Monday, September 01, 2008

Marching on the RNC

Okay, let me say from the start that I’ve never quite understood why peace groups use a military term like “march” to describe a demonstration. If anything I walked, maybe even sauntered today as, with thousands of others, I made my way from the Minnesota State Capitol to the Excel Energy Center and back – protesting the policies of the Republican Party and, in particular, the war in Iraq.

As I’m sure you know, the Republican National Convention (RNC) kicked off today at the Excel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul – albeit in a scaled back version on account of Hurricane Gustav.

Estimates of the number of attendees range from 10,000 to 40,000. So depending on your feelings about such an event I guess you can take your pick! (isn't that how it usually works?) Regardless, it was one big crowd – with many groups, organizations, and issues being represented.

I especially appreciated the diverse contingents present - union folks, Hispanics, Hmong, Somalis, anarchists, soccer moms, even 9/11 conspiracy theorists - all united for one day to oppose the policies of the Bush regime, the candidacy of McCain/Palin, and the overall Republican Party platform.
(Of course, as could be expected with such a range of people, not all agreed on the same tactics. Although I didn’t witness it, a group of anarchists clashed with police - resulting in over 100 arrests.)

Along with this diversity what also impressed me was the wonderful creativity on display – a creativity I tried to capture in many of the photographs I took.

Above: The marriage of Mr. Bush and Miss McCain (with the Code Pink contingent in the background.)

Above: Mrs. Polar Bear pointing out her home threatened by global warming - the science of which some Republicans - including the vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin - deny.

Above: A young member of the Somali contingent which was not only calling for the end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq but the U.S.-sanctioned Ethiopian occupation of Somalia.

Above: Sang to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann.”

Above: And this is supposed to make us feel safer?

Above: A powerful reminder of what the U.S. president pledges to uphold and protect.

Above: Dick, George, Condi, and Rummy in chains and (hopefully) bound for the International Criminal Court.

Above: The route of the march brought us within 200 yards of the Excel Energy Center.

As we passed by the heavily fortified venue of the RNC I heard someone remark: “So this is what a fascist state looks like.”

Above: George W. Bush dragging a deposed Lady Liberty through the streets of St. Paul.

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Recommended Off-site Links:
10,000 Demonstrators Flood St. Paul; More Than 100 Arrested - Star Tribune, September 1, 2008.
Some Turn Violent in March to GOP Convention - Amy Forliti (Associated Press, September 1, 2008).
Dispatches from Day 1 of the RNC - Anna Pratt and Paul Demko (, September 1, 2008.
Only a Few Marchers Outside Convention Were Really Out of Step - Nick Coleman (Star Tribune, September 1, 2008).
Saving the GOP and the Unbearable Lightness of Being Sarah Palin - Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post, September 1, 2008).
Palin Renews McCain’s Maverick Image But is Clearly Unqualified - San Jose Mercury (August 30, 2008).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Saying “No” to Torture and the Republican Agenda
Walking for Peace, Witnessing Against War
Walking Against Weapons
Fasting, Praying, and Walking for Immigration Reform
General Strike for Peace
An Unholy Alliance in Iraq
Let’s Also Honor the “Expendables.”
A Reign of Ignorance and Fear in the U.S.
John Pilger on Resisting Empire
What the Republican Leadership and the Catholic Hierarchy Have in Common
In Search of a “Global Ethnic”

1 comment:

Mark Andrews said...

Peaceful protest is a right and necessity in a free society. The right to assemble peacefully and ask for redress of grievances has to be exercised almost continuously, at lesser and greater levels, if it is to be retained and respected.

That said, the minute some moron decides (having looked at the pictures of the march) to, say, bust a car window, or a department store window, then everyone's rights to peaceful and safe self-expression are endangered.

While there is a right to private property, even that right is relative and not absolute. Still, to take someone else's property (a car or store window) and turn it into a hazard or a weapon...sorry, anarchists, that's way we pay taxes for law enforcement for.

Police power is also not absolute and is subject to oversight. The police can only use the minimum force necessary to subdue someone causing trouble. The problem is that a very few people get out of hand and refuse to settle down when asked to do so. So then the level of force gets ratcheted up.

An aside: highly charged atmospheres can alter behavior, mind and mood as much as drugs can. And there is always the remote possibility that the violent minority is under the influence of some chemical, or suffers from mental illness. In fact, I just checked a study by the CDC and found that an meta-analysis of mental illness in several Western, industrialized nations says 20% of a population will have some diagnosable form of mental illness in a 12-month period. Let me be clear I am NOT saying people to protest are addicted or ill; I am speaking about the vastly small number of people who engage in violent acts. If there were 10,000 protesters in the Twin Cities and there were 100 arrests, thats just 1%. If there were 40,000 people protesting, than 100 arrests is only 1/4 of 1% Across a year's time that is not a big bump in the arrest statistics.

Geez, even the idea of anarchy is ruined when people use the label as an excuse to act like hooligans.