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'We hold NYC accountable'

RNC arrestees denounce mass sweeps

By Dustin Langley
New York

During the week of the Republican National Convention here, New York police arrested more than 2,000 peaceful demonstrators. They held some as long as 50 hours. Many were held for hours at Pier 57, a former bus depot.

The floors of the pier were covered with a thick oily sludge and, according to the Sept. 16 Newsday, conditions at the pier posed a variety of health and safety risks, including the presence of asbestos.

Many of the arrested protesters have joined an ad hoc organization, RNC Arrestees Fight Back, to hold the city accountable. They are determined not to be silenced by the New York Police Department assault on dissent.

On Sept. 16 they held a news conference to denounce the NYPD's tactics during the RNC. In front of a packed room, protesters discussed the circumstances of their arrests and the conditions at Pier 57.

Deepa Majmudar explained that she had been arrested "just for shopping." She was coming out of a bookstore when she was caught up in a mass arrest.

She explained that her experience had turned her from a bystander to an activist. "I was not a protester then, but I am one now," she said.

On Sept. 18, the RNC Arrestees demonstrated across the street from Pier 57. They carried signs reading, "Dissent is not a crime, occupation is not liberation" and "Killing Iraqi children is a crime! Protest is not!"

They demanded the closing of Pier 57, complete amnesty for all 2,000 protesters arrested during the RNC, and an investigation into the NYPD's behavior during the week.

Gregg Ross explained that he was arrested and held for more than 50 hours even though he had violated no law.

Imani Henry of the International Action Center spoke of the need to stand in solidarity with the Arab and Muslim communities and with communities of color "who face police repression every day."

Alley Ernst, who was held for 48 hours, said: "After 9/11 they held noncombatant Arabs and Muslims without due process, and nobody said anything. Now they are doing it again to American citizens. It is a flagrant misuse of the Constitution. Who are they going to do this to next?"

Reprinted from the Sept. 30, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper

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