Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Big demo at the Republican Nat'l Convention in NYC, August 29, 2004. Be there....

NEW YORK, Dec 16 (Reuters) - A coalition of anti-war groups plan to greet delegates to next summer's Republican National Convention with a massive protest against U.S. foreign policy, hoping to keep the Iraqi war alive as an issue in the 2004 election, organizers said on Tuesday.

The march could be one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history, organizers said.

The coalition called United for Peace and Justice wants to march through Manhattan to Central Park on Aug. 29, the day before the Republican Party meets to nominate President George W. Bush in his reelection effort.

"United for Peace and Justice will be organizing what we believe will be one of the largest demonstrations in this country's history," said organizer Leslie Cagan at a news conference. "We believe it will be in the hundreds of thousands."

The capture of Saddam Hussein has not changed the group's plans, she added.

"There's no evidence at all that Saddam Hussein has any connection to the 9/11 attacks," she said. "In fact there's yet to be any evidence for any of the reasons the Bush administration used to go to war.

"What we hope is this will be a turning point for what is going on in Iraq," she said. "It is time to end the war and end the occupation."

The group also plans to stage protests outside the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July. Of the nine Democrats seeking the party's nomination, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has made his opposition to the Iraq war one of the major issues in his campaign.

In New York, the protest coalition has applied for a permit to march past Madison Square Garden, where the Republican convention will be held, she said.

Protests have become commonplace at U.S. political conventions, and organizers of the party events in the past have made efforts to keep the demonstrations apart from the delegates and other attending officials.

Protests outside the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 2000 turned violent, with police firing on the crowd with rubber bullets. The same summer, hundreds of protesters were arrested at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Organizers said they want to send a message to Bush and other Republicans to change the nation's foreign policy.

"It is time to end the empire-building agenda of this country. It is time to build a foreign policy based on respect for international law and respect for the sovereignty of all independent nations," Cagan said. ((Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Bette O'Connor; Reuters Messaging: ellen.wulfhorst.reuters.com@reuters.net; 646-223-6280))

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