Convention Arrests Top 1,700

Fewer than two dozen protesters were arrested during anti-Republican demonstrations on the third day of the GOP convention, but advocates questioned police tactics as the total number of arrests for the week topped 1,700.

Wednesday's demonstrations included a symbolic "unemployment line" to protest the Bush administration's economic policies and a peaceful rally by the National Organization for Women in Central Park. Just 20 people were arrested, far fewer than Tuesday's total of more than 1,000.

Among those taken into custody Wednesday were a dozen whistle-blowing AIDS activists who infiltrated Madison Square Garden during a gathering of young Republicans.

A scuffle broke out, and one young Republican suffered a cut near his temple after he was allegedly struck by a protester. One of the demonstrators, with authorities grabbing her knees and shoulders, was carried off the floor to cheers.

The arrested protesters are being held at a Manhattan holding facility, where many of them awaited processing from Tuesday's wave of arrests. Although there were allegations of mistreatment at the facility, police spokesman Paul Browne said the accusations were untrue.

The arrests far surpass those made in much more violent circumstances at Chicago's 1968 Democratic convention. Two well-known figures from that era alleged that a more subtle form of police repression is now in effect.

"I'm here to congratulate and applaud the demonstrators and ask those who are the purveyors of fear to apologize," said "Chicago Seven" veteran Tom Hayden, whose arrest in 1968 became a cause celebré. In all, 589 people were arrested during the rioting in Chicago.

While most of the New York protests were peaceful, activist lawyer Leonard Weinglass suggested police had changed their tactics.

"We no longer have the spectacle of police officers beating down protesters in front of the cameras," Weinglass said outside the holding facility. "But you do have more subtle forms of repression, as represented by this building."

Advocates have complained that arrestees have been held for too long, though Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a statement that most had been going through the holding facility in about an hour and a half and asserted that no one was there for longer than eight hours.

Police said 20 of the arrestees requested medical treatment for conditions like asthma, but none for physical injuries. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties union, agreed that police were not violent.

"A lot of the arrests were bad, but they weren't brutal," Lieberman said. "I think police were psyched up yesterday to make a lot of arrests, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy."