Protesters Crowd N.Y.C.'s Fifth Ave.
By ELIZABETH LeSURE
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 27, 2003; 10:21 AM
Hundreds of chanting anti-war demonstrators lined Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on Thursday and dozens lay down in the street to begin a day of planned civil disobedience actions.
Officers, some in riot gear, clamped plastic handcuffs onto protesters and loaded them into police vehicles.
Anti-war groups had called for a day of widespread civil disobedience, including blocking busy intersections and staging a "die-in" to protest media and corporate "profiteering from the war."
As helicopters hovered overhead, the protesters - chanting "Hey-hey, ho-ho, Bush's war has to go!" and "Peace now!" - jammed police pens along Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets, near St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Saks Fifth Avenue store.
One lane of traffic was reopened on that block 25 minutes later.
Police and security officers placed a web of barricades at adjacent Rockefeller Center, home of the GE Building, NBC and The Associated Press, to prevent a planned "die-in" there.
Organizers of the loose coalition, which calls itself M27, said the "die-in" was intended to symbolize Iraqi war victims.
One Fifth Avenue protester held a sign showing a picture of parrots and the words, "Don't Parrot the Right-wing Propaganda."
"There's a long-standing tradition of nonviolent witness, which we're enacting today," said the Rev. Patricia Ackerman, of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Code Pink.
Another protester, Lee Whiting, 44, held up a sign that said, "Embedded? or In Bed?" Embedded, she said, means that "journalists are presenting almost exclusively the military view of this war."
"We're seeing glorification of technology. We're seeing heartwarming moments. We're not seeing much in the way of the real casualties inflicted on the Iraqis," said Whiting, a teacher from Manhattan.
The anti-war demonstrations are costing the city millions of dollars in police overtime and drawing resources away from crime-fighting and anti-terrorism operations, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Wednesday.
"This is more than protest, more than free speech," Kelly said. "We're talking about violating the law."
The traffic-blocking technique was used in recent protests in San Francisco, which led to thousands of arrests and complaints that police used excessive force.