The situations and incidents that played out this week during the RNC all can be effectively examined if one considers the fact that protesters and activists in contrast to the police and officials in charge of security have a different idea of freedom. Protesters and activists believe the Constitution and the rule of law empowers them and gives them the right to practice free speech, peaceful assembly, and the right to not be subject to unreasonable search or seizure while the police and officials in charge of security (city, state, and federal officials who were part of plans related to what should be done with the 50 million dollars granted to the city for security during the RNC) believe freedom is the power to not have to operate under constraints that may check their power and limit the scope of what can be done if a situation arose where maximum security and force was necessary to diffuse that situation.
However, to be fair and all inclusive, not all protesters believe the Constitution allows people to organize. Believing it has no bearing on police interaction with protesters and activists, to these protesters assembling in the streets is a morally righteous act being carried out to bring to a halt war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other injustices being committed in our name. There’s some truth to that: police do not feel they should be constrained by the Constitution and want unchecked power in the same way that those in the Executive Branch of government want that branch to operate with unchecked power.
Operating under plausibility, one can suggest that this country is in a volatile situation. Pockets of resistance not seen since the 1980s when nuclear weapons, intervention in Latin America, and apartheid in South Africa was challenged by Americans are popping up all over this nation. People do not trust government and do not believe government will enact policies domestically and internationally which would emancipate humanity and create a morally righteous world that people should be able to live in. The people are taking matters into their own hands and are struggling to find ways to take powers from government that leaders in government do not feel the people should have.
Bringing this movement to empower people to take power away from government to an end is reason, presumably, for so many decisions and policies that lead to repression and suppression. The DNC and RNC are shining examples of how those in the halls of power have stunted movements working towards real change.
But, let’s be careful in how we characterize the security measures taken at the DNC and RNC. The appropriation of 50 million dollars for each convention and the police violence at the conventions, especially at the RNC, are all a result of the government (city, state, and federal) believing that in the same way foreign policy functions to protect our nation’s interests so to must our domestic policy function to protect our nation’s interests.
Those interests no longer are shared with the people of America from the poorest classes to the upper middle classes. The ruling elite stand alone in believing that Project for a New American Century policies or policy for empire is the way forward in the world.
All too many are ready to operate with a less draconian, fascistic, and ignorant system of values towards the world. “America is Number One” syndrome is being healed by elements within the country that are awakening people to the fact that America is number one for reasons we should not be proud about.
The Final Day of the Convention
In St. Paul, I juggled my duties. At some points, I was a citizen journalist intensely into the police violence on the streets. At other points, I was a camera operator, researcher, and production assistant for a documentary being put together by Polidoc Productions called, “Seriously Green.” Fortunately, the last day I had a great opportunity to play the role of citizen journalist and really get a sense of what protesters and activists had been up against throughout the convention.
I fed Rob Kall updates throughout the day, but allow me to piece together everything I fed him in more comprehensively.
Youth Against War and Racism called for schools in the Twin Cities area to participate in a students strike at 11 am on Thursday, Sept. 4th, the last day of the convention. It was unclear what schools participated and how many students actually participated, but around 500 students found their way to the state capitol for an antiwar rally from 12 pm to 2 pm. The group and others sympathetic to their calls for action joined the students in a permitted march from the state capitol building to an area not far from Harriet Island.
When the group came to the side of the road and congregated in an area waiting to make their way to Harriet Island, that was when I grew suspicious of the security situation in the city. I received notice through a phone call that the city was going to impose a “curfew” for protesters at 5 pm and any unpermitted march would be brought to a halt and result in arrests.
As I looked around, there was a noticeable absence of riot police. Only a few police on bicycles and motorcycles (5-10 police) were monitoring the youth who were getting food from the back of a truck and eating it in a tiny area before heading to Harriet Island, where they would have a peace picnic and continue to speak out against the war criminals in office.
I followed my intuition and walked back to the state capitol. What became of the students is unknown, but many like myself were walking back towards the 4 pm Anti-War Committee action, which is what set off the police violence Thursday evening.
On my way back to the capitol building, I looked up and down Cedar St to see riot police motioning to each other to guard corners up and down the street. The police were also lounging in chairs and sitting on the sides of the road chilling like they were on the beach picnicking. Nonetheless, they were prepared for something because as I walked closer to the stage I saw police on horseback under the trees nearby Cedar St. ready to gallop into the rally at any moment.
The rally had attracted around 1,000 protesters/activists and the police were surrounding the area but were not intruding on the rally yet.