Date: August-September 2004
The campaign tour for the 2004 presidential election was highly-charged, and with the Republican National Convention being held at Madison Square Garden, confrontations between protesters and police seemed inevitable. During the convention's opening weekend, 264 people were arrested in conjunction with the Time's Up! monthly Critical Mass bike ride, which occurs on the final Friday of each month. The event, which typically draws about 1,500, drew between 5,000 and 6,000 riders. Most people who were arrested were charged with disorderly conduct; this marked the first time that the NYPD made a significant amount of arrests during Critical Mass.
The following Monday, local community organization Still We Rise launced a march from Union Square to Madison Square Garden, culminated with a protest in front of the Garden. Later that afternoon, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign held a rally by the United Nations building and thousands eventually marched to MSG, and a fight broke out between demonstrators and police along the way. Police say that rowdy protesters started the fight, and one protester was accused of attacking an officer who drove his scooter into the crowd. Protesters insist that the officer driving his scooter into the crowd is what incited the altercation. Tear gas was deployed and several people were arrested.
The 2004 RNC also saw "Guantanamo on the Hudson," a phrase coined by a lawyer who was detained along with 1,000 other people in conditions allegedly similar to those on Guantanamo Bay. After closing a street that adjoined Union Square where protests were taking place, police arrested both demonstrators and innocent bystanders. People were ordered to either present identification or face arrest, and those arrested were not immediately informed of the charges against them. Detainees were taken to the Hudson Pier Depot at Pier 57 where they complained of atrocious conditions; the area was dirty, and reportedly contaminated with oil and asbestos. "Prisoners" suffered from poor ventilation, as well as rashes and chemical burns. A former Morgan Stanley vice president was arrested while riding her bicycle, and a 15-year-old diabetic girl arrested on her way to the movies. Up to 30 or 40 people were reportedly held in small pens.
Many people were held for over 24 hours for petty charges, and it took a judge threatening to fine the city for every extra hour a prisoner was held for some to be released.The New York Times claimed that several NYPD officers were assigned to infiltrate protests and start confrontations, and that some officers travelled as far as Europe to spy on potential protesters.