|OUTSIDE THE CONVENTION|
July 31, 2000
PROTESTORS: Hey, hey, ho, ho, it's got to go.
KWAME HOLMAN: This morning protesters began to protest for the first of the week's major demonstrations. Marchers from across the country chose economic equality and an end to homelessness as the theme for day one. Negotiations between protesters and the City of Philadelphia had failed to produce an agreement that would allow a march down the city's main north-south thoroughfare, Broad Street.
As things stood, police were prepared to arrest anyone who stepped off the sidewalk. As they said they would, marchers attempted to enter Broad Street and walk the three and a half miles to the First Union Center, site of the Republican National Convention. In a surprising response, Philadelphia police retreated.
PROTESTER: I thought that maybe they would let us go a few blocks and then try to block it, but they really assisted all the way along with traffic and everything else.
KWAME HOLMAN: But in fact, police let the march continue for more than two miles, assisting with traffic control along the way. Activists like Mary Ann Baker stayed focused on the message as she walked.
MARY ANN BAKER: We want to get the message across that there should be universal health care for all. There should not be people living on the streets, this is the richest country in the world. Why should we have poor?
KWAME HOLMAN: Today's crowd was small compared to yesterday, when more than 5,000 marched from downtown, along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in a city-approved demonstration. The theme was unity 2000, as demonstrators voiced opposition to a nuclear missile defense system, the death penalty, and the Republican conventioneers' recently adopted anti-abortion platform. No arrests have been made so far this week, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney says there's no reason that has to change.
JOHN TIMONEY: Arrest for us is a last resort. We're looking to bend over backwards to see if we can't facilitate some kind of a compromise. However, some people don't compromise. They don't want to... Some actually don't even want to meet with us. We'll kind of deal with them when we meet them. You know, it's... We have been quite clear in our message to demonstrators, everybody's welcome. Please don't engage in violence or serious property damage. We can live with almost everything else.
KWAME HOLMAN: As for today's unapproved march, Timoney's officers diverted it to a park well away from where Republican delegates were meeting, and marchers complied. Police officials said they decided to allow the partial demonstration after discussions with leaders among the activists, but protesters say there are more unsanctioned events as the week goes on.