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By: Marc Lindahl
avatar of marc
  from the Badnarik campaign...
posted on 2004-08-29 11:33 AM
NEW YORK -- While some political groups continue to 'negotiate' with the City of New York for permits to protest next week's Republican National Convention, Libertarians -- including a presidential candidate -- are preparing to open up a whole new can of worms in the Big Apple.

"If you ask for permission to protest, you deserve to be told no," says Manhattan Libertarian Party chair Jim Lesczynski. "The First Amendment guarantees our right to peaceably assemble -- and we're going to do so" on Central Park's Great Lawn on August 29th. The city has denied permits to groups which have applied for permission to gather in the park, attempting to move them to more distant, and less visible, locations.

"There's an old saying -- it's easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission," said Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate, during a campaign strategy teleconference. "I've got permission. By definition, where I am standing is a free speech zone. We don't need permission to protest, but George W. Bush needs forgiveness for his mistakes. We're gathering to offer him that forgiveness ... if he's willing to ask us for it."

Among those mistakes, says Badnarik, 50, of Austin, Texas, are the war in Iraq, the PATRIOT ACT -- and the whole concept of "free speech zones" for protesters. "America itself -- the whole country -- is a 'free speech zone,'" he says. "That's what the First Amendment means, or it means nothing. We're going to find out which in Central Park. We're going to find out whether President Bush and Mayor Bloomberg believe in America or not."

While Badnarik is considered a long shot for the presidency, polling shows him determining the election's outcome in a number of "battleground" states, including closely watched New Mexico, where his support stands at 5%.

The Manhattan LP has a longstanding reputation in New York and in the Libertarian Party as an "in your face" activist group. Previous Manhattan LP initiatives have included "Guns for Tots," in which Libertarians handed out toy guns to the city's schoolchildren to protest a proposed ban, and the "Great Cigarette Giveaway," which provided New Yorkers with free smokes to counter the city's massive 2002 cigarette tax increase.

Badnarik is also expected to debate Green Party presidential nominee David Cobb during his visit to the city. The Libertarian Party is America's third largest political party, with more than 600 Libertarians serving in elected and appointed office at the local, state and federal levels.
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