member Rachel Clarke-Alvarez, among others, stays handcuffed for almost five hours until her hands turn so blue that a sympathetic officer loosens the cuffs. Those who make the mistake of lying down on the ground soon find themselves with rashes and chemical burns on exposed skin. “In a couple of years, we are all going to have Pier 57 syndrome?’ Boudreaux half-jokes later. The cops hold the arrested Texans caged on the pier for about 16 hours. In the pens they meet people from all over the country as well as New Yorkers, simply caught up in the sweeps, instant criminals for doing nothing more than trying to get home. Boudreaux manages to get word through a smuggled cell phone to his ex-wife to reschedule his flight, although he will miss that one as well. During their entire ordeal the police dole out nothing but a few rotten apples and stale bologna sandwiches to eat. On Wednesday afternoon, most of the prisoners are transferred to the city jail in lower Manhattan. Stringer, the designated person to cope while others are incarcerated, sets up vigil in a park across the street from the jail. She will spend about 45 hours waiting. Protest organizers begin to suspect that city authorities are stalling the processing of the activists to keep them off the streets for Bush’s speech on Thursday. “The order came from the Republican Party that wanted to sterilize the city,” charges Daniel Meyers of the National Lawyers Guild. It’s an accusation officials deny. Nonetheless, after an appeal to the state supreme court, a judge orders the prisoners released. Bleary-eyed, dirt-encrusted activists start to trickle out of the jail by Thursday morning. “I feel like I look like a radical chimney sweep?’ says ClarkeAlvarez after her release. Many of the activists have accepted a plea bargain whereby they don’t have to show up in court but in return forfeit their rights to sue and promise not to break the law in New York for six months. Boudreaux is so angry, he refuses, and gets a court date for right before the November election. Still, he has no regrets. “I needed to do something?’ he says. At home, Boudreaux says he’s disappointed with the coverage the protests received outside of New York. If the goal, as Scott Parkin says, was “to raise consciousness about what Bush has done,” it’s debatable how effective it was. But the activists won’t sit still between now and the election. Boudreaux is thinking of volunteering for a local Democratic congressional candidate. Others plan to join with global justice groups to make October Halliburton Awareness month. In addition to teach-ins and protests, they will push for passage of legislation that addresses the lack of effective oversight in the Iraq contracting process and penalizes war profiteering. III 9/24/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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