Progressive Calendar 09.18.08
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2008 03:38:03 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   09.18.08

police raids
1. Charley Underwood - Fletcher for gone
2. Lydia Howell  - Dissent under fire at the RNC
3. Steve Clemens - Day by day eyewitness account of the RNC protests
4. ed            - Q&A, and 2 haiku

--------1 of 4--------

Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2008 16:21:01 +1200 (NZST)
From: Charley Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: [SPIF] after assessment

I find references to Sheriff Fletcher trying to "keeping and preserving
the peace" to be outright absurd.  During the weekend prior to the actual
convention, around 200 people (including preschool children) in both
Ramsey and Hennepin counties had weapons drawn on them during raids lead
by Sheriff Fletcher.  I personally know young girls who were pulled over
and handcuffed while face-down on the sidewalk, all the while covered by
drawn weapons.  (No charges or arrests occurred as a result of most of
these raids.)  They were not enforcement actions in any way; they were
designed for intimidation.

Anyone who saw the state of siege in St Paul during the RNC would be
hard-pressed to describe the situation as peaceful or orderly.  There are
dozens and probably hundreds of people who were arrested without cause or
pepper-sprayed without cause.  Journalists, street medics, pacifist
members of the Minnesota Peace Teams, passers-by and nonviolent protesters
were arrested according to the most capricious criteria.  And those
eventual legal settlements will be a tax burden to the citizens of St Paul
for many years.

Anyone who followed the events of the RNC would more likely to conclude
that Fletcher's actions inflamed the entire protest situation and created
greater violence and danger that I, for one, would have thought possible
anywhere in Minnesota.  We have had a long tradition of measured police
response to even civil disobedience.  There has been a respectful
relationship, by and large, between peace protesters and the police.
That trust and respect is now shattered.

Let's be clear.  Law enforcement is essential to civil society.  But let's
also be clear that law enforcement was not at all what Fletcher was doing.
He was directing a series of raids for the purpose of intimidation,
followed by a display of paramilitary force that chilled and shocked
nearly all who saw it.  The man is dangerous to our civil liberties.  If
we actually want to be physically safe in our persons, Fletcher is
absolutely the last person for the job.  Fletcher must be replaced, if we
are to have even a small chance at healing after this massive trauma.


--------2 of 4--------

Dissent Under Fire at the RNC
by Lydia Howell

"Our right to protest the government and its policies is not 'suspicious
behavior'; it's Constitutionally protected speech." Caroline Fredrickson,
Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office

I'll admit it: since the Republican National Convention brought a
militarized police occupation to St. Paul, Minnesota. I've been
shell-shocked. It's one thing to have predicted the dangers to our civil
liberties since the September 11th attacks and quite another to see one's
prediction in action.

An 18-month battle by a coalition of progressive activist groups to get
permits for rallies and marches during the RNC ultimately meant very
little in terms of law enforcement's respect for the First Amendment. For
those who only see the First Amendment through the distorted lens of the
Religious Right who is obsessed over the first sentence "Congress shall
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free expression thereof", here's the rest of the freedoms - that are
essential to having a democracy - that the First Amendment protects:

"Congress will make no law...abridging the freedom of speech or of the
press; of the right of the people to peacefully assemble and to petition
the Government for a redress of grievances."

House raids before the RNC resulted in preemptive arrests of people who
had committed no crimes and had no weapons of any kind. Ordinary household
items found in any garage, basement or under the kitchen sink have been
imbued with menace by law enforcement. Consider it the domestic version of
Iraq's non-existent WMDs.

However, computers, cell phones, address books and political literature
were seized - which may well have been much of the real point of the
raids.

Journalists - especially video-graphers and independent media - were
targeted by police, before and during the RNC, with their equipment
confiscated by police. Corporate media showed little shock about this
(when they bothered to report the targeting of journalists at all).
Independent journalist and Pacifica Radio's Amy Goodman, host of Democracy
NOW! asked Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, "How do journalists avoid
arrest?"  Fletcher replied, "Journalists should embed with police".
Goodman was arrested along with two of her producers and I-Witness
independent journalists and video-graphers who regularly contribute to the
program.

Numbers of journalists arrested have varied from 21 to over 40. From
Goodman to an Associated Press photographer to Indy-Media journalists. I
have no way to verify the numbers at this time and the charges they faced
were "failure to obey a poice order" to "inciting to riot" to being
released without charges.

FOX Television had an embedded reporter, Minnesota Public Radio had one
and the Minneapolis Star Tribune had two embedded reporters.  Corporate
journalists have been embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq and
Afghanistan, with the predictable results of reporting that amounts to PR
for the American occupation and not reporting war crimes or the reality
for the people being occupied. Much the same proved to be true here on the
home-front as corporate media simply repeated (without investigation)
law enforcement's hyped-up "anarchists are threats to public safety and
security". Much more needs to be said about the Corporate media's role in
the RNC but, that requires a future essay.

Did the anarchists have what some might consider "heated rhetoric"?
Perhaps. Their aim was to "shut down the RNC". But. for all who protested
this coronation of power-without-accountability, "no business as usual"
was to one degree or another the aim. The American people often seem numb
or disconnected to the realities of U.S. policies abroad and at home. The
slaughter of Iraqis is rarely mentioned. Poor people at home at invisible
- or demonized. Corporate subsidies and bailouts plunder the economy while
human needs are annual cut. CEOS make millions a year while ordinary
workers run in-place and unions continue to be under attack. The impacts
of global warming are getting worse faster than originally predicted while
government refuses to act. With blood and billions of public dollars, the
few enrich themselves at the expense of all the rest of us and with the
last two presidential elections stolen, a far more direct expression of
democracy is critical.

Non-violent civil disobedience was planned, at most, to block Republican
delegates buses from getting to the Xcel Center easily.  A group of Iraq
Veterans Against the War members were denied even a few moments to present
their petition to John McCain - who trots out his experience as a Vietnam
veteran and POW in every speech and interview he gives. It was no surprise
that the Poor People's Campaign for Economic Human Rights had their
"Bushville" tent city on Harriet Island was violently raided by police and
their peaceful march on Day Two was an escalation of unprovoked police
violence, that continued through the final evening of protests.

