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The Republican Convention

Protesters Target Midtown

Self-described anarchists and other activists plan a wave of nonviolent actions at sites including hotels and corporate offices.

August 31, 2004|David Zucchino | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Daryle Lamont Jenkins is a stout, affable man who works as an office clerk in Manhattan. He also calls himself an anarchist.

Jenkins, 36, is the public face of a coalition of self-described anarchists and other protesters who are promising a long, hot day of "nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action" aimed at disrupting the second day of the Republican National Convention.

"Civil disobedience will be the order of the day -- it'll be the most aggressive day of the convention," he said Monday, sitting on a park bench in the East Village. He is the designated spokesman for A31, an alliance of protest groups.

The coalition has promised "a radical 31st" to "liberate" the city from Republicans, with the rallying cry: "Regime change begins now." Among the dozens of sites the group has said it may target are hotels catering to convention delegates, luncheons and parties attended by delegates, a Hummer dealership and the Manhattan offices of Lockheed Martin Corp., Rand Corp. and others that the coalition describes as "war profiteers."

"We'll transform the streets of NYC into stages of resistance and forums for debate," reads a notice on the A31 website. Organizers have asked New Yorkers to show support by participating "from the sidewalks."

The disruptive "direct actions," which organizers say will not be announced in advance, could provoke more serious confrontations with police than Sunday's huge but relatively orderly protest. March organizers had obtained a permit. The A31 protesters have not.

"We don't need no stinkin' permit," Jenkins said with a laugh, amused by the incongruity of an anarchist requesting permission to engage in civil disobedience.

One focus of today's protests will be Madison Square Garden, the heavily secured site of the convention. The coalition's website urges protesters to converge around the arena and "sit down and refuse to move" -- a tactic virtually certain to produce arrests if carried out.

Police were generally tolerant of protesters Sunday, when more than 200 people were arrested in isolated incidents, many of them outside delegates' hotels. Jason Post, a police spokesman, said Monday that police had a "robust security plan in place" and were confident that they could handle any unrest.

"We expect the vast majority of protesters to be peaceful," Post said. "For that small minority that looks to break the law, they will be arrested."

Police have said they monitor protesters' websites, and Jenkins said he assumed that undercover police had tried to infiltrate A31 meetings.

The A31 website provides times and meeting places for protesters but does not list specific protests. Neither Jenkins nor the website gave an estimate of how many might take part.

"We'll occupy the areas around the buildings of war profiteers and the corporations that have hijacked our air, water, land, pensions and voice," the website says.

A31 organizers said Monday that their protests would be nonviolent, with no damage to property. Asked how today's protests might differ from Sunday's, Jenkins replied: "People will be a little more on edge, a little more sporadic and unpredictable."

He added: "You can't be a hippie about it. You have to be forceful and aggressive and assert yourself, while still remaining nonviolent."

Jenkins said only some protesters with A31 were anarchists, whom he defined as people who refuse to recognize the authority of "anyone who doesn't deserve to be recognized." Many are antiwar and antiracism activists, students, labor unionists and community organizers, he said.

A31 comprises 50 to 100 groups, each with their own leadership and goals, Jenkins said. The groups were meeting in Manhattan and Brooklyn on Monday to coordinate their protests and paint signs and banners, organizers said.

Though each group will make its own plans, Jenkins said, they were working with other A31 groups "so that we don't step all over each other." For instance, the War Resisters League, an antiwar group, is planning a march to Madison Square Garden today for a "nonviolent die-in" -- and has coordinated with A31, Jenkins said.

Frida Berrigan, a member of the league's board, said protesters would carry mock tombstones and lie in the street. "We anticipate being arrested," she said.

At St. Mark's Church, a gathering spot for activists and protesters, four young men said Monday that they intended to take direct action today.

"It's going to have to be hit-and-run tactics, real fast and sudden," said a 19-year-old from Chicago who gave his name as Jeremy. "The cops are going to be all over us."

Joe Overton, 19, a volunteer with the group Food Not Bombs, said he did not plan to participate but would try to deliver vegan meals to protesters by bicycle. He said he was worried about being arrested.

Jenkins said that though some protesters might be willing to risk arrest, he was determined to avoid being locked up. He emphasized that he was speaking for himself, not A31.

Jenkins said he had been incorrectly identified as the "leader of the anarchists."

"Now that's an oxymoron," he said.

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