• Sat August 28 2004
  • Posted Aug 28, 2004
MADISON J. GRAY Associated Press NEW YORK - In the first major clash between police and demonstrators converging for the Republican National Convention, more than 250 bicyclists were arrested during a protest ride that snaked through the city and passed by Madison Square Garden. Bikers chanted anti-Bush slogans, stifled traffic and, in some places, argued with motorists during the Friday night ride, which began at Union Square and drew thousands of cyclists. Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said the bikers had caused "massive disruptions" and endangered motorists. Participants said their ride was peaceful and that the arrests were an excessive show of force. Police had passed out leaflets to the riders warning them not to ride more than two abreast, and many of them ignored that warning, Browne said. Among the protesters arrested was one who allegedly threw a beer can at an officer, he said. The officer was uninjured. "We gave them every opportunity to comply with the law," Browne said. "Those who didn't were arrested." A total of 264 people were arrested as of early Saturday, according to Sgt. Michael Wysokowski, a police department spokesman. The protest began as a monthly Critical Mass bike ride, but what was usually a crowd of hundreds swelled to thousands, with organizers saying the excursion drew a horde of bikers who wanted to protest the convention. Bill Dobbs, of the antiwar group United for Peace and Justice, said the monthly Critical Mass ride "has provided joy to bicyclists and bystanders for years now." "The arrests are completely unnecessary," Dobbs said. "Police needlessly escalated tension. Let us hope that they are more restrained as we go into the convention period." While the Friday night event was the largest so far, it followed a day of demonstrations. Earlier in the day, hundreds of moms with small children, plus some dads, pushed strollers across the Brooklyn Bridge in another protest against President Bush. "Bush is taking away our children's future. Money for pre-emptive war takes away money from child care," said Malissa Smith as she joined the demonstration by Mothers Opposing Bush. The group - called MOB_ was led by a pair of 4-year-olds with their "Kids for Kerry" banner. "He's the president - but not right now," said Tiber Worth, holding one end while his classmate Isabella Stevenson clutched the other as they headed across the bridge. Police had reported a total of 22 arrests in convention-related protests before Friday evening's bicycle procession, including five people trying to stage a demonstration in Union Square using sound equipment without a permit. In a separate incident, a protester was arrested for disorderly conduct in an anti-Bush group walking from Columbus Circle to Union Square, police said. On Thursday, 11 AIDS activists were in police custody after shedding their clothes and demanding that Bush help HIV-positive people in poor nations around the world. Four other young protesters said Friday that they face a grand jury hearing for unfurling a huge anti-Bush banner from the roof of The Plaza hotel on Fifth Avenue a day earlier. The sign had the word "truth" on an arrow pointing north toward Central Park and another arrow with "Bush" pointing south toward the Garden. Police said an officer needed 38 stitches for a leg wound he suffered at the scene. A fifth person was arrested for passing out fliers on their behalf. Source:

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