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Homeless March Hits GOP Convention

August 1, 2000

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Three days of protests coinciding with the GOP convention have remained peaceful with just a few arrests, and police credit their decision to communicate with demonstrators.

``They’re not going to do anything they want. But there’s a lot of room in there for talking,″ said police Commissioner John Timoney.

Police caution the week is not over, but the early success is unmistakable:

_Police negotiated a peaceful end to Monday’s illegal homeless march of 3,000 people, which for months organizers had said would include as many as 100 arrests and ``large-scale civil disobedience.″

_About 75 anti-death penalty activists walked away after a brief confrontation with police about whether they could block traffic downtown Sunday. More than 500 uniformed officers assembled, and the standoff dissolved after 40 minutes of discussion.

_Police arranged for a workers’ rights group to hold a 15-minute rally inside the atrium shopping area of Lord & Taylor’s department store Saturday.

_On Sunday, police closed an entrance to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to New Jersey so that 200 people could rally against police brutality.

``We have various levels of tolerance. We’re not going to let anyone get hurt, we’re not going to put up with any violence or serious property damage. Absent that, we’re willing to make a deal,″ Timoney said.

Recent international meetings in Seattle and Washington, D.C., led to massive arrests and, particularly in Seattle, millions in property damage. At April’s World Bank meeting in Washington, police arrested more than 1,200 people.

In Philadelphia, 17 people have been arrested.

``I really think it’s testimony to good judgment on the part of the police commissioner and the mayor,″ said attorney Jonathan Blazer, legal counsel for the homeless-rights group Kensington Welfare Right Union.

Homeless-rights organizer Cheri Honkala had been planning Monday’s homeless march for months and vowed that she would march to the ``door of the Republican National Convention.″

But after a 4-mile march to within a half-mile of the convention site and negotiations with police, Honkala said they was close enough to be heard.

``We got to do what we set out to do which was walk right up to the convention center,″ she said.

Timoney remained ``cautiously optimistic″ about the rest of the week.

``I’m not naive; I see what I see. There are some folks clearly looking for the trouble,″ he said.


On the Net: Kensington Welfare Rights Union: http://www.kwru.org

Protest organizing site: http://www.r2kphilly.org/

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