We The People wanted to be heard and we were met by increasing levels of
violence throughout the RNC.

One of the homes raided in the weekend before the RNC was occupied by
members of the group Food Not Bombs, who has long been targeted by police
in cities across the country for feeding homeless people in public parks
and who planned to provide food for the hundreds of young out-fo-town
protesters.

Is feeding people for free now considered "giving aid and support to
terrorism"?

Medics - who were clearly identifiable as such - were targeted for arrest.
Is providing first aid now a crime?

Video cameras and cell phones were confiscated by police. What was it
police did not want documented and revealed to the public? Could it be
that the videotape of Los Angeles police beating a subdued Rodney King
echoed in the governmental memory?

As a longtime activist who's worked on police accountability and a
journalist who's reported on police brutality for 30 years, I don't have
any illusions about who the police actually "protest and serve" that most
white, middle-class Americans have.  But, what I saw at the RNC was cops
that looked like soldiers.

The process to "militarize" local police forces began in the early 1970s,
with the creation of a SWAT unit in Los Angeles (which means Special
Weapons And Tactics) who were trained by the Army's Special Forces. That
process has continued ever since with the Pentagon sharing weaponry and
obvious military hardware like armored personnel vehicles. After the RNC,
training in military tactics to be used by police against American
civilians appears to be far more extensive than was understood.

Authority over the Twin Cities local law enforcement was given to the
Department of Homeland Security and the FBI by the Minneapolis and St.
Paul Mayors and City Councils, who are still congratulating themselves on
"police restraint" and "how well the convention went".

But, I wonder how many people will NOT show up at the next protest because
they are afraid. I fear the impact on democracy the heightened
surveillance of progressive dissidents will have.

Finally. I wonder how many of my fellow Americans give a damn about what
happened here in St. Paul or are they too busy being enthralled by
American Idol and the start of football season.

Lydia Howell is a Minneapolis independent journalist, winner of the 2007
Premack Award for Public Interest Journalism. She is also producre/host of
Catalyst:politics and culture on KFAI Radio: http://www.kfai.org


--------3 of 4--------

Day by day eyewitness account of the RNC protests
Steve Clemens (MN Peace Team member)


I'd encourage those who only saw "mainstream" coverage to be sure to check
out what I found to be the best local coverage of the events on the street
of the week of the RNC at www.minnesotaindependent.com/category/RNC (go to
the dates 8/31 to 9/5)  and www.theuptake.org . (Much of the video here is
"raw", unedited but it captures people speaking for themselves rather than
mediated by "the media". - Steve Clemens

(This is not meant to be a comprehensive report - just my own personal
experiences during the week of the RNC.)

"You're hot, you're cute, take off your riot suit" was the best chant I
heard as demonstrators sitting in the street confronted the
"ninja-turtle"-clad riot police who had surrounded the group. I myself got
caught up in calling the heavily armored-up police in the black padded
costumes that included gas masks, long wooden batons, helmets and clear
visors that name from the TV show of the early 90's. They were everywhere.

Having a retired Chief-of-Police for a brother-in-law, I know first-hand
the friendship and value of many of the "men and women in blue".
Virtually all the cops I talked to who were not "turtled-up" in the riot
gear were friendly to me as I greeted them in the streets wearing my
lime-green vest with Mn Peace Team emblazoned on the front and back. (We
also wore bright yellow hats so we could find each other in crowds.)
However, when the turtle costumes were donned, many of the cops took on a
different demeanor.

When the face shields were lowered, any semblance of their common humanity
with us seemed to fade away. Verbal communication with most ceased
entirely. Force and intimidation became the tactic de-jour rather than
friendly "community policing".

****PREPARING THE PEACE TEAM****

Our job as newly trained (and very inexperienced) Mn Peace Team members
was to remind those we encountered - police, protesters,
counter-protesters, and bystanders - of the humanity and inherent worth of
each other. It was our goal to attempt to de-escalate situations where
others were likely to be physically hurt.

When you put on the Mn Peace Team vest, you are taking on a role as a
non-partisan. In that role, we were going to try to protect demonstrator,
counter-demonstrator, police, and bystander alike.  Normally, training for
this type of role should take days - if not weeks - with lots of
role-playing and learning to make quick decisions as a team. Hopefully,
trust can be built between members because one's own safety might depend
on them - especially in the chaos and confusion engendered by mass marches
with people angry with those in authority. Anyone with an ounce of common
sense knew there would be heated confrontations when the Republican Party
decided to hold their national convention in the Twin Cites, a stronghold
of Democrats, liberals, and progressives.

With the notable exception of Congressman Ron Paul, all the candidates
vying for their Party's nomination supported the on-going war in Iraq and
boasted of varying strategies to "win" it. With large numbers of the
country now feeling the war was at best a mistake and at worst an illegal
act of aggression, the stage was set for massive protests when the start
of the convention was scheduled for Labor Day. It seemed only an "act of
God" might intervene. (Hurricane Gustav did in fact limit the first day of
the convention, giving the President and the Vice-President "cover" for
not appearing - to the relief of some of the delegates who wanted an
unpopular President to fade from view.)

                          Initial training

Only 3 months before the start of the Convention, Peter Dougherty, a
Catholic Priest and member of the Michigan Peace Team, came to the
bi-monthly meeting of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers - a collective
of more than 70 Twin Cities area peace and justice organizations. He
described how the Michigan Peace Team over the past 17 years has tried to
serve as a non-partisan presence in public situations where conflict might
ensue - be it at a Klan rally, a state execution, mass marches or
demonstrations where counter-demonstrators were likely to be present, or
to protect human and civil rights workers. He appeared to be in his 70's
but with a fire in his eyes and a warm smile on his face. He thought that
it would be a good idea for us to consider forming our own team to respond
to the needs when the Republican National Convention came to town on Labor
Day.

