SchNews | As we predicted (in SchNEWS 644), last weeks protests in Denver outside the Democrat convention were nothing compared to the scenes out on the streets of St Pauls, Minnesota, during this week’s Republican National Convention (RNC). It seems that the thought of another Republican president is just too much to bear, and the Midwest city saw one of the biggest mass demonstrations in the States since the height of anti-war fervour in 2003.
While the world’s media have been fixated on the suitability of Sarah Palin for McCain’s running mate, battles have been raging outside the RNC. The party of war criminals have had to hold their convention protected by unprecedented levels of security.
Our eyewitness claims that what was different about this policing was the sheer scale of the repression, surveillance and infiltration in the weeks leading up to and during the convention. The $50 million campaign saw 35,000 law enforcement officers out on the streets – and this doesn’t include the National Guard or FBI agents. Independent media and journalists were also targeted.
Last Friday, before the convention started (Sept 1st-4th), armed riot police raided targets including the Convergence Center of the RNC Welcoming Committee in central St Paul, the meeting place and hub of the protests. Occupants were ordered to lie on the ground while laptops were taken and anything which could be used to demonstrate, including banners and several buckets, was confiscated.
Twelve were arrested and eight, alleged leaders, are under the ominous charge of ‘Conspiracy To Riot In Furtherance Of Terrorism’ — which carries a maximum seven and a half year sentence. The search warrant for this raid was supported by affidavits from police informants who had infiltrated the RNCWC, and alleged that the group intended to kidnap delegates, use explosives, and sabotage airports in St Pauls. This was all cheap talk in the pub evidently, as there is nothing to corroborate these allegations.
Other places raided over the weekend included Eyewitness Video — a group who film and monitor civil liberties. By Wednesday, after a second raid, their landlord kicked them out.
The FBI also raided a house in Minneapolis housing the free food people, Food Not Bombs, with four arrested on ‘probable cause’ for conspiracy to riot. The warrant claimed they were looking for improvised incendiary devices, and seized what they took to be a bucket of what they called ‘weaponised urine’. No it wasn’t the soup they were going to serve up the next day, it was actually just grey water being saved to use in the toilet.
And all this before the protests had even begun.
The convention — and protests — started on Monday with a large ‘permitted’ march. Some 25,000 were out in force, but so were the heavily tooled up SWAT police. Affinity groups organised to take different sectors of the city, but many were stopped from reaching their meeting points, and were detained with ID taken. The intention was to block the road to the RNC’s venue, The Xcel Center (DSEi memories anyone?), and apparently the police helped by blocking the road themselves.
Around a thousand-strong ‘Anti-Capitalist Bloc’ peeled off the march to take direct action — initiating some argybargy and window smashing… and were met with riot police, gas canisters and concussion grenades.
After day one, over 300 protesters were in the county jail. Reports from those who got out tell of extreme abuse within the cells, with many held beyond the time limit before they must be charged or released. A protest and vigil has been maintained since outside the jail, despite a belligerent police and National Guard presence.
In a move that should’ve generated more media attention than it did, journalist Amy Goodman, anchorwoman of the DemocracyNow.org internet/radio/tv programme, was arrested on Monday along with her producers — who despite carrying press badges were held on riot charges.
The next day, Tuesday, in the teeth of amassed police, was the Poor Peoples’ March For Our Lives — of around 15,000 – for the homeless, veterans, immigrants. The police demanded the march end by 7pm, and when it didn’t, waded in with batons, horses and motorbikes ramming the crowd, as well as firing tear gas, pepper spray and flash bombs. Snatch squads grabbed individuals, beating and tasering them. A city centre concert was pulled.
On Wednesday, protest continued, and further raids took place. Coaches taking delegates into the Xcel Center had be re-routed off the Minneapolis freeway system because people were throwing 40lb bags of cement off the overpasses onto them. Our reporter claims it was impossible to walk around near the centre with any sort of camera, given the tight control over media images of the protests. That night Rage Against The Machine performed an explosive gig — following on from their performance at Democrat convention protests in Denver the week before – with the audience surrounded by riot police. After their show over 100 were arrested.
Inside the Xcel Center, Thursday (4th) was the big day that John McCain gave his acceptance speech. Outside, the ruck continued, featuring a host of themed protests including a school kids ‘Walk Out Of Class’ rally. As the empty applause rattling around the Xcel Center died down, conservatives all around the country should have been comforted that the number of non-believers arrested outside during the week numbered over 400.
This year was the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Democrat convention, which shared parallels with the 2008 Republican convention: a mass demonstration against a party convention — riding on a wave of anti-war ferment — which was met with unprecedented repression by a brutal, paranoiac and deeply unpopular US state. Only this year had added kevlar body armour.
See also http://twincities.indymedia.org