updated 8/10/2004 11:18:36 AM ET 2004-08-10T15:18:36

Anti-war activists on Tuesday broke a recent agreement with the city and reapplied for a permit to demonstrate in Central Park on the eve of the Republican National Convention.

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The reversal comes just weeks after the group, United for Peace and Justice, abandoned a lengthy fight over the park and agreed to hold a permitted rally on the West Side Highway on Aug. 29. Police offered the highway location after the parks department denied the group’s request for Central Park, citing possible damage to the Great Lawn.

Leaders said they reluctantly agreed last month to use the highway so they could finalize plans, and had hoped to continue discussions with city officials over access to drinking water, sound projection and crowd flow on the shadeless road.

Leslie Cagan, head of United for Peace and Justice, said Tuesday that city officials have ignored these issues, forcing the group to reapply for the park, which has more space. The Parks Department turned down its original application in April, saying crowds of activists, estimated at about 250,000, would trample and damage the Great Lawn.

Parks Department spokeswoman Megan Sheekey declined to comment.

Cagan told The Associated Press that the new permit application still predicts about 250,000 people, but requests a rally permit for the Great Lawn, the North Meadow and the East Meadow.

“If their concern is that we will be so big, we are willing to divide people up,” Cagan said.

The Parks Department says the 55-acre Great Lawn can hold 80,000 people and the smaller East Meadow has a 30,000-person capacity. The 20-acre North Meadow hosts only athletic events, the department said.

The battle between city officials and United for Peace and Justice has prompted other groups to urge anti-war activists to gather in Central Park on Aug. 29 without a permit, risking arrest.

But United for Peace and Justice says it wants a family friendly, anti-war demonstration where participants would not have to worry about being taken into custody by police.

The Republican National Convention will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at Madison Square Garden.


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