Outside GOP big top, the side shows begin

The main show next week in this conservative Texas city on the Trinity River is the Republican Nation Convention, an event with a well-planned script. But there are a number of side shows under way or scheduled that are aimed at influencing convention delegates.

The scripts in these side shows, however, are not under the control of convention planners. And some of the shows are less routine than the main ones.

There are even two tours of Dallas available to convention delegates: an official one offered by the GOP and an unofficial one run by the NAACP.

One of the side shows getting under way here this week is a gathering of black Republicans, many of them delegates or alternates to the convention. Relatively few in number, they will try to shape a strategy for maximizing their influence within the party. Hispanic delegates are already discussing among themselves how to do the same thing. Some of their members are insisting on pushing for a voice in a broader number of issues than just ones traditionally seen as Hispanic, such as immigration.

The Moral Majority Foundation and Free Congress Foundation continued their presence here with a two-day Family Forum to give further exposure to their views. They are lobbying the Republican Platform Committee to adopt more conservative positions.

A number of corporations are hosting receptions for delegates, hoping to leave favorable impressions with them.

A varied coalition of protesters representing a wide range of issues are preparing for a series of demonstrations. This week, some of the protesters were turned down when they requested a hearing before the platform committee. But two committee members met with representatives of the protesters in a hallway at the convention center.

The demonstrators are calling for such things as full employment, a ban on nuclear weapons and nuclear power, open United States borders, and an end to discrimination against gays.

A court order apparently gave the demonstrators the right to put temporary banners up on a chain-link security fence that has been erected around the convention center to separate delegates from outsiders as they enter and leave the building.

Of the two tours available to delegates, the official one is organized by the Dallas Welcoming Committee. It takes in the main sections of the city, highlighting many of the solid cultural, academic, and business features of Dallas. The tour also includes some of the poorer neighborhoods and a public housing project.

The unofficial tour is being offered by Ted Watkins, executive director of the Dallas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He assesses progress made by - and challenges still facing - blacks here , as he takes visitors through the back streets and main streets of the predominantly black area known as South Dallas.

Much of South Dallas is within sight of the tall (and in the case of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, mirror-like) towers of the downtown hotels where delegates are staying. Leaving the $70- to $100-a-night world of hotels behind, a visitor enters a mostly low-income world, where some small, wooden homes sell for about once white, but almost all the whites have left. Blacks, many from rural Texas, filled in.

There are some affluent black neighborhoods, too. Many of the brick homes in one such neighborhood had metal security grills over the windows and doors. In another area, a section of Grand Avenue is known as ''death row,'' where Mr. Watkins says eight or nine blacks are killed each year as a result of crime.

Unemployment is lower in Dallas among blacks and whites than in many cities. This is due partly to the large number of new industries, many of them high-tech , attracted here in the past few years. Recently the city launched a study of how to improve economic conditions in South Dallas. Watkins says alleged police brutality and the need for more low-income housing are key issues within the black community here.

Roosevelt Johnson Jr., executive director of the Dallas Urban League, says: ''With all the problems we have, racial and others, it (Dallas) is still a good place to live.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.