A couple of the MAP members travelled to Detroit to be trained by the
Nonviolent Peaceforce and Michigan Peace Team over a period of several
days and then returned to help train local volunteers for four consecutive
weekends. The goal was to try to have 100 local people trained before the
RNC so we could field numerous affinity groups for the many marches and
other activities scheduled for the first week in September. Bright
lime-green vests were ordered and we were told in the training that we
might want to bring bandanas soaked in vinegar or lemon juice and goggles
in case we were in situations where tear gas was used.

We did numerous role-plays and "hassle-lines" during the 10 hours of
training. It was stressed that it was not our job to try to prevent civil
disobedience or even heated verbal exchanges - just intervene if it
appeared someone was in physical danger of being hurt. We discussed our
own personal feelings about whether property destruction was "violent" and
noted that people's reaction to property destruction was often highly
charged so we must be especially vigilant at those times.  Although most
of those trained had participated in nonviolent marches or demonstrations
in the past, we were especially reminded of our non-partisan function when
we donned the vests.

                 ****The Weekend Before the RNC *****

We heard word on Saturday morning that police, led by Ramsey County
Sheriff Bob Fletcher, had raided the "Convergence Center", the
coordinating place for the "Welcoming Committee" and other anti-war
groups on Friday night. Raids continued on Saturday morning and
afternoon, this time targeting homes in Minneapolis and St. Paul where 7
or 8 people were arrested and the media claimed they would be charged
with "conspiracy to riot". The sheriff claimed to have found knives,
buckets of urine, axes and machetes, bomb-making materials, and maps and
anti-war materials which proved these culprits were serious
troublemakers. The term anarchist was bandied about - labeling all
protestors into this "troubling" term that apparently was designed to
invoke concepts of "terrorism". By calling someone or a group
"anarchist", one could dismiss them as crazy, violent, destructive youth
bent on raising hell and threatening "the peace".

Caught up in one of the raids was a group of journalists so it became
clear that the purpose of the raids was primarily to intimidate and send
a message rather than to effectively protect the city and its citizens.
The journalists targeted happened to be a group that had documented
police excesses in New York City during the 2004 RNC that cost the city
millions in lawsuits against the police over-reaction to protestors
there. Their equipment was seized. The fear and intimidation that spread
was palpable.

I got a call on Saturday from two friends from Chicago who said they would
probably contact me when they were in town. However, when the call came,
it was to ask Christine and me for hospitality since the "Food not Bombs"
house they were staying at in Minneapolis had been raided that morning.
They had been handcuffed and ordered to lie on the floor for a couple of
hours before being released. We told them we'd be glad to have them stay
with us since we knew both to be principled activists even though others
might label them as "anarchists". Would our home be raided for merely
providing Christian hospitality?

                    *****THE DAY BEFORE the RNC***

Before the decision to form the Peace Team, I had already decided I
would join my friend from Veterans for Peace, Dr. David Harris, in a
solemn march to the site of the Convention on the day before it started
- focusing on the victims of the war from both sides. We planned to
carry tombstone replicas with photos of Iraqi civilians or US soldiers
killed during the war. David also wanted to provide an opportunity for
those who might wish to commit civil disobedience to try to carry our
message into the Xcel Center itself rather than turn around at the
designated area for the march.

As we gathered at the State Capitol prior to the march, I was pleased to
see at least two groupings of the bright Mn Peace Team vests with yellow
hats. I went over and greeted the Team members for that day and one team
leader asked about any plans for civil disobedience so they would know
where to place themselves in case it provoked a violent response on the
part of police or counter-demonstrators. I told him what I knew and told
them I was glad they were present. (I've told the story of the arrest in
another report.)

Sunday evening after I returned home from worship, I was surprised to
discover that we had another 6 houseguests. Four young women and two
young men from Bash Back, a queer anarchist group in Chicago and friends
of one of our other guests had arrived!

                 ***DAY ONE OF THE RNC;LABOR DAY****

Monday, Labor Day, was to mark the start of the Republican National
Convention and was the date planned more than a year before for a large
coalition of anti-war groups to march. March planners hoped for a turnout
of 50,000 protestors. Close to 40 people gathered in the basement of a St.
Paul Lutheran Church that would serve as the "command post" for the Mn
Peace Team. After introductions, we were asked to divide ourselves into
groups of 5-6 depending on how willing we were to "risk arrest". The
thinking was that potential arrests were more likely to occur closer to
the triangle area near the Xcel Center, the turn-around area designated
for the marches. Since it was only several hundred feet from the building
where the delegates were meeting, it was assumed that more civil
disobedience or other disturbances would more likely occur there.

Some members wanted to be on teams with others they knew. As the groups
formed, introductions continued and we discussed health concerns, things
that might "trigger" strong reactions within us, our gifts/strengths
that we brought to the Team, and other information the affinity group
might need to know since we would need to depend on and support one
another. We wrote down cell phone numbers for each other, for our
Coordinators for the day, for a local lawyer and for the street medics.
Some who were experienced with mass protests wrote the legal
collective's phone number on their arm with a marker in the event of an
arrest and our phones were taken from us.

We were told that the coalition that organized this large march did not
want the Mn Peace Team either in their gathering at the State Capitol or
during the march since they had trained their own marshals. So we
decided our presence would be on the sidelines, looking for any
incidents where we might be needed. Teams were stationed at various
areas of the march.

I joined an affinity group with my fellow Pax Christi Board Member,
Scott, two friends from the Nonviolent Peaceforce, a Quaker who had
previously met Scott, and a volunteer who offered to take pictures of
the Peace Team in action. Karen was going to start with our Team and
then switch to another later in the day.  An affinity group is to make
decisions by consensus and we decided to go first to the Capitol grounds
where the rally would be held and then walk the march route before it
began - looking for any potential bottlenecks or areas where conflict
might more readily arise.

In walking the  mile march route, we noticed how "caged-in" the last
section of the route appeared - especially the triangle-shaped turn around
where protestors would be walking in what looked like a 10' wide cattle
chute. Counter protestors would be stationed on one side of the 8' high
metal fences as the marchers were closest to the Convention site. About
15-20 of the counter-protestors had started to gather so we talked with
them, explaining our presence as non-partisans. We also made a point of
talking to the many police present.

