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Raising heck 

Colorado Springs activists join GOP protests in New York

click to enlarge Dennis Apuan (left) and Jon Christiansen (right), with the - Pike's Peak Justice and Peace Commission, holding the - protest banner they plan to take to the Republican - National Convention in New York City.
  • Dennis Apuan (left) and Jon Christiansen (right), with the Pike's Peak Justice and Peace Commission, holding the protest banner they plan to take to the Republican National Convention in New York City.

Dennis Apuan and a handful of local activists will show their patriotism by shouting "No!" to President Bush's agenda at the upcoming Republican National Convention in New York City.

"We need to speak for those whose voices are not being heard -- the most vulnerable in society," said Apuan, a staff member for the Pike's Peak Justice and Peace Commission.

Apuan will join other activists and students from Colorado Springs and across the country descending on the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 convention. Organizers -- New York-based United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of 800 activist groups -- will lead a ragtag parade of drum-beating, sign-carrying, giant-puppet-wielding activists past Madison Square Garden on Aug. 29, a day before the convention officially begins.

They will come to express disagreement with everything from the nation's wars to its environmental policies to the Patriot Act. Apuan plans to carry with him a banner with more than 275 signatures that were collected locally to call for an end to "war, empire and greed."

A quarter-million strong

Bill Dobbs, a spokesman for the coalition, expects protesters will easily outnumber the expected 50,000 Republican delegates.

"Conservatively 250,000 activists will converge," Dobbs said.

That's a number much higher than the 10,000 or fewer protesters estimated to have gathered earlier this month in Boston for the Democratic National Convention.

Some protesters of the Republican convention have plans to engage in civil disobedience -- possibly jamming traffic and blocking sidewalks or doorways. Web sites call for activists to target the headquarters of defense contractor The Carlyle Group, because of its role in war; the Rand Corp., a national-security think tank that advises the president; and Hummer of Manhattan, a dealership that sells gas-guzzling, luxury SUVs.

Maintaining decorum

Lee Gilbert, chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, said a fairly good-sized local delegation that leans toward socially conservative views will help represent Colorado at the convention.

Lee said he appreciates the rights of protesters to demonstrate, but hopes activists, particularly those from Colorado Springs, "maintain decorum." Otherwise, he isn't sure Republicans will understand their message.

"The rationale [for protests] seems to be a gut-level dislike for the current administration," he said.

If the masses predicted by Dobbs show, it would be a contrast to four years ago when both the Republican and Democratic conventions experienced sizable protests. Activists like Apuan say they aren't focusing on Bush.

"This is not about Bush; this is about the policies," he said.

He added that many groups, including his church -- the United Church of Christ -- have also protested Democrats. Church officials, who are expected to protest in New York, demonstrated for universal health care at the Boston convention.

But because so much has happened over the past four years, the world is likely to be tuned into the convention. Activists like Apuan view the opportunity as one of the best chances this year to take to the streets to get their message across.

-- Michael de Yoanna

  • Colorado Springs activists join GOP protests in New York

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