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Police Arrest 29 in Biotech Protest

An industry convention in San Francisco draws about 200 opposed to genetically altered food.

June 09, 2004|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Police arrested at least 29 protesters Tuesday outside a convention center where thousands of biotechnology scientists and entrepreneurs were meeting.

About 200 demonstrators protested on the sidewalks but failed to shut down the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization convention, as they had vowed to do. They caused minor disruptions, however, heckling attendees who were trying to enter Moscone Convention Center.

"Arrest them, shoot them," protesters shouted as police escorted attendees across a barricaded street.

Most of the protesters, such as Kamala Stuart, 53, of Oakland were demonstrating against genetically modified food.

"They should label the food, if they think it's so good," she said. "We want people to know, to question this stuff."

Conference organizers said most attendees were affiliated with the pharmaceutical industry.

"This is a protest rooted in ignorance," said Jeffrey Feldman, a Philadelphia merchant banker who was attending the conference.

About 18,000 biotechnology scientists, executives and government officials were in town for the convention. They were joined by governors from states that tout themselves as biotech-friendly.

Police wouldn't say how many officers were at the scene, but it appeared that their number equaled that of the protesters.

Protesters seemed mostly to have dispersed by Tuesday afternoon, but police remained. Though they reopened several streets shut down as a precaution, traffic remained clogged during the Tuesday afternoon commute. A group calling itself Reclaim the Commons had promised to prevent attendees from entering the convention center Tuesday, the same day the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was scheduled to consider a resolution praising demonstrations against the biotech industry.

Police said they arrested protesters who blocked traffic.

About 12 people were arrested when they carried out what they called "guerrilla gardening" in an intersection in front of the convention center. Surrounding some potted plants, they linked themselves by grasping chains covered with plastic pipes.

Like many protests in San Francisco, this one had its festive moments. At the center, protesters clapped and danced as one man played the flute.

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