Before the march started, there was a mixture of police in their own
uniforms and I was able to identify some from Hennepin County, Ramsey
County, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Edina, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka,
Arlington, VA, and numerous other locations. Almost without exception,
we were greeted courteously when the cops were in uniform but those who
appeared in the black riot armor ("turtled-up") rarely would return eye
contact or speak to us when their face shields were in place.

Since another affinity group planned to station itself close to the
triangle, we decided to be near the area where the march turned on to
7th Street so we could look down both Wabasha St. and West 7th. We would
be one block from the beginning of the restricted or "exclusion" zone
that formed the security perimeter around the convention area.

We decided to eat our lunch since the actual march wasn't to begin until
1PM but a phone call from the Team Coordinators for the day told us an
"unpermitted march" had begun an hour before the agreed start time and
was headed our way. As we scrambled to re-group, we saw groups of the
black-clad riot police running towards the east. Because this was likely
to be an area of conflict, we hurried as well to monitor what was
happening.

Many of the young "anarchists" were also dressed in black but without the
riot equipment and padded vests, shin guards, knee protectors, and tasers,
guns, or other weapons carried by their "adversaries", the police.
Bandanas over their nose and mouth were more likely to be employed. A
young man in his late teens would run into an intersection of the downtown
street and shake the bells he had on a stick as the signal to gather.
Others came into the intersection from all directions and danced and sang
and then taunted the police who came running after this "illegal" "march
or demonstration". As a phalanx of the riot police marched together to
seal off one street after another - often donning tear gas masks in case
the order was given by the unit commander, the "anarchist" kids would
disappear leaving the intersection to the media who was trying to "cover"
the action. Then the process would repeat itself a block or two away in a
game of cat and mouse.

So, for a full hour prior to the scheduled march, some of the police
were otherwise occupied. From my limited position (not seeing all the
provocation nor all the response), our team commented to each other a
pleasant surprise about how patient and restrained the police response
to these provocations was. While saying that, it also appeared to me
that the enormous police presence in the downtown march area -
especially the increasing numbers of the "ninja turtles" seemed to also
send a message of intimidation to any "protestors". There certainly did
not appear to be a welcoming presence for those who wished to exercise
their freedom of speech rights with the large police presence and the
cage effect of the steel fence barricades.

Soon after 1PM, the first signs of the large anti-war coalition march were
evident. Streams of people with signs, banners, T-shirts with slogans,
filled the streets. Riot police took up positions which blocked Wabasha
Street beyond the intersection with 7th forcing the marchers to stay on
route. I can imagine what a frightening sight those up-armored cops must
have been for some of the young children or first-time protestors in the
march! The Peace Team chatted with bystanders as we watched in both
directions for any signs of conflict.  About halfway through the march we
noticed that the black-clad riot police had sealed off even the sidewalks
so that people wishing to leave the march or bystanders could not go
further into the downtown area. A number of people complained bitterly and
I could see the tension mounting against what appeared to be a
heavy-handed police over-reaction.

The march lasted close to two hours and our instructions were to follow
the end of it back to the State Capitol. As we followed the crowd up Cedar
Street, we noticed the "ninja turtles" marching behind us. As soon as we
crossed the bridge over the interstate highway, the riot cops sealed off
the bridge and refused to allow anyone back into the downtown area. There
was a Labor Day Picnic being held on the far side of downtown with some
well-known musicians and other speakers and many march participants were
eager to get to the site on Harriet Island. Despite their pleas, the
police refused entry toward that site for close to two hours. Even a
Minnesota Public Radio journalist was prevented from walking to her studio
and office even though it was in sight of the blocked intersection.

A man in a wheelchair who wore a photo id around his neck that said
Chaplain on one side and Catholic Charities on the other appeared and was
verbally harassing and goading the "liberal" demonstrators. While he was
yelling at any "anti-war protestors" who were foolish enough to engage
him, another man verbally taunted the cops, claiming that they had
illegally seized some of his equipment (it appeared to be his camera) so
after yelling at them for more than 30 minutes, he spread his arms wide
and told them to - "shoot me, you mother *&#^%ers". Our Peace Team had to
remain alert, ready to intervene as the tension ratcheted up.

Finally, without explanation, the cops lifted their blockade after two
hours. Mentally and physically spent, our affinity called in to the church
and requested to be picked up for a ride back to the church. When we
arrived at the church, we were told that while we were prevented from
being downtown some of "the anarchist" groups had broken a Macy's window
and several windows in cop cars as the police again chased them through
the area. Considering all the destructive power of war that people were
protesting, it seemed pretty minor damage compared to the overwhelming
police presence. But we also knew that the "mainstream media" would choose
to focus on the very few "troublemakers" and ignore the more than 10,000
peaceful protestors.

After a late supper, I went to bed, planning to take the next morning
"off" from the Peace Team in order to attend the Peace Island Conference
designed to highlight solutions to our global and local problems rather
than just protest. I had earlier volunteered to help with the early
registration and then I'd attend the morning session, helping with the
Peace Team after lunch.

                          ***DAY TWO OF THE RNC***

At 7AM I received a call from a close friend. She told me her son and 2
nephews went to the big march the day before and had then headed toward
the Labor Day picnic at Harriet Island. Because police had shut down the
bridge over the river, the three young men (two were high school seniors
and the other a little older) went down to Shepherd Road to see if there
was another way across to the island. My friend was trying to keep from
tears as she said, "the police surrounded them and both of my nephews were
arrested and charged with felonies for 'conspiracy to riot' because they
carried masks in case tear gas was fired." After I recommended the names
of some friends who were lawyers and offers to "see what I could find
out", I learned that more than 100 young people had been swept up and
arrested in this incident.

