Giant, Peaceful Protest Clogs New York Streets, Siphons Retail Sales

Tens of thousands of people descended on New York Sunday, bringing retail to a standstill as they marched through the city’s busiest shopping district.

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NEW YORK — Over 100,000 protesters marched through Manhattan Sunday, the eve of the Republican National Convention, decrying the policies of the Bush Administration and slowing retail sales to a trickle in one of the city’s major shopping districts.

Apart from slim sales, retailers along the march, such as Macy’s, Gap and H&M, weren’t hurt by any physical damage. Employees from several stores stood in windows or on the sidewalk and took in the spectacle, led off by star power from the likes of Michael Moore, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Danny Glover. The march went from 23rd Street up Seventh Avenue past Madison Square Garden, the site of the GOP convention, east on 34th Street past Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic and Old Navy and down Fifth Avenue to Broadway and eventually to Union Square.

Many in the protest, held under a hot sun and a cloudless sky on one of the most humid days of the summer, hefted signs that read “Bush lies, who dies? Bring the troops home now” and chanted slogans like “No more war,” while others carried what were meant to be caskets draped in American flags. Attendance estimates ranged from 120,000 to over 400,000.

The protesters were organized by United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella organization with more than 800 member groups, including Historians Against the War, Punks For Peace, Queer to the Left, and the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture.

The New York Police Department Sunday afternoon confirmed that there were some arrests, but did not yet have specific numbers. Reports of about 50 arrests came from various media outlets. There were about 300 convention-related arrests prior to Sunday.

Solstice, the small, but usually busy sunglass store selling designer frames such as Chanel and Kate Spade on 34th Street was empty during the march and had three salespeople at the door.

“Business was OK until it started. We’re having a 25 percent off ‘We Hate Bush Sale,’” joked one of the associates. “No, not really. We are having a sale, though.”

H&M, usually packed with customers, was practically deserted in the early afternoon. The employees outnumbered shoppers, of whom there were a handful on the first floor. “It’s been like this ever since yesterday,” said a woman who was restocking pants. “[The protests] started yesterday. It’s going to be like this all week.”
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