PHILADELPHIA 3:05 P.M. E.D.T.–Between 4000 and 5000 demonstrators are marching without a permit toward the First Union Center site, where Laura Bush will address the first session of the Republican convention convenes this evening. The march, organized by the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, will end at the center with the presentation of demands to the convention for such basic “human rights” as food, housing, and jobs, according to a Kensington spokesman.
The GOP convention opens today against a backdrop of security reminiscent of East Berlin before the Wall came down. In many parts of the center city there are more cops than civilians. The downtown streets are lined with buses, packed with blue-clad police. Squads of motorcycle cops flash up and down streets. Cops with bomb-detection mirrors man checkpoints. Choppers hover overhead.
Until the homeless march this morning, there was little for the police to do. Yesterday’s much touted Unity 2000 demo offered a droopy start to planned street actions against the Republicans.
The welfare rights march comes as 4200 delegates and 15,000 credentialed journalists begin to enter the tightly guarded convention grounds, passing through magnetic detectors manned by gray-fatigue-wearing agents from military ordinance-disposal teams.
The Secret Service is in charge of protecting the convention site. Other police units include city and state officers, and various officers from other states and cities. Washington, D.C., cops, for example, have been advising Philadelphia officials on how to handle street demos, based on their experience with protesters outside the International Monetary Fund headquarters this spring. Then there is the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Philadelphia Fire Department. No one will say how many cops are involved in convention security ops.