Listening to the radio on the way to St. Paul, I found it hard to
concentrate on Peace Island and was relieved when I discovered that my
help wasn't needed at registration. I called right away to the Peace Team
gathering at the church and asked if they could use me for the morning as
well as the afternoon. They assured me that I could join one of the
affinity groups about to form. I wanted to try to protect some of the
young people from what was more clearly becoming police over-reaction and
intimidation of peaceful protest.

I arrived at the church after the day's orientation had begun. I stated a
preference to help with the march the Somali group would begin at noon
rather than the Poor People's March at 4 because I still naively thought I
could attend at least the evening sessions of Peace Island. The affinity
group I joined hoped to be finished by 5, debriefed by 6 PM and then I'd
be free to leave.

When we arrived at the State Capitol grounds where the march was scheduled
to begin, there were no Somalis to be seen. "Ripple Effect", a
non-partisan music festival was getting ready to start, a sustainable
ecology exhibit was set up on one side and the other side flanking the
concert area contained the Quaker-sponsored "Eyes Wide Open" display of
empty pairs of combat boots lined in rows by states with the names of the
dead US Troops attached. Separately was also a display of empty "civilian"
shoes - men, women, and children's - to mark the untold Iraqi deaths from
this war.

Finally, about  hour after I thought the march was supposed to begin, I
noticed three Somali men so I approached them, introducing myself and my
role as a Peace Team member, and asked if they were here for the Somali
march.  They smiled and said yes. I was told they were waiting for more of
their friends who were "on the way" and the march would begin about 1PM.
At 1, with only 6 men and one woman, they said we'd wait a little longer.
Finally, the one who appeared to be the leader went on the Ripple Effect
stage and welcomed anyone else here who wanted to join them in protesting
US support of the conflict.

When we arrived at the State Capitol grounds where the march was scheduled
to begin, there were no Somalis to be seen. "Ripple Effect", a
non-partisan music festival was getting ready to start, a sustainable
ecology exhibit was set up on one side and the other side flanking the
concert area contained the Quaker-sponsored "Eyes Wide Open" display of
empty pairs of combat boots lined in rows by states with the names of the
dead US Troops attached. Separately was also a display of empty "civilian"
shoesort for the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia. So few American citizens
know about the US role in the politics in the Horn of East Africa but
several young people joined making the march about 20-25 people with our
five person Peace Team walking alongside them in the event of any threats.

The police presence in the downtown area looked completely different than
the day before. It was hard to spot a "ninja turtle"-clad officer. The few
cops we saw were in their uniforms with the city name and badge number
visible. Downtown was much busier - it being a regular work day rather
than the holiday we experienced the day before. The group chanted "We want
peace!" "End the genocide in Somalia". "Ethiopia out of Somalia."  "End US
support of warlords!"

When the small marching contingent arrived at the triangular area closest
to the Xcel Center, we discovered along with the marchers that not only
was there no turn-around like the previous day but the police escort also
ended. As marchers tried to return the way they came, they had to dodge
cars at the intersections and none of the police gave any directions where
to go so the group had to return on the sidewalk along Minnesota Street
rather than march against the one-way traffic facing the marchers on
Cedar.

Up until this point the march was uneventful with 3 of the Peace Team
close to the front of the march and the other two by the rear. As we
crossed Twelfth Street, a van making a left hand turn barely missed one of
our Team members and immediately close to 20-30 police arrived on the
scene grabbing two people from the end of the march rather than stopping
the driver of the van.

Both people who were grabbed were dressed in typical "anarchist" style and
the cops quickly had them in custody. I noticed the commotion and rushed
back to the intersection but the police would not let me cross over to the
side where the two were being held. One of our Team Members had remained
on that side and together all the Team Members carefully watched the cops'
behavior. After we informed the police that these young people had been
invited to be part of the march by the Somali group (and, I think because
we were watching closely), they released the two after about 15 minutes.
We escorted them along with the three "street medic" friends who came by
to be sure the cops didn't follow them until they had returned to the
Capitol.

We passed the word to the Team scheduled to be present with the Poor
People's March later in the day that the "return" after the march might
not be part of the permit and might be "on your own" - prophetic words
indeed. Our Team remained on the Capitol grounds occasionally checking out
disturbances when the police would rush in to "search" someone's backpack.
In talking to several police officers who walked by, we discovered most
had no idea what the Mn Peace Team was but many expressed gratitude for
what we were about.

Several police officers had visceral reactions to the language some of the
musicians used from the Ripple Effect stage. Some of the performers
practiced a liberal amount of the F-word but what seemed to make some of
the cops more nervous was when the word "riot" was thrown out several
times. There seemed to be some dissonance between the hip-hop style of
some performers and the overwhelmingly white cops. We suspected trouble
might ensue when we heard the rumor that Rage Against the Machine, a
popular band with the anarchist crowd might show up to play. The rumor
also said that if they came, the police planned to shut off the sound -
thus provoking a confrontation.

5 o'clock came around and two of the team chose to remain at the Capitol,
joining another affinity team continuing its presence there. Three of us
rode back to the church and rather than debrief, Katherine chose to
quickly orient a new group of volunteer Peace Team members so they could
return to the Capitol. I grabbed some supper at a nearby restaurant and
just before heading over to Peace Island, I received a phone call
informing me that fellow MnPT member, David Harris, had been
pepper-sprayed by the police and might need some assistance getting home
to Red Wing. I called Sue who was the support person at the church and she
said David was OK to drive. Just before the 7PM session of Peace Island
was to begin, I got another call that things were indeed heating up at the
Capitol. When Rage Against the Machine showed up 15 minutes before the
scheduled end of the concert, the police cut off the sound and the crowd
was very displeased. If the cops wanted to ramp down a sense of
confrontation, a compromise probably could have been reached. But it
seemed to some of the Team members that they instead wished to provoke a
confrontation.

