Security worries as Aids protesters breach fence

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The Independent US

Angry demonstrators yesterday breached security perimeters at the Republican Convention amid fears protests are becoming more violent.

Angry demonstrators yesterday breached security perimeters at the Republican Convention amid fears protests are becoming more violent.

Around a dozen Aids activists gained access to Madison Square Garden and staged a loud protest during an Republican youth rally.

Tens of thousands have demonstrated around Manhattan in recent days ­ mostly against the Iraq war and the policies of George Bush ­ with police deploying their full might again to keep ever more determined protesters away from the convention venue.

Thousands formed a human unemployment line from Wall Street to the Garden early yesterday morning, waving pink fliers meant to symbolise the so-called "pink slips" American workers receive when they are fired. Further acts of disobedience were planned across the city all day.

After the mostly peaceful march of last Sunday, the mood on the streets has become more ominous and clashes with police have multiplied. Violence flared at several spots on Tuesday night as demonstrators tried to head for the convention site. More than 1,000 protesters were taken into custody, bringing the number of arrests since the weekend to more than 1,500.

There were fears that confrontations would worsen as President Bush arrived for his acceptance speech last night. While proceedings in the arena have not been directly affected, delegates can no longer ignore the fury of protesters, many of whom picket their hotels.

Late on Tuesday, a block from the Garden at Herald Square, as at other sites including the financial district and the New York Public Library, police used metal barriers and orange plastic netting to corral protesters and conduct arrests.

Most of those in custody were arrested for trying to break through police lines. Most of the protesters seemed dismayed that the actions of a few were causing violence. "I came here to raise a little hell but I came for peace," said 68-year-old Elizabeth Barger yesterday, who has come from Tennessee to join the demonstrations. "We don't need to be violent and our message of peace gets lost when we are violent."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said his officers "have shown great restraint in the face of relentless provocation". But protesters complained that arrests made in the financial district on Tuesday came after a route had been negotiated with the police and abided by. The police moved in anyway. "It's an example of the police suckering the protesters," warned Donna Lieberman of the Civil Liberties Union. "It was a bait-and-switch tactic where they approved a demonstration and the protesters kept up their end of the bargain."

It was the second time Madison Square Garden had been penetrated this week. On Monday, a young man was arrested after leaping into the box occupied by senior Republican guests, including Vice President, Dick Cheney.

Hundreds of protesters meanwhile attended a "shut-up-athon" outside the studios of Fox News, targeted by groups for its conservative bias. One woman's sign read: "Republicans are really stupid. They watch Fox News and believe it."