Members of the AIDS activist group ACT UP who interrupted a speech by White House chief of staff Andrew Card at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday in New York City said they were attacked by delegates and security personnel at Madison Square Garden. Media reports indicated that the protesters scuffled with some young Republican delegates following a youth event headlined by twins Jenna and Barbara Bush and that one delegate had been hit in the head. But bystanders say in an ACT UP press release that it was the protesters who were attacked. "I was standing right next to the chanting demonstrators," Kaytee Riek, who was not part of the demonstration, says in the press statement. "All of a sudden, men in suits with earpieces starting pushing and shoving people and dragged the protesters over and through two or three rows of chairs. They then violently threw them to the ground and handcuffed them."
Cindra Feuer of New York says in the press statement that she witnessed Republican delegates attack the protesters, "punching the demonstrators and throwing elbows." Although one of the ACT UP members has been charged with assault for allegedly punching a Republican delegate in the head, Feuer says the man actually was injured by his peers, who were attacking the protesters. "I asked the man who was hurt if he was OK, and he said, 'Yes. Elbows were flying, and I just got caught in the middle of everything.' After that, police started urging him to consider filing assault charges against the protesters and seeking medical assistance, which he maintained that he did not need. I was surprised to hear those inaccurate reports that the demonstrators initiated the violence."
About a dozen ACT UP members gained access to the convention and interrupted a speech by Card by shouting; holding a banner that read, "Bush lies. Drop the debt. Stop AIDS Now;" and wearing T-shirts with anti-Bush slogans. They say their protest was entirely nonviolent but note that they were met with violence at the hands of both the Republican delegates at the convention and law enforcement officials. "ACT UP expresses outrage at this increase in the mean-spiritedness and heavy-handed arrest techniques being employed by the New York Police Department, the Secret Service [which had jurisdiction over the convention venue], and other security agencies," ACT UP says in a press statement.