I asked Chris, one of the day's coordinators if she'd like me to return to
duty and she said yes - if I could get there quickly. I had to return
first to the church to get my green vest so other Team members could
readily find me in the crowd. By the time I reached the Capitol grounds,
virtually the entire crowd had marched downtown with the Poor People's
March that had come by right after the sound was cut off. Even though most
of the crowd left, I saw three phalanxes of riot police marching toward
the capitol and it appeared they were about to sweep the Capitol grounds.
So I phoned in my situation and asked permission to stay and observe.
After about 15 tense minutes, the "turtles" started to stand down. Some
were removing their helmets and face shields and other were packing up
their armored gear. After two of the units left and only one was
remaining, I again called in and told the Team coordinators that I would
try to join them on the march where once again things were heating up.

With no permitted return route for the Poor People's March, confrontations
were building near the triangle area. I can't report first-hand what
happened there although my frequent calls to Chris gave me some updates. I
was physically prevented from joining the other affinity groups by a row
of "turtled-up" cops who lined themselves across 7th Street. I could see a
lot of commotion by Mickey's Diner at the corner of 7th and St. Peter but
then the cops pushed everyone back to the intersection at Wabasha. I noted
that all the cops had put on their gas masks so I warned other bystanders
and news crews that they should prepare for the use of tear gas. [An
aside: are you aware that the use of tear gas is expressly forbidden by
the International Treaty against the use of chemical weapons?]

The critical thing to do when facing tear gas is to try to prevent panic.
Many of the people near the intersection didn't stay around to experience
it. Without prior verbal warning, I heard several loud bangs (police
percussion bombs), flashes, and then saw a cloud of tear gas headed my
way. I had already put on my safety goggles and had a bandana soaked in
lemon juice over my nose and mouth. It still burned and my eyes teared up
but I was able to help look out for others. Some in the crowd started
yelling obscenities at the cops for using the tear gas. If anything, it
seemed to harden the resolve of those who remained rather than intimidate
them - clearly its purpose.

Soon after that first use of tear gas, about 30 St. Paul cops on bikes
with gas masks in place rode through the intersection and up Wabasha in
what looked like a flanking maneuver. I called to check on my teammates
and give them an update.

After the cops had forced any remaining demonstrators, media, Peace Team
members, and bystanders behind their lines up St. Peter Street, it seemed
they were going to try to box them in and drive them out of downtown
through flanking maneuvers. For reasons unclear to me, they let several of
us through their lines so I was able to join up with the other remaining
Peace Team affinity groups. Even though I may have been in greater danger,
I felt relief at being able to re-join them. Rather than being alone, I
knew my Peace Teammates would work to protect one another.

Once again, the police started moving up the street with batons in front,
gas masks on, yelling, "Move! Move! Move!" The only direction we could go
was to the north, towards the bridge over the freeway. By now only about
50 or so remained but others had just come. Several people lived downtown
or had cars parked there and their anger was building that there were no
streets open to get there. Finally, Chris and Demi, our Team Coordinators
approached the front of the turtled-phalanx and asked the police if there
was any way these bystanders could get through their blockade. The police
responded that until the intersection and street was cleared of everyone,
they wouldn't re-open it. When the Peace Team coordinators told the crowd
what the police had said, some left.

After another 15 minutes or so, I noticed a change. Four riot-clad police
had removed their helmets, handed off their batons, and slowly started
towards us. They pointed at Chris and me with our bright green vests and
signaled with their hands for us to approach. They told me, "Look, we're
all tired and we'd like to leave. But we can't leave until this
intersection is cleared. If you clear this intersection, our men will
disburse and the street can be re-opened."

I responded that it was not our role to tell people what to do but we
would certainly convey their message to those remaining. I thanked them
for their clear communication because it seemed to me one of the biggest
frustrations was the lack of clear instructions that might lessen the
tension and conflict. In a loud voice so as to be heard, I told the
bystanders and remaining others, "We don't work for the cops. But this is
what they said." And then I went on to tell them and then said it is your
choice to stay or go across that bridge. If you stay, there may be other
consequences. Several in the crowd felt the need to yell at the cops as
they turned to go but clearly the crowd was emotionally spent and
physically tired, as were the police. We walked off with the remaining
crowd and the cops stood down.

It appeared to me that finally the cops realized the role our Team could
play in de-escalating the conflict. However, if the police had arrested
folk for refusing to leave rather than try to intimidate through the use
of the chemical weapons, I believe it could have been resolved much
earlier.

It was at this point that I came to the conclusion that the preferred
method was intimidation rather than law enforcement. That has left a
bitter taste in my mouth (and caused my eyes to water).

At the debriefing at the church, Peter, the one with the most experience
with this work, having co-founded the Michigan Peace Team, exclaimed, "We
did some good work today. I think we saved lives or at least helped
protect others from serious injury. I'm really proud of the work you've
done here with so little training." Despite what we did right, there were
also plenty of suggestions of what we might have done differently. I
missed having David, Katherine, and Don at the debriefing - two were at
home recovering from pepper spray and tear gas and the other had just
gotten out of the decontamination unit at the hospital - she had been
pepper sprayed while trying to protect a bystander wearing a McCain for
President button.

Because many members of the Team did not get back to the church for
debriefing until after 10PM, we decided to wait until 10AM the next two
days before starting to form our affinity groups for those days.
Arriving home at 11:30 PM, I needed some time to decompress from the day
and take a shower to wash the tear gas from my hair before climbing into
bed.

                       ***DAY THREE OF THE RNC***

I took Wednesday off in order to attend Peace Island. It was a welcome
change of pace listening to Ray McGovern, Mel Duncan, Coleen Rowley, Kathy
Kelly, Sami Rasouli, Ann Wright, and Doug Johnson. Despite the wonderful
input, I felt stressed knowing that the Peace Team was in the field. I
decided I needed to rest that evening to prepare for the "final" day on
Thursday so I skipped the evening speakers to have decompression time.

                        ***DAY FOUR OF THE RNC****

The final day of the RNC promised to be the most challenging because of
the nature of the last of the permitted marches. The Anti-War Committee
and some other local groups decided to call the scheduled 4PM-9PM rally
and March "No Peace To For the Warmakers!" It was widely bandied about
that this was the time for disrupting traffic, closing down bridges and
streets, some expressions of "direct action" and other forms of civil (and
maybe some not-so-civil) disobedience. It was the night when John McCain
would accept his party's nomination for President.

