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by By David Morgan (Reuters)
Sunday, Jul. 23, 2000 at 4:00 AM
The Philadelphia police have violated basic civil rights by shutting down an R2k organizing space. This is obviously a tactic that the police are taking from the DC protest and will likely use in August.
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - With the Republican National Convention barely
week away, tensions between the city and protest organizers escalated on
Friday when building safety inspectors closed one of the protesters'
Activists also claimed to find electronic listening devices in a group
hours after city police admitted they had been keeping protest
under surveillance for weeks.
``We're outraged, we're angry and we're going to talk about it. But
panicking,'' said Julie Davids, a member of the Philadelphia Direct
Group, a coalition planning civil disobedience protests for the July 31
Aug. 3 convention.
Members of the Spiral Q Puppet Theater said inspectors from the city
Department of Licenses and Inspections showed up at their premises with
police around 1 p.m. EDT and ordered them to close because of potential
Activists from two local groups, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and
Asian-Americans United, were using the theater as a venue for making
and banners for a protest march set to take place on opening day of the
convention, organizers said.
There was no immediate comment from city officials and no arrests were
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union said it was looking into
that listening devices were found after a burglary at an activist group
in West Philadelphia, where unidentified men had earlier been seen
ACLU legal director Stefan Presser said he would find out if a court had
ordered audio surveillance. ``If not, I will take this matter and put it
before a federal judge,'' he told reporters.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators, representing causes ranging from
environmental protection and AIDS research to women's rights and social
justice, are due in Philadelphia next weekend for what organizers say
be the largest protests seen at a U.S. political convention.
But Philadelphia officials worry that protest violence could hamper the
city's ability to showcase its economic and cultural renaissance after
decades of decline.
City police on Friday admitted that they have been keeping protest
under surveillance by photographing activists as they arrived for
sessions in another part of the city. A half-dozen such incidents have
``We were watching. We were making surveillance efforts. It's just
preparations for anything,'' said Officer David Yarnell, a department
spokesman. ``There are people who may do more than exercise their First
The raid on the puppet theater took place as protest leaders met with
city officials, including the deputy commissioner in charge of policing
convention, to ask that out-of-town demonstrators be allowed to camp out
Theater members said city inspectors complained of potential fire
posed by a propane tank, an extension cord that ran between two floors
the lack of an on-site
fire safety system.
But organizers condemned the shutdown as a preemptive strike by city
authorities intended to dissuade demonstrators from plans to disrupt the
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