High security at GOP convention proves no deterrent to hecklers

Election 2004

The Republican Convention

September 03, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK - With tens of thousands of heavily armed police officers swarming the streets around Madison Square Garden, helicopters whirling overhead and bomb-sniffing dogs on every corner, the Republican National Convention was supposed to be the most tightly secured political event in history.

But over the last four days, roughly two dozen hecklers have proven that all that was necessary to penetrate the cordon and disrupt the convention was a delegate's spare guest credential or a media pass, which protesters said were surprisingly easy to get.

At least six times in the last four days, protesters have managed to get into the arena, twice coming within yards of Vice President Dick Cheney.

While the elaborate security measures were effective in keeping out bombs, guns and knives, as well as other prohibited items like umbrellas and strollers, critics of the Republicans were much harder to screen.

"I'm shocked by how easy this has been," said Medea Benjamin, 51, an anti-war protester from San Francisco. Benjamin managed to get within 20 feet of Cheney on Tuesday night and, during Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech, unfurled a banner that read: "Be Pro-Life, Stop Killing in Iraq."

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