The day's events were to begin with a called student strike where students
were encouraged to walk out of classes and school at noon and gather at
the State Capitol grounds with a permitted march at 2 PM. The coordinating
group, Youth Against War and Racism, has been active for several years in
the high schools and colleges in the area. The Mn Peace Team was concerned
about the permits not having a return route and what to do about angry
students left to fend for themselves downtown. Someone in the group came
up with a creative solution: might we not encourage the group's leaders to
lead all the marchers across the Wabasha Bridge and join the Peace Island
picnic at Harriet Island? That way they would be out of downtown, be able
to get a free meal, and have other, older mentors who have been working
for peace for decades to relate to.

Colleen Rowley, the planner of the picnic readily agreed to invite the
young people to join her, the YAWR leaders thought it was a good idea,
and finally the police agreed to change the march route to accommodate
it. It appeared to be a win-win-win solution. Our affinity team for the
day decided we would accompany the youth through downtown and be sure
they were on the bridge before returning to the Capitol. With the next
march to begin at 4, we wanted to be in place ahead of time because this
might be the last chance for some to express themselves while the
Republican politicians were still in town.

Our team stopped for a water break outside the downtown Presbyterian
Church that had remained open from 8-8 every day for prayer and meditation
during the RNC. As we rested, one of the team members approached a
Sergeant from the St. Paul Police to ask her to clarify the march plans.
Rumors were flying about that it was to start at 3 instead of 4. The
Sergeant told us that the official permit was from 3-5 and everything had
to be "done" by 5 because the streets would be closed at that point. Many
local businesses and downtown offices were closing early so their workers
could leave.

When we called into the Team Coordinators, we knew different messages were
being given. They had been told the march just had to begin before 5 PM.
In talking to other police around the Capitol grounds, we were told all
permits had been pulled and no permitted march would be allowed. A couple
of Peace Team members talked with the March organizers, asking them to
announce from the stage what was happening so folks could decide to risk
arrest and/or tear gassing by marching.

Instead, what was announced from the stage was that "as long as we start
by 5, we can march on the sidewalks. This was a different message than
what we had received from some of the police.

Tensions were already high when police rushed into the crowd to detain two
people they claimed were wanted for breaking windows downtown on Monday.
As the police dragged the two away, the crowd surged after them yelling,
"Let them go!"

Quickly a phalanx of St. Paul Police on bicycles arrived to block the
crowd. Then the horse-mounted squad arrived - with gas masks in place.
Peace Team members tried to place themselves between the crowd and the
horses, warning the crowd that tear gas might be used. After a few minutes
standoff, Phil and Demi, our Peace Team coordinators for the day,
approached and asked who was in charge. After they talked with the
commander of the horse unit, the horses and their riders left and the
crowd disbursed to listen to the speakers and musicians up on the stage.

Peace Team members gathered as the time approached the 5 PM deadline and
it was decided that we should at least warn those in the crowd that the
police had announced to us that there was no permit to march and that
arrest and/or tear gassing was likely. Since the crowd was several hundred
- mostly young people - we especially didn't want panic to set in and have
people trampled. I especially sought out several people in the crowd who I
knew and trusted to make sure they had what information we had so they
could spread the word. I knew some would march anyway because of their
strong feeling about the war and the repression of free speech. It was
clear to me that some would march and that "permits" were just another way
authorities tried to squelch their rights.

A few minutes before 5, the crowd headed down the hill toward the bridges
leading to downtown. Phalanxes of riot police were seemingly on all sides
and one unit had blocked access to the Cedar St. Bridge and also the
Wabasha Bridge. So the crowd surged up 12th Street and began marching down
the John Ireland Bridge with police in pursuit.

One member of our affinity group of six had told us that she wasn't
willing to risk arrest because she had plans that couldn't be changed for
the end of the week. We told her we'd respect that choice and try to place
her in a less vulnerable position. She chose to leave and go to a safer
place about  hour later. This was certainly a challenging assignment for
someone's first time in this role and I respected her decision and
appreciated her honesty.

For the next hour, we stayed on the edges of the main protest group,
attempting to communicate with the growing crowd of bystanders and
supporters as the main group was blockaded on the John Ireland Bridge with
snow plows in place to keep protesters from getting too close to the Xcel
Center where McCain was to speak. Other members of our team joined other
affinity teams at the front of the main group - interposing themselves
between the police and the group. After a standoff during which police
gave several orders to disburse (or so we were told since we heard no
clear commands from any cops other than people could leave "to the north
(toward the State Capitol) or to the west (towards Sears)", it appeared
that the cops did not plan on arresting the protesters.

After a while, the main group of protestors rushed off the bridge and
across the Capitol grounds towards the Cedar St. bridge which was blocked
by police. About 20-30 of the group sat down and were arrested. Many
others remained there and were not arrested. Again, a standoff there
lasted for some time and again orders were given to disburse or "non
lethal chemical agents will be used". This order we did hear from the
police and the crowd disbursed. It seemed protestors were leaving in
several directions and what was left of our affinity group decided to call
it a day since it was getting dark and now after 8PM.

We walked to the Sears parking lot to get a ride back to the church with
members of another affinity group that was leaving. We knew at least one
or two affinity groups planned to stay longer in the area.

Just before getting into the car for the ride back, we saw cops, horses,
and squad cars racing down Marion Street toward the bridge across the
Interstate. We heard and saw percussion grenades, tear gas, and other
"crowd control [sic]" devices in the distance. Since the other teams were
in the vicinity, we decided not to stay and returned to the church. Later
we heard the police arrested everyone they had herded on to the bridge -
over 400, including journalists, legal observers, bystanders, and
protestErs. Was it because it was now dark that they decided now to arrest
folk?

                              CONCLUSIONS

I'd like to conclude this report with some of my observations: The
militarizing of the police was quite evident. These were no longer "Public
Safety Officers" or even "Law Enforcement Personnel".  Will we ever be
able to return to "community policing"? Will those who experienced the
"ninja Turtle" effect ever go to the cops when they feel they need help?
This experience gave me new insights into how many in the black community
often experience the police - as a threat rather than an asset.

