Volume 21, Number 11
Battle of St Paul
“FREE GAZA MOVEMENT”
Breaking Gaza's Seige
The Infamous Three G's
Outrageous Gift Offer
Goodbye to Bush Offer
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
Quo Vadis Culture Wars?
US Nuke Threat
Bush Seeks Legacy
Globalization v. Democracy
Jeffrey M. Smith
Eleanor J. Bader
Abortion & Life
Eleanor J. Bader
The American War in Pakistan
Bailout & Election
Bush Economic Legacy
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
The Battle of St. Paul
"If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain's resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry Left never will." - President Bush addressing the RNC via satellite feed, September 1, 2008
"I Am The Angry Left" - T-Shirt seen at RNC demonstration
To casual bservers, the most enduring memory of the 2008 Republican National Convention is probably the chorus of Republicans who interrupted McCain’s acceptance speech chanting “Drill, Baby, Drill” while pumping their fists up and down, like a sea of oil rigs on the Alaskan tundra. For 19-year-old Elliot Hughes, one of 800 protesters arrested during 4 days of street protests outside the convention hall, the memories are somewhat different. Speaking at a press conference immediately following his release from jail, he told reporters, “Six or seven officers came into my cell and one officer punched me in the face…. And the officer slammed my head onto the ground. I was bleeding everywhere. They put a bag over my head that had a gag on it. And they used pain compliance tactics on me for about an hour and a half.” When asked about the incident, Ramsey County Sherriff Bob Fletcher neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, but noted Hughes was “extremely disruptive in jail,” and “it took some force to control him.”
Elliot’s experience was but one of the more dramatic examples of an exceedingly brutal police reaction to militant protests. While in recent years most police departments have become increasingly reliant on de-escalation tactics and so-called “soft” repression, the RNC seemed to signal the reversal of this trend. Police unleashed their full arsenal of “less-lethal” weaponry, deploying tear gas cartridges, pepper spray canisters, smoke bombs, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets with little restraint, not to mention the liberal use of nightsticks. In one of the most widely reported incidents, police used snow plows and dump trucks to trap a group of 300 protesters on a bridge and ordered them to lie on the pavement with their hands over their heads. Most disturbing, police seemed to deliberately target the alternative media, shutting down the offices of the Twin Cities Independent Media Center and raiding I-Witness video, a NYC-based video journalist collective with a record of documenting police brutality at mass demonstrations. “Democracy Now!” radio broadcaster Amy Goodman was also arrested in the course of the demonstrations, along with two producers.
All major party conventions are now deemed National Special Security Events, which means they are allocated special funds and overseen by the Joint Terrorism Task Force—a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security components (Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Secret Service), and state and local law enforcement. In preparation for the festivities, the city temporarily deputized 3,000 officers from across the state to supplement its 600 regular officers. Meanwhile, 1,200 members of the Minnesota National Guard—many fresh from a tour of Iraq—waited in the wings. To fund these expenditures, St. Paul asked for and received $50 million from Congress. On top of that, the Republican National Committee had bought a $10 million insurance policy from the St. Paul police, pledging to spend its own money to stop any civil rights lawsuits. This insurance policy seemingly gave the police freedom from the fear of lawsuits.
The ironically named RNC Welcoming Committee was formed as “an information and logistical framework for radical resistance to the RNC.” The Welcoming Committee (WC) did not actually organize the demonstration, but instead provided a support structure for protesters coming to the Twin Cities. But because the WC was the public face of the demonstrations, police quickly labeled it an “organized criminal enterprise” with plans “to utilize criminal activities to disrupt and stop the RNC.” Even before the festivities began, local police were conducting preemptive strikes against known organizers.
In mid-August the WC opened a “convergence center”—a space for protesters to gather, eat, share resources, and build networks of solidarity. On Friday, August 29, as folks were finishing dinner and sitting down to a movie, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department stormed in, guns drawn, ordering everyone to the ground. This evening raid resulted in seized property (mostly literature). After being cuffed, searched, and ID’d, the more than 60 individuals inside were released. The next morning, the Sheriff’s department executed search warrants on three houses, seizing personal and common household items and arresting five suspected leaders.
An affidavit released several days later revealed that police operatives had successfully infiltrated the WC one year before the convention, gathering information that led to the preemptive raids and arrests. Many of the allegations in the affidavit are patently false and strain the imagination, such as the claim that anarchists planned to kidnap delegates and blow up tunnels leading to the convention center.
A spokesperson for the National Lawyers Guild, which defended some of the protesters, told the press, “This is a political prosecution in its purest form, because no one is actually accused of physically doing anything that would be violent.... They’re being prosecuted specifically for their political activities and what they advocated.”
September 1 protest at the St. Paul Caitol building—photo by Andy Singer
Although some of the more prominent organizers had been taken out, the WC’s decentralized structure and careful planning made it invulnerable to complete decapitation. The WC had divided Saint Paul into seven sectors, so organizing bodies throughout the country could coordinate their actions and blockade as many access points as possible. Operating in small, autonomous affinity groups, protesters with the stated goal of disrupting the convention blockaded highway on-ramps and busy intersections and destroyed corporate property. Others improvised barricades out of street signs, road closures, and newspaper bins.
At one intersection, protesters dragged a dumpster into the street and overturned it, filling the street with trash and debris. Elsewhere, a car was driven into the center of a busy intersection, diagonally blocking traffic under a banner, No War But The Class War. Eat The Rich. Feed The Poor. A video circulated on YouTube showed a protester jumping an officer from behind as he attempts to make an arrest. (The officer subsequently retreated empty-handed.)
On the afternoon of September 4, thousands of Twin Cities youth walked out of their high schools and colleges in a citywide student strike against the Republican Convention, organized by Youth Against War and Racism. Despite threats and public recriminations from the mayor and superintendent, many high schools across the metropolitan region were reportedly shuttered.
The award for Most Creative Protest Tactic went to “Bash Back,” a Chicago-based collective of trans-folk, queer youth, and anarcha-feminists clad in pink and blue, many brandishing magic wands and some with fairy wings. When confronted by the members of the incendiary anti-homosexual Westboro Baptist Church, the bloc chanted “We’re here, we’re queer. We’re anarchists, we’ll fuck you up!” while pantomiming gay sex acts, much to the consternation of the churchgoers.
I attended the convention as a member of a political marching band known as the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. We usually stand on sidewalks and pump out tunes to diffuse tense situations while our friends in the street do the dirty work. Our repertoire ranges from a cover of 1980s band Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” to a reimagining of Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” (with anti-war lyrics).
At this writing, eight activists face charges of Conspiracy to Commit Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism, a second degree felony that carries the possibility of over seven years in prison under a “terrorism enhancement” clause normally reserved for prisoners of war. The last use of such charges in Minnesota was in 1918 when organizers with the Industrial Workers of the World on the Iron Range were charged with “criminal syndicalism” for organizing unions. In an open letter to allies, the defendants wrote, “These [conspiracy charges] create a convenient method for incapacitating activists, with the potential for diverting limited resources towards protracted legal battles and terrorizing entire communities into silence and inaction.”
In an email message circulated widely just after the convention, a collective associated with the demonstrations wrote, “The upsurge associated with the anti-globalization era was not a flash in the pan. If anything, we are stronger today than ten years ago.”
Abe Walker is an activist and member of Rude Mechanical Orchestra. To support the RNC arrestees, visit www.RNC8.org.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.