Tuesday, September 2, 2008

St. Paul Police Target protestors, journalists

As many of you have probably heard, the police presence outside of the Republican National Convention for the Labor Day rallies was immense. CNN reported that the police received a federal grant of 50 million (taxpayer) dollars to beef up the police presence with 3,500 extra officers. A fact that strikingly shows the priorities of the feds, especially in light of the Republican charade to shuffle their convention schedule in hopes of hoodwinking us into thinking they actually give a shit about the people of the Gulf coast, is that this sum is a fourth of the necessary investment needed to rebuild the barrier islands and wetlands that would have acted as a major buffer to any hurricane. This could have potentially prevented the tragedy that was Katrina and the trauma being caused by Gustav.

Back to the title of the post. So, despite a spirited and well attended (about 10,000 people) march and several direct action events, the police victimized several journalists and activists, in particular Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were picked up for 'felony rioting' –which is absurd considering that they were journalists covering street demos– and Goodman was picked up for obstructing an arrest when she inquired into what was happening to her colleagues. (Here is a video of her arrest). Thankfully the three have since been released from custody, but the charges against Kouddous and Salazar have yet to be dismissed. In addition to these bogus charged that amount to an assault on free speech, all three were handled violently by the police. Here is DN's statement condemning the arrests and providing more details. While the case of the DN three has been more widely noticed, some 300 activists were picked up and attacked with rubber bullets, tear gas, and concussion grenades for participating in direct action against the Republicans. Ironically, Fox News has a fairly decent description of the horror expressed by the poor Delegates who were the targets of the activists' ire (one managed to get on a delegation's bus and yell "Thanks for fucking up the country"). Apparently, Fox has since paired down (excised) all mentions of the positive aspects of the protests and sit-ins and also the horrified convention goers interviews. Typical. Anyhow, the repression against activists and journalists stayed on par with the amount of security personnel and the tenor of the past eight years of Bush's assault on civil liberties.

Despite the repression, however, the outpouring of anger at the past eight years of Bush among leftists of all shades (from Obama supporters to far-leftists) was truly inspiring. Iraq Vets Against the War, Vets for Peace, the Campus Antiwar Network and the ISO all had excellent contingents. I personally met many people for whom this march represented their first foray into activism. Given the criminal fact that there hasn't been a national anti-war demo since January 2007, this march represented in a significant way the potential for rebuilding an anti-war movement in this country despite the cold douche of election year politics on activism.

Here is Socialist Worker's coverage of the protest.