Protesters Out In Full At U.N. General Assembly

The annual United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City is also an annual meeting for protestors. The "protest pens" were full on Tuesday, and the protestors brought a long list of grievances.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

In New York City, there's an annual ritual that coincides with the U.N. General Assembly meeting: protests. This year is no exception as Stan Alcorn reports from outside the U.N. building.

STAN ALCORN, BYLINE: Stefan Williams of Australia didn't expect the U.N. General Assembly.

STEFAN WILLIAMS: We didn't actually know that the U.N. was on, which is probably pretty silly.

ALCORN: But early this morning, he and his family took a break from their vacation to take photos of the massive U.N. compound.

WILLIAMS: You know, all the leaders from around the world assembling once a year, it doesn't get much more important than that.

ALCORN: They also photographed the maze of police barricades across the street.

WILLIAMS: This level of security, you know, I've never seen anything like it.

ALCORN: These particular barricades are for the designated protest area. A half dozen pens made up of wooden blue sawhorses. For Gonpo Lama of the Tibet Youth Congress, this protest pen is nothing new.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

GONPO LAMA: If I tell the truth, the last year in 2011, we did 40, 47 times.

ALCORN: That's almost a protest every week, either at the United Nations or at the Chinese Consulate in New York.

LAMA: We want to free our country, independence. We don't want the Chinese occupy our country.

ALCORN: In the pen next to them, another group has an issue with the Chinese government.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ALCORN: Theirs is a quieter form of protest. Xhiwan Dong stopped by to do nearly an hour of the slow, physical falun gong exercises before going to his job as a cancer researcher.

XHIWAN DONG: My parents, they practice falun gong since 1990s, and actually, they introduced the exercise to me.

ALCORN: Dong says his mother has been imprisoned in China four times, and his parents are currently under house arrest in Shandong province, all for practicing falun gong.

DONG: They don't allow them to travel to visit me in the United States, and the government deny their own citizen passport.

ALCORN: These two anti-Chinese government protests have the largest presence here, something in the low hundreds, but there are others. A coalition of anti-war groups have brought a replica of a drone, complete with hellfire missiles the size of baseball bats. It's on a stand about 50 feet behind Deborah Sweet, by order of the police.

DEBORAH SWEET: This president has the kill list and sends drones to kill actual people, but we can't bring a paper and fiberglass replica across from the U.N. to protest the use of drones.

ALCORN: Other smaller groups share the barricades. There are Brazilian policemen pushing for better benefits; Georgians who want their president voted out; and a lone voice calling for President Obama's impeachment.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Impeach Obama for high treason.

ALCORN: But for Brent Kope, a medical tech who works nearby, it all adds up to the same thing: a hassle.

BRENT KOPE: It took me an hour and a half to get to work which is double my normal commute, and it's just - it drives me insane, so...

(LAUGHTER)

KOPE: ...I'll probably just end up taking off, like, Thursday, Friday or something.

ALCORN: He might want to take tomorrow off too. That's when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is speaking, and larger protests are expected. For NPR News, I'm Stan Alcorn in New York.

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