When I arrived yesterday in St. Paul, Minnesota I checked my email to read stories about local police raids on homes of protest organizers. The cops came armed with warrants to search for all kinds of illegal stuff, none of which they found. They cuffed folks and put some in jail for the next week, taking them completely out of things for the upcoming protests here at the Republican National Convention. This is supposed to be a “liberal” state but the opening round of things indicates that when it comes to “Homeland Security” anything goes. Watch this video footage for one of the raids. [see below for video]
This morning the local newspaper carried a story about the raids and explanations by the local authorities that they don’t want a possible “Battle in Seattle” to hurt the local business communities chance to “showcase” the Minneapolis-St. Paul (Twin cities) to the world. So business interests come first and civil liberties second – the local courts can sort out the latter issues in the days, weeks, months, and years after. Right now there is money to be made.
I joined the Veterans for Peace march today from the state capitol that tried to go near the convention center where the RNC will be meeting. We were not allowed to get very near and at one intersection, about one-quarter of the 400-500 people in the march turned left and headed toward the barricades. I followed this group and watched as about a dozen or so folks went under a fence into the waiting arms of riot squad police. Everyone seemed to handle themselves very nicely. Tons of media, not having much else to do today, swarmed the action at the fences and seemed particularly interested in one white-haired woman who they learned was 78 years old.
Back at the capitol, before the march began, five military helicopters circled overhead a few times as if warning us to be good children or else. Sitting inside the open doorway of each chopper were 5-6 troops in green fatigues seemingly ready to ponce on us if need be. Just another warning to us and the community that the big boys were going to be firmly in charge.
As I was watching the folks crawl under the fence near the convention center I was standing right next to a young conservative couple who were talking with one of the Veterans for Peace guys. The peace vet was explaining why we were there and the conservative, who said he was a vet too, replied that he wanted to see the spaces allowed for protest to “get smaller and smaller.”
Sadly the right-wing guys wish is coming true. The space for legal protest is diminishing and in fact people are now being arrested in these house raids under the charge of “conspiracy to commit riot” according to the local media. The U.S. foreign policy of “preemptive or preventive strike” is now being applied here at home in the form of “preemptive or preventive arrest” for even planning to hold a peaceful protest.
In my book that is fascism and there is no doubt about it.
Tomorrow an even bigger protest is planned. I’ll be there and will let you know how it goes.
Out by the airport there is a big billboard that has been rented by John Stewart’s “The Daily Show”. I saw it last night, my hosts drove us out to look at it after we had dinner at a local Thai joint. The billboard reads, “Welcome, Rich White Oligarchs”.
That says it all.
Police Detain Journalists-Amy Goodman Jumps Fence To Question Cops
Inside police raid on anti-RNC activists
RNC DISPATCH #2
August 31, 2008
1. No Bombs at Food Not Bombs
2. Saint Paul Police Wish List
3. I-Witness Video Raided
4. The return of Katrina
5. Legendary K.O.
6. Police Action Analysis
From an email from United for Peace and Justice:
Last week, United for Peace and Justice was actively engaged in a full program of activities and events around the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Through it all our message was clear: it is time to end the war and occupation in Iraq and bring all of the troops home; no new war against Iran; and expanding the war in Afghanistan is not the answer!
As we write this note to you, we too are watching the progress of Hurricane Gustav. Our hearts go out to the people of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba where the hurricane has already hit and hit hard. And we, like the rest of the nation, are deeply concerned about the damage this powerful force of nature might bring to the people of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast in the next day or two. While it appears that a massive evacuation has moved hundreds of thousands of people out of harm’s way, we can only imagine what this hurricane will mean for the lives of all too many who have yet to get the assistance they have so desperately needed since Katrina hit three years ago!
While the Republican Party has announced changes in their plans, the major antiwar demonstration called for Monday, September 1, is going ahead as planned. If you are in the area or can get here in time for the mobilization, we urge you to join UFPJ for the march. In addition to being part of our contingent you can help us pass out End the War Now! stickers, leaflets and buttons. Look for us on the grounds of the State Capitol building in St. Paul at 11 AM.
Of course, we know that most of you will not be able to join us at this important antiwar event. But there’s something else you can do to help out. You might have heard that the police have conducted several raids on activist gathering spaces and homes in the St. Paul area over the past few days. Please take a moment right now to call the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis and let them know the actions of their police departments are being watched and that you call on them to make sure their police officers do not use excessive or unnecessary force or intimidation:
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman – 651-266-8510
Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak – 612-673-2100, or 612-673-3000 from outside Minneapolis.