Sunday, September 7, 2008

Were You at the RNC?

© 2008 Karen Van Fossan

Dragon Jane was there. Maybe you were there. There's so much I want to tell you about the RNC in St. Paul.

The thrill of being inside a giant peace dragon, blowing bubbles from her mouth, seeing The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and countless others taking footage of this mythology in the making.

The rush of getting a standing ovation for our peace performance at the Lowry Theater in St Paul.

The promise in attending Ripple Effect, an enormous downtown peace festival, where we received free art, signed petitions, met activists from all over, planted magic seeds, laughed at a puppet show, and heard lots of pulsing music, some of which we liked.

The shock at having our luggage searched right there on the sidewalk in the city.

The fear at seeing riot police in riot gear refusing to let anyone (even pedestrians) cross the streets.

The disappointment at spotting a vandalized police car, windows smashed, tires slashed.

The panic at hearing stories from our friends of tear gas, pepper spray, billy clubs, maybe even rubber bullets, wielded at nonviolent protesters and bystanders, more than 800 of whom were arrested throughout the week.

The worry over a baby shrew we found in a city park.

The sadness over seeing a reenactment of Guantanamo.

The hope that comes from seeing good friends (new and old)...Lizzie, Baba, Cam, Hillary, Rae, Laura, Julie, Jill, Melissa, Nicholas, Ariel, Jeanne, Gerry, Diane, and more.

The joy of eating Afghan food, and Thai food, and a pita.

The gratitude toward our anonymous patrons for making this trip possible.

A deep concern and adoration for humanity.

P.S. This is all I can say about the RNC for now. More soon...


Julie said...

I was deeply saddened that our government could blatantly take away peoples rights. The city of St. Paul made a deal with the RNC...the RNC will be paying the first 10 million in law suits. I have never been afraid of the police before!

Ron Saeger said...

I was there all day Monday and Thursday and participated in 2 1/2 marches. I fear for the future of our nation.
Ron Saeger

Gerry Bley said...

This is my take on it after being to both Denver and St. Paul. There is a large gray area between breaking the law and exercising one's first amendment rights (free speech, peaceful assembly, and free press). It will all be sorted out in many upcoming legal cases that are sure to be filed. Remember, every other marcher had a video camera or a digital camera, or a cell phone that took pictures. 99% of the people in the marches were peaceful just wanting to exercise their first amendment rights. 1%, maybe 200 or 300 people were college students called anarchists that came from all over the United States, (mostly east coast and big colleges like Purdue, Michigan etc.) with the express intent to disrupt the convention. Mainly by sitting down in intersections, blocking entrances, trying to crash into the convention hall. They knew they were breaking the law (obstructing traffic) and they wanted to be arrested and were willing to accept the consequences. The police and FBI infiltrated this group early on and raided their headquarters prior to the convention, detaining or arresting some and not releasing them until after the convention. Denver and St. Paul both used the same manual for implementing mass arrests. Both Denver and St. Paul received $50 million from the federal goverment for security purposes. They used alot of this money for riot equipment and gear. It is kind of like a football team getting all new uniforms and equipment, and play books and other things. It is only natural after getting all of this, you want to play a game. You want to try all of this stuff out to see how well it works. That is why there were mass arrests in both Denver and St. Paul. A mass arrest is where you form an impenetrable barrier around a large group of people and you immobilize and arrest or detain everyone inside the drag net. You use tear gas, several forms of pepper spray, tasers, bean bag guns, concussion grenades, rubber bullet devises, police in riot gear on horses and other devices to get all of the people inside of the drag net. It is not too much unlike how dolphins will encircle a large mass of fish, blow bubbles around them and herd them into a tight ball so they can easily catch and eat them. Kind of interesting. Denver only had one mass arrest where 106 people were arrested. These people were heading toward the 16th st pedestrian mall and police feared there would be some vandalism and this was a good opportunity to practice what they had learned about mass arrests. Denver was smarter than St. Paul in that they made their parade route so that it avoided downtown. They all started from the State Capitol Bldg or the Civic Center and went west on Colfax and they north on Spear Blvd skirting the downtown business district. This allowed the marchers to march without interrupting the conventioners from shopping downtown. In all there was only a total of 156 people arrested in Denver during the 5 days of the convention. In St. Paul, there was a total of 816 people arrested during the convention. There were many mass arrests. One particular mass arrest was on Labor Day. The Police were particularly pissed because they had to work on Labor day instead of fishing, camping, or doing things with their families. Having been in Denver and talking with some old experienced demonstrators from the Civil Rights days of the 60's in Selma and Montgomery, I learned to be accutely aware of my surroundings and to get out quickly once I saw a mass arrested starting to form. They form very quickly. Our job as legal observers was to be in pairs, and document arrests, including time, location, policemen's names and badge numbers, their organization (St. Paul Police, Ramsey Sheriff, Milwaukee Police, Minneapolis Police, etc), arrestees names, arrest charges, and to document with video, digital photos, and sound recorders what happened. Then this information is all handed in to a central location of the National Lawyers Guild where it is stored on computers for any future court cases. Police lie and arrestees also lie. With two observers, it is not the police's word against one person's word. Well anyway, the parades in St. Paul went thru the downtown business area and the strategy that St. Paul used, was to carry out as many mass arrests as possible and to intimidate all marchers even the 99% that were peaceful marchers. Plenty of people came out to march anyway. The downtown businessmen did not do nearly the business that they had hoped. At one mass arrest, I told my partner we had to leave or we would be caught in the net also. (They caught newsmen,. camera crews, convention delegates, people on their way to a rock concert, people coming home from work and others). We had earlier talked with a woman who lived in a third story luxury condo overlooking the area where the drag net would form. She had earlier pointed out her balcony. I suggested we ask her if we could shoot from her balcony. She said fine and we shot the whole thing beginning to end of this mass arrest. Copy the following link and paste it in your place where you go to websites above. Hit enter and play the video that shows the red smoke bomb at the beginning. This will show you a typical mass arrest. Make sure your sound is on. Also none of the major TV networks carried hardly any of this in their programs. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune buried these events in the back of their paper. Only the Pioneer Press gave it front page coverage. However, you can get on the internet and find out a lot of information about what really went on at the conventions. The Major TV networks are all about like FOX News. They will not broadcast the people marching. They are owned by large corporations that pander to the administration and Congress and other large corporations like big Oil, insurance companies, pharmacutical companies, Large utility companies, and other large campaign contributors and lobbyists.