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Anti-Bush protest in Central Park

Thousands of cyclists brought traffic in midtown Manhattan to a virtual standstill in the first significant protest ahead of the Republican convention at which President George W. Bush will be nominated to run for a second White House term. Thousands of cyclists swarmed down Broadway from Central Park in a parade stretching more than a mile on Friday evening -- a time when the area is typically crowded with theatregoers and people out for dinner and drinks. The protest lasted several hours, with many chanting "No more Bush," and was the first sizeable demonstration ahead of the August 30-September 2 convention. Many locals in the mostly Democratic city stopped to applaud the cyclists as they passed through a bustling Times Square. At least 30 cyclists were detained and handcuffed at various locations along the route after small altercations between riders and motorists who were irritated at the congestion, according to Reuters witnesses. The New York Police Department said it had no immediate information about arrests, reports Reuters. According to Telegraph, it was a shout heard across New York: "The Republicans are coming". Tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of protesters rallied to the cry, determined to rant, rage and resist President George W Bush when he arrives next week. All the passion, anger and hatred born of the past four years will soon be brought to bear on a few blocks of Manhattan. The Republican convention is not yet open for business but the imminent proximity of Mr Bush and his supporters to so many sworn enemies promises culture clashes on a scale not seen in America since the 1960s. Political theatre awaits the visitors in Madison Square Garden and more spectacularly on the streets outside the ring of steel that surrounds the venue. The tally of arrests stood at 21 last night, many for stripping naked outside the convention hall. This is more than three times the total detained during the Democrats' Boston gathering. And the convention does not even start until Monday. "The Republicans are coming," shouted Bill Steyert, a Vietnam vet, dressed as an 18th century revolutionary sounding the alarm at the approach of the Redcoats. "Save the city. Stand your ground." President Bush is on a tour of states considered crucial to electoral victory, in a week of campaigning that will lead him to the Republican national convention in New York city. The Bush campaign bus will travel to what are known as the "battleground" states of Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and West Virginia before the president heads to New York to accept the Republican party presidential nomination next Thursday. The states are among several where pollsters say Mr. Bush and his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, are deadlocked. Mr. Bush was joined in New Mexico Thursday by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, while Arizona Senator John McCain will be with him on an Iowa stop next Tuesday. Political observers say both men have great appeal to Democratic voters, informs VOANews.

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