Righteous anger the order of the day as Bush-bashers converge on New York

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The Independent US

That some sort of invasion had occurred, nobody could doubt. But could you see a single Republican on the streets yesterday? No sir, not-a-one.

That some sort of invasion had occurred, nobody could doubt. But could you see a single Republican on the streets yesterday? No sir, not-a-one.

The President's people are gathering for the convention they hope will send him on his way back to the White House, but they're keeping their heads down.

Yet tourists hoping for a sidewalk table at the Coffee Shop on Union Square for Sunday brunch yesterday could forget it. As the harsh summer sun rose and the tarmac began to soften, it was a neighbourhood under bombardment - by slogans, chants and angry music.

"No Way. No Draft!" "The Great Dictator!" "Save the Earth - Plant a Bush back in Texas".

Gathered here was Disgusted of America. The event had long been advertised - a mega-march organised by a group called United for Peace and Justice (UPJ) that was meant to culminate in a rally in Central Park, except that Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to issue them a permit. The grass would be spoiled.

This was the march for all-comers in the city to protest Bush. An estimated 250,000 had assembled under the UPJ banner to take the route up 7th Avenue, past Madison Square Gardens, where the convention will happen, and back down Broadway to Union Square. Many repaired afterwards to Central Park anyway. Back off Bloomberg.

Who were these marchers? There were abortion rights activists, people for gay rights, animal rights, human rights. And people for voting rights, who think that Mr Bush didn't win the 2000 election in the first place. Babies, grandmothers, dogs, students. Radicals, anarchists, Democrats and wide-eyed first-timers gripping subway maps and enjoying the New York vibe, turned up screamingly high.

Police kept their distance, but they were always just a few blocks away - belts laced with plastic hand restraints for the moment when arrests might be made. And, oh yes, right above us in the cloudless sky, they were monitoring our progress up 7th Avenue from a giant, silent floating airship.

Caleb was not walking. Surely the youngest protester, this politically aware citizen was just two weeks old and nestled in a kangaroo pouch by his father. A hand nine decades older than his reached up from below to touch him. It belonged to Pearl Kemp, who completed the march route in a wheelchair. On her knees rested a white placard proclaiming: "97 Years Old and Outraged!"

In for the day from Long Island, Ms Kemp didn't think twice about braving the heat to have her say about what she sees as the "stupidity" that is the Bush administration. "I'm here to get this guy out," she explained. "If you don't use it, you lose it." Did she mean the vote? "I mean everything, the vote, this march, life."

The Vietnam veteran Michael Zollett, 55, had come to New York before dawn in a bus with 50 other mad-as-hell New Englanders and a picture of the President reading: "Wanted: for crimes against humanity" from his home in Willimantic, Connecticut. "If Bush wins in November, I am going to have to leave the country and live somewhere else," he said flatly, meaning it. "I don't think he was elected four years ago and I don't like anything he has done since."

Brian, a 22-year-old student up from Washington DC, was part of a 20-strong band of so-called radical cheerleaders, who stopped every hundred yards to sing their politically inspired refrains with choreographed claps and slaps. "Resist, Resist, Raise up Your Fist! Resist, resist. We know you're pissed!"

"We want to get people riled up," Brian explained. He didn't have to worry. Riled up they were, already.

THE PROTESTERS

United For Peace And Justice

An umbrella organisation of up to 900 disparate activist groups dedicated to opposing the war in Iraq.

Planned Parenthood

National organisation dedicated to helping women protect their rights to birth control and abortion.

Still We Rise

Group of more than 50 organisations dedicated to people with HIV, the homeless and immigrants.

A31 Action Coalition

Brings together anarchists from all over the US.

National Organisation For Women (NOW)

Long-standing and highly organised group that is planning what is likely to be the largest of all the rallies this week in Central Park.

People For The American Way

Foundation committed to protecting legal and social rights and fighting the conservative right.

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