This is a small taste of what it might feel like to be on the "receiving"
end of empire. I kept coming back to visions of Roman cohorts and
phalanxes when the cops moved in unison as units. I asked myself the
question: What did Jesus think when he saw the Roman soldiers in his
country? Maybe this was as close as Americans will get to remembering
viscerally that we are at war.

The most disturbing aspect was when the cops "armored-up" there was no
visible badge, no city ID, no personal accountability. (In debriefing on
the second night, Team members told of witnesses at Mickey's Diner telling
them they had captured pictures of what appeared to be a Minneapolis cop
repeatedly tasering and kicking in the head a guy already down on the
street. To the witnesses, it was a clear case of brutality but other cops
hustled off the cop before he could be identified. The concept of Free
Speech was lost to intimidation. The Free Speech area touted by the St.
Paul Mayor as a symbol of openness to protestors was a joke - it was
located within the highly militarized zone and anyone who feared they
might be tear gassed studiously avoided the area.  A friend of mine had
reserved a 45-minute spot at 12:30 PM Wednesday noon. He gave his talk to
an audience of 1!

It appeared that the media and "street medics" were lumped with "the
enemy" ("anarchists") - fit to be gassed, pepper-sprayed, and arrested
unless they were "embedded" with the police. (Again, just like in Iraq -
use the military model rather than a public safety model).  "If you are
not with us, you are against us" mentality. They must have learned this
well from the "Commander-in-Chief".

What happens to nonviolent civil disobedience if cops won't arrest you
but rather choose tear gas, pepper spray and brute force? Many times it
seemed the cops went out of their way NOT to arrest folk who clearly
wished to do civil disobedience. Was the decision to use mace/tear gas
and pepper spray a determination NOT to arrest people because so many of
the police were from out of town and/or out of state and it would be too
costly to have them return to testify at trials?

No one on the Team saw anyone throwing feces or urine at the cops -
despite the reports from the "mainstream media" and the Sheriff that it
was one of the reasons for the actions of the police. Later, in one
debrief, I heard someone say they saw a demonstrator pick up some "road
apples" dropped in the street by police horses and he rubbed it on a
police squad car as a form of his "political speech".

Why are delegates kept in a bubble from what is happening on the outside?
With the mainstream media's failure to cover most of what happened on the
streets (except for reports of "anarchists breaking windows and throwing
urine and feces"), the delegates were kept in the dark about the large
presence of people opposed to the war and their party's policies.

What we experienced was the demonization of dissent - if you can label
some as "anarchists", you can dismiss them. Many self-identified
anarchists are committed to principled nonviolence. There is a small group
of predominately younger people who do seem to have little regard for the
rights of others and seem to me to be fairly nihilist in their attitude
towards themselves and others. How much of this is brought about by the
present war and the fact that we are leaving the next generation with a
huge national debt, an environment under dire ecological crisis, and a
political system that is fully controlled by moneyed interests - I can't
say. But if I were younger, the anger at the way my generation has
squandered the world's resources on greed and war might find me looking
for other stronger ways to dissent. That said, I find that many of the
young anarchists seem to be very politically nave about the way property
violence plays into the political strategies of the war-making political
parties. What appears to some to be revolutionary merely is playing into
the schemes of the reactionaries.  And the masses of people between are
alienated rather than motivated to join the anti-war cause.

Throughout the week, it was rare when we heard any clear commands from the
police. If demands to disburse or warnings about the imminent use of tear
gas were clearly announced, many people who wanted to avoid this might
have been able to leave. Was the sense of chaos and confusion deliberate?
When peaceful dissent is thwarted, it is inevitable that other tactics
will be used by some.

On the other hand: Most cops - even ninja turtles - showed remarkable
restraint and patience after being taunted for hours - although some later
beat up one young man involved in the earlier taunting. Some cops readily
understood role of MnPT and thanked us for what we were trying to do.

                 Questions about the Peace Team

Does the Peace Team try to tamp down conflict or just prevent violence?
(ML King said we don't create the violence - it is already there. We allow
it to surface so it can be dealt with.) Can we take the violence on
ourselves and try to protect the more vulnerable? Does the violence expose
the real nature of EMPIRE? Do we try to lessen conflict to the point of
squelching dissent?

Is the Peace Team another form of privilege? (in wearing the distinctive
vests, are we trying to not be mistaken for "poor people" or
"anarchists"?

Some activists saw the Peace Team as "peace police". Some eschew any
conversation or communication with the cops. I think it is a political
mistake to automatically assume the cops are on "on the other side".
When David Harris was arrested the day before the RNC started, most of the
arresting officers treated him with respect because he, like many of them,
was a veteran. Although the police are charged with protecting the
property of the privileged class, we should not assume that is necessarily
their political choice.

Diversity training is needed for some of the Peace Team members -
especially in regards to those the media pejoratively labels as
"anarchists". One older team member kept referring to them as
"troublemakers" - a term I found as not very helpful. But, since this was
a first experience for many of them, I want to be gentle in my criticism.

We also need to discuss flexibility in affinity team make-up - how do you
decide to break up into smaller units? How do you deal realistically with
the fears of fellow team members and help them grow while it might place
limits on where that team can venture. Several times I held back from
"entering the fray" and remained on the periphery because I had
"partnered" with a team member who was less comfortable with the possible
"costs" for being closer to the front. Yet where we ended up also served a
valuable, if less dramatic, role in being present to bystanders.

This week proved to continually challenge my commitment to nonviolence (in
good ways), gave me new appreciation of the challenges police face, and
furthered my feelings that our nation needs a radical reawakening before
we lose our democracy. I hope we can all learn and grow from this
experience.


--------4 of 4--------

Q: How many rich people does it take to kick us in the teeth?
A: None - the cops gladly do it for them.


 Conspiracy to
 think is the new homeland crime
 of the century.


 Mainstream politics,
 like rain water, always finds
 the lowest level.


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