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Sunday, 3 February, 2002, 01:22 GMT
Eyewitness: Protest on Fifth Avenue
Protesters in New York
Protest leaders promised non-violent demonstrations
By Kevin Anderson and Ben Wright in New York

The World Economic Forum has drawn the ire of thousands of protesters representing a wide range of issues including workers rights, the environment and the US war on terrorism.

The streets outside of the WEF had been relatively quiet, the only large protests being members of the Falun Gong movement holding silent vigils to call for an end to persecution by the Chinese Government.

But on Saturday police helicopters circled the streets of midtown Manhattan as several large-scale marches converged near the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the forum venue.

Organisers of the marches had promised boisterous but non-violent protest, and there were few confrontations between police and protesters.

Strong police presence

A police officer told BBC News Online: "We have a massive show of force here.

Police guard a Gap store
Police had a policy of zero tolerance of lawbreaking
"With all that's happened here, I don't think that it is time to be messing with the New York Police."

The New York Police had promised a zero tolerance policy for lawbreaking and quickly arrested two protesters during an anti-war demonstration in the morning. They were charged with disorderly conduct for blocking traffic near the hotel.

But it was the exception during a day of colourful and enthusiastic protest.

Protests began Saturday with an anti-war demonstration of some 2,000 people.

Saturday's first large-scale protest, organised by a group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, saw several thousand demonstrators carrying placards calling for the US to end funding to Israel, not to broaden anti-terror action to Somalia, and to "Let Iraq live".

The Enron scandal

Later they were joined by a march of several thousand that began from Central Park and wound its way through the streets of midtown Manhattan to within blocks of the Waldorf-Astoria.

Fifth Avenue shoppers dressed in designer fashions and fur were perplexed and slightly put out as they tried to navigate a route through the curb-to-curb carnival.

In addition to the environmental and labour messages common to anti-globalisation protests, the Enron scandal was emblematic for many of the protesters of the dangers of corporate influence.

Ironically shaking the tin, one protester begged for spare change for the bankrupt energy company.

Colour and little conflict

The police allowed the march to proceed with minimal interference, and the protesters rarely tested police lines.

The colourful demonstrations of dissent included an anarchist cheerleading group. Their homemade sweatshirts called for "Pom poms not bomb bombs".

Many of the protesters carried messages critical of the war on terror.

Not only did they call on the US not to broaden its military campaign to Iraq and Somalia, but they also questioned domestic initiatives such as anti-terrorism laws passed in the wake of the attacks last autumn.

Protesters also responded to criticism that somehow protest was inappropriate as the nation and New York City recovered from 11 September.

One protester carried a placard which read: "I'm a patriot and I dissent."

See also:

02 Feb 02 | Business
Protesting in New York
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