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Police repress convention protests
Published Sep 3, 2008 11:22 PM
Despite an onslaught of police terror and repression, protesters from across
the country used a variety of tactics to march on the Republican National
Convention here on Sept. 1. A mass march organized by the Coalition to March on
the RNC and Stop the War was followed by youthful street actions to denounce
the Republican policies of endless imperialist war and sweeping attacks on
Photos: Troops Out Now Coalition
In an escalation of tactics used at the Democratic National Convention in
Denver a week earlier, Minnesota police began the repression against RNC
protesters days before the march. The cops raided community kitchens, meeting
spaces and protesters’ homes; handcuffed and harassed activists;
confiscated political literature; and arrested at least three people on bogus
“conspiracy to riot” charges.
Despite this intimidation, organizers remained determined to move forward with
what would turn out to be a highly successful, massive march as well as direct
actions on Labor Day, Sept. 1.
Some 30,000 attended a rally that included representatives of the American
Indian Movement; ANSWER Coalition; Appeal for Redress Campaign; Coalition to
March on the RNC and Stop the War; Code Pink; Colombia Action Network; Green
Party; Latinos Against War; Palestine Solidarity Group; Poor People’s
Economic Human Rights Campaign; Students for a Democratic Society; Teamsters
743; Troops Out Now Coalition; United for Peace and Justice; Venezuela
Solidarity Network; Veterans for Peace; Welfare Rights Committee; and Women
Against Military Madness.
The diverse crowd, led by the Iraq Veterans Against the War, then marched to
the Xcel Center, site of the Republican convention, and back to the State
Capitol for a closing rally. Various contingents included low-income people,
youth and students, immigrant rights activists, labor, Palestine and Colombia
solidarity activists, an anti-capitalist bloc and an anti-climate-change
While Republican Party leaders shied away from the conference so as to not seem
insensitive in the face of Hurricane Gustav, activists remembered the neglect
of the Bush administration in response to Hurricane Katrina. A Troops Out Now
Coalition banner read “Bush—McCain; Katrina—Gustav: Criminal
Meanwhile, hundreds of youth engaged in militant street actions. They were
met by brutal attacks at the hands of the police, including being doused with
pepper spray and tear gas. Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) activist
and eyewitness videographer Elena Everett reported that a disabled man in a
wheelchair was sprayed head-to-toe with pepper spray. Others were hit in the
back with tear gas canisters.
The Coldsnap Legal Collective (coldsnaplegal.wordpress.com) reports that as of
Sept. 1, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office had announced 284 arrests.
Some 130 were charged with felony offenses, which most likely will be used to
keep them in jail until the end of the convention. The collective says that the
majority of those arrested are still being held in jail, and some are being
refused proper medical attention. The collective is asking supporters to call
the jail at 651-266-9350 to demand that these activists be released and given
proper medical attention.
Police repress protesters outside
Republican National Convention.
Photo: Elena Everett
While the corporate media has focused almost exclusively on property damage
sustained during the street actions, including windows being broken at a
Macy’s department store, several eyewitnesses told this reporter that the
person who began breaking the windows was clearly an agent provocateur working
with the police. He approached the window in clear view of the cops, broke it
and walked away without an arrest. A police car was also damaged.
However, at a press conference the following day, march coordinator Jess Sundin
was quick to point out that any rage displayed by activists in the streets is
completely justified and pales in comparison to the state violence committed on
a daily basis by U.S. forces at home and abroad.
The joint press conference was held by the Coalition to March on the RNC and
Stop the War, the RNC Welcoming Committee and the Poor People’s Economic
and Human Rights Campaign—all of whom held fast in their solidarity with
arrestees, despite attempts by corporate media reporters to bait them into
denouncing “violence.” One man, representing the Poor
People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign, challenged the reporters:
“You act like we’re having this press conference in a country that
hasn’t practiced oppression for hundreds of years.”
A number of activities are planned to continue the protests through the end of
the convention on Sept. 4, including free public music festivals, a
“March for Our Lives” and a “solutions driven” peace
conference. For updates on activities, visit dncrnc.wordpress.com.
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