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Dozens granted protest permits

67 demonstrations get OK from city

Less than two weeks before the start of the Democratic National Convention, the city of Boston has issued 67 permits for protests, marches, and vigils, ranging from a gathering of meditating Buddhists in Holocaust Memorial Park to an antiabortion demonstration outside Faneuil Hall.

An additional eight permits are expected to be issued shortly, including two to a Quaker group planning antiwar displays on Boston Common and at Copley Square of 800 pairs of combat boots and a plowshare made of 10,000 spent bullet casings.

Despite the wide range of causes and groups outlined in applications submitted by the deadline of 5 p.m. last Friday, some activists have complained that bureaucracy and delays in the city's permitting process made it hard to organize events.

"There were many, many problems with the process," said Urszula Masny-Latos, executive director of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which has advised protesters on how to obtain permits and how to practice civil disobedience during the convention.

However, Patricia A. Malone, director of the city's Consumer Affairs and Licensing Department, which issued the permits, said her office actually cut red tape. For instance, she said, her staff faxed applications to several city agencies if more than one approval was required.

Every group that applied for a permit to rally or march got one, she added, although not necessarily in the location originally requested. Several requests to march or rally in Causeway Street, in front of the convention at the FleetCenter, were denied for security reasons.

"Nobody should be unhappy," said Malone. "I think that anybody that has anything to say has been given the right to say it, for the most part where they need to say it."

For weeks, the most highly anticipated potential protests have been those by organized labor, in particular the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, which threatened to picket outside the FleetCenter during the convention.

The police union recently agreed not to demonstrate outside the FleetCenter, although the city has granted the union at least 11 permits for pickets at sites including Northeastern University and the New England Aquarium.

The list of dozens of other groups that have obtained permits is a who's who in the world of activism and spans the political spectrum, though heavier on the political left than the right.

The Socialist Party, for example, is planning at least three "Dump the Democrats" rallies and marches -- in City Hall, Christopher Columbus Park, and Holocaust Memorial Park -- on the first day of the convention. Each is expected to draw about 200 people, according to applicants.

The following day, animal-rights activists from the New England Anti-Vivisection Society plan to distribute fliers about vegetarian dining and "samples of cruelty-free products," near the FleetCenter, according to the application.

And Boston Mobilization plans a protest called "Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib: What Have We Become?" on the third day of the convention. The group is expecting 1,000 protesters to gather in Copley Square for a speech by the Democratic presidential aspirant Dennis Kucinich, as well as street theater featuring people holding pieces of wire and wood meant to evoke the conditions in which the US military has held prisoners.

"We just want to call attention to the situation and really make sure that all Democrats who are in town realize this is a relevant issue and it's something they need to take a stance on," said Stefan Hasselblad, a student at Columbia University who lives in Boston and is an organizer of the event.

The Christian Defense Coalition and Operation Rescue are planning antiabortion demonstrations and vigils in front of Faneuil Hall and in front of the Paulist Center on the Sunday before the convention starts.

The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, has Maone's permit but is still awaiting Parks Department approval to display combat boots and the plowshare in Boston Common on the first day of the convention and in Copley Square on the second day. Six other permits are also in the pipeline.

Malone said the city may also allow spontaneous demonstrations spurred by possible world events, but such events will be limited to no more than 50 people.

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