Protesters Take To Philly's Streets

Saturday, July 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Protesters on issues ranging from guns to health care began a week of demonstrations Saturday to coincide with the Republican National Convention.

At the Liberty Bell, 200 antigun protesters laid out nearly 30,000 shoes to represent victims of gun violence, while nearby a group supporting gun owners set up 1,000 American flags.

At a downtown Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, about 250 anti-abortion advocates held a prayer vigil. A block away, a handful of abortion rights advocates from the Women's Radical Action Group held signs and sang songs outside a church where one anti-abortion group had attended service.

Also Saturday morning, about 30 people in wheelchairs in a ``Rolling for Justice'' brigade assembled in front of Independence Mall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

``This is our town and this may be the best chance for Philadelphia to say something to the world and be listened to,'' said Sally Leiderman, 49, of Havertown, who attended the rally by the antigun group Silent March, which has set up similar shoe displays across the country.

Philadelphia police blanketed the city Saturday. Many were clustered in groups on downtown street corners, while officers on horses rode along city bus lanes. Supervisors could be seen in suits with armbands labeled ``POLICE.''

Police officials planned an increased presence in public places and said they would have hundreds of officers ready to be deployed in case of demonstration disturbances.

As many as 20,000 protesters are expected at demonstrations — bolstered by strong union support and official endorsements from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers of America.

The protests also are expected to draw many supporters of death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was sentenced to death for killing a Philadelphia police officer.