At a time when many students were preparing for the new fall semester, Kevin Prosen was acclimating himself to an entirely different, and potentially hostile, situation.
Prosen, a University of Wisconsin senior, was in New York City protesting the Republican National Convention.
Prosen was one of about 100 people who left Madison Aug. 27-28 on buses to protest for several days in New York.
The Republican National Convention is being held at Madison Square Garden from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2.
The protesters were sent off in a rally on Library Mall Aug. 28. The rally, organized by the Madison Area Peace Coalition and the Student Labor Action Coalition, was a symbol of the discontent the protesters feel toward the Bush administration, Prosen said.
“There is so much momentum that people are riding into this,” he said. “These protests will be the capstone of our effort [to oust Bush].”
Prior to leaving, John Peck of the Madison Infoshop prepared the protesters on how to deal with problems they may encounter, from finding their way throughout New York City to potentially dealing with pepper spray.
“We told people how not to get arrested, since police now seem to be arresting people on a whim,” Peck said, referring to a group of protestors arrested in New York Aug. 27.
Peck said he wanted the protesters to have fun. He indicated the convoy from Wisconsin would try to protest at a gathering of convention delegates from Wisconsin.
With numerous protests planned each day in Manhattan, police have prepared to ensure the convention operates smoothly.
Prosen said the size of the police force is intimidating, but predicted the convention would go by without a major incident.
“People are so on edge in New York, I think because a lot of New Yorkers don’t want the convention there, so the last thing police would want is to provoke something,” Prosen said. He added he did not agree with the decision to not allow protesters to rally in Central Park.
According to the New York Police Department’s website, 286 arrests were made in connection to the Republican National Convention through Aug. 27.
UW sophomore Patrick Waring, who is also going to New York to protest, thought the protesters would not disrupt the convention itself, but would be able to achieve their goals by generating enough publicity.
“This will be a major, defining moment of our generation,” Waring said. “We’re going to get news … people won’t be able to ignore us.”
The protesters have gone to great lengths in planning events during the convention, including the creation of numerous websites.
But Frank Harris, chair of Students for Bob Welch, thinks the impact will be minimal.
“I know they’re planning a lot, but really despite all that hoopla nothing will go down,” Harris said. “As long as they are peaceful protesters, that’s fine, but if it goes beyond that, it will reflect horribly on liberals.”