With the Republican National Convention (RNC) slated for New York City at the end of August, activists are also converging on NYC for a week of demonstrations, conferences and teach-ins. The largest rally will be held on August 29, and is being organized by United for Peace & Justice (UPJ). Hundreds of thousands are expected to protest George W. Bush and company. Bill Dobbs is media coordinator of the UPJ coalition.

Derrick O’Keefe: What kind of turnout are you expecting for the main demonstration against the Republican National Convention?

Bill Dobbs: Our permit request was for a quarter million people, so we are expecting a lot of people from around the United States, from Canada, and probably from elsewhere as well.

D.O.: What are the main slogans for this demonstration?

B.D.: We will be marching under the banner of “say no to war, greed, hate and lies.” War, obviously, refers to the war in Iraq. Greed refers to building empire rather than looking after human needs, and hate and lies sums up the way the Bush administration treats everyone.

D.O.: Could this rally be described as supporting “Anybody but Bush?”

B.D.: No, we are non-partisan. We went to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) because the Democratic Party leadership supported the war, they supported the Patriot Act. And we’re also thinking about the day after the election. Whoever is elected, there needs to be a strong peace and justice movement.

D.O.: This clearly promises to be a huge police and security operation. Are you taking any special steps to prepare for possible repression and violations of civil liberties?

B.D.: Well, a flock of legal groups will be here to provide support: the New York Lawyers Guild, New York Civil Liberties Association, the People’s Law Collective. The larger picture is that the screws are being tightened on dissent, as we saw in Miami with the FTAA, and up in Boston [at the Democratic Convention] where the area for demonstrating was essentially a cage.

D.O.: And in terms of the big march and rally itself?

B.D.: It took us over a year before we got approval to march past Madison Square Garden, where the convention will be taking place. And we’ve been unable to find a rally site. We were turned down for Central Park. The mayor is more concerned with the grass at the park.

D.O.: What other activities are planned during convention week?

B.D.: There are a broad array of activities. Two groups are traveling from Boston, marching 258 miles, mostly young people, from the site of the DNC to the RNC, and they have some strong opinions on the two parties, let me tell you. There will be a long line of unemployed, stretching all the way from Wall Street to Madison Square Garden. Two coalitions are organizing demonstrations around issues of economic justice. There is a day of direct action, of civil disobedience, planned. And there are also conferences, a youth convergence by Books Not Bombs and a conference on the subject of Life After Capitalism.

D.O.: After the RNC, what’s ahead for United for Peace & Justice?

B.D.: There will be voter education booklets that we will distribute, and we are also planning a major strategy and planning conference. We are the largest coalition of peace and justice groups in the United States, formed in October, 2002 and we are mandated to hold a strategy conference every 18 months. The last one was held in June 2003, so that’s coming up.

Derrick O'Keefe

Derrick O'Keefe

Derrick O'Keefe is a writer in Vancouver, B.C. He served as rabble.ca's editor from 2012 to 2013 and from 2008 to 2009.