A quiet start to Philly protests

Republicans attract far fewer demonstrators than expected

With a pair of her son Darien's white and tan suede shoes hung around her neck, Beverly Ward of Baltimore stood quietly before the Liberty Bell with a look of pained defiance.

Her son, an "A" student and football player, was shot and killed in a botched robbery less than two years ago. He had been running an errand at the store for her. Ms. Ward came to Philadelphia this weekend to let the Republican National Convention know that she, at least, favors strong gun-control measures.

"We have to get these guns off the street," she said. "Too many of our kids are getting killed today."

Ward was one of several hundred protesters who came out early Saturday morning for a "silent march" in favor of gun control.

It was a quiet beginning to what organizers hope will be a week of increasingly strong protests to mark their disagreements with Republicans, who have attracted 15,000 or so reporters, many of whom will be looking for other stories to tell.

Organizers had originally predicted that hundreds of thousands of people would turn out to call for an array of social changes, from better healthcare to an end to police brutality to addressing poverty in the country.

Most planned nonviolent, permitted marches and assemblies to make their point.

But some of the anarchist groups that disrupted the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle last year and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington this spring made ominous noises about wreaking havoc in Philadelphia as well.

But so far this weekend, the demonstrations have been calm and orderly. And organizers have quietly lowered their expectations from several hundred thousand to tens of thousands of people.

Starting today, some protesters are planning "scattered" actions to disrupt the city. And thousands are planning organized, nonviolent civil disobedience so they can get arrested, helping to ensure media attention and that their points get across.

Police Commissioner John Timoney has made it clear that he expects his officers to deal with the protesters fairly.

"We're not going to be violating anyone's civil rights," Mr. Timoney says.

But he's also asked the protesters to respect his need to keep the city running safely as well.

"What we're asking for is for folks to cooperate with us, and it should go well."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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