Convention Crackdowns

PHOTO: Police in riot gear at the RNC

Fortunately, after today we will no longer have to be bothered with hour upon hour of vacuous convention pomp, either from the Republicans or their willing enablers, the Democrats.  But before this pseudo-democratic spectacle ends, we should examine the ramifications of what’s been going on outside the conventions, in the streets.

It’s understood that American civil liberties have been under assault by our government since the September 11th attack, which was the perfect event for justifying the colossal expansion of executive power we’ve been victims of.  We already know about the illegal wiretapping, the torture and the subverting of due process.  But police behavior in Denver and St. Paul, documented below, demonstrates that at least two more liberties are being targeted: peaceful dissent and the free press.

I believe the events below speak for themselves.  Even in 2008, Americans have a deeply ingrained appreciation for freedom and a visceral distaste for oppression.  If we don’t act on those principles, these scenes could well be first steps toward a dark future.

  • At least four American journalists were arrested Monday outside the Republican National Convention in a day that saw a total of nearly 300 arrests.  Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! was one of the journalists taken into custody.  She was arrested after asking to speak with a commander about the arrest of two of her staff members.  She was charged with “obstruction of a legal process and interference with a peace officer.” Here’s the video of her arrest:

    There is also a video of her producer’s arrest.
  • Before the start of the RNC, St. Paul police raided at least six buildings that were being used by protestors to plan actions during the convention.  According to the Huffington Post: “Glenn Greenwald described the targeting of protesters by ‘teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets.’ Journalists were detained at gunpoint and lawyers representing detainees were handcuffed at the scene.”Among the groups raided was I-Witness Video, whose video coverage of the 2004 RNC led to hundreds of acquittals of activists resulting from the protests there. Eight people arrested in these raids are being charged with a PATRIOT Act crime: “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism” – an allegation that could land them in prison for 7.5 years.
  • In Denver at the Democratic National Convention, it was decided that protestors could not demonstrate in front of the Pepsi Center.  Instead, they were to be relegated to “freedom cages” about 700 feet away from the convention site.
  • In Denver: watch as a policeman strikes an activist from the group Code Pink with his baton, knocking her to the ground.  Later, as the woman attempts to tell reporters what happened, she is dragged away by police.
  • Also in Denver: Read about how the police blocked in protestors on all sides and then pepper-sprayed them ahead of a mass arrest. In the transcript, it’s noted that nearly all of the policemen at these demonstrations are operating without any visible identification.

4 Comments

  1. Ian

    I’m not sure that the brutality has anything to do with 9/11. Police have always been overly violent (remember the student shootings in the 60s?). The arrests and charges are certainly due to the current political environment. To me it seems like they could always find something to get you on if they wanted to. Law enforcement has too much power and too little oversight.

  2. Ian

    It reminds me a story my brother in law tells about a cop pushing him outside of a club. He had left the club to get a pen to get a girl’s phone number. The club had a policy that once you leave, you don’t get back in, but he didn’t know this. After being pushed for what seemed no reason, he asked for the cops badge number and the cop and his buddies threw him on the hood of the car. His cousin came over to ask “WTF?” and the cops did the same to him. They both ended up in jail for a little bit.

  3. Chris

    I don’t have a problem with arresting violent protesters, but these preemptive arrests smack of practices of the Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany that we shouldn’t seek to emulate.

  4. Clint

    I agree that brutality has always existed (and has probably decreased over time, in truth). But moving protesters away from the convention centers, arresting the press, conducting preemptive raids, not wearing identification — that seems like a different kind of behavior than we’re used to.

    I think the police lock down and the questionable arrests result (at least to some degree) from a post-9/11 paranoia on the part of the people in control of violence in the US. That’s why this “War on Terror” is such a nightmare — by splitting the world into Us and the Terrorists, it’s easy to classify any disagreement with the established order as anti-American and any act against the imperialist policies to be some kind of terrorist sympathizing.