Saturday, September 06, 2008

Our streets

Our move-in day for our apartment in Minneapolis was September 1st, also Labor Day, also the first day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. While we were sweating up two flights of stairs, thousands of people were taking to the streets in St. Paul, some of them peaceful, some of them not. One of them was our friend, Zachary, who at least helped us with a few boxes before marching. What followed were clashes with the riot police who used hoses, tear gas, rubber bullets, and sometimes smoke bombs to try to disperse the crowds, and hundreds of arrests. While I can't agree with the protesters who were violent, broke windows, and threw things, many of the people arrested were just standing there. Some of them even had press credentials. The damn local news crew even got arrested. Luckily, Zachary avoided the bad stuff.

The protests continued throughout the convention, and on the fourth, the last day, Colin and I went to a rally that convened at the capitol building, and was supposed to continue as a march to the Excel Center where McCain would be giving his speech. The city had given the protesters a permit for the rally from four to five, but after that any action would be illegal and punishable by arrest. The rallies are always the worst part of a protest too, in my opinion. Really good speakers are rare, and propaganda abounds. At the capitol building, the riot police were ready with their billy clubs and zip-ties, on bike, on horseback, and on foot.

The trends in signs seemed to show an exasperation with the high volume of arrests.

The number of ironic signs was interesting. One read, "9 out of 10 killer robots vote Republican", another read, "What would Big-foot do". It's so hard for people of my generation to be sincere about anything. I've noticed it about myself, I've noticed it about Colin. He can't say "hilarious" without sounding sarcastic, and when you ask if he was being sarcastic, often he can't answer.

At 4:50, some kind of tank-like police vehicle drove on the lawn, interrupting the speeches to warn everyone that their right to protest would expire at five PM, after which the city would be forced to take legal action if they didn't go home. I didn't see anyone who seemed to be deterred, and we all proceeded on the march. After all, I think the marching is the fun part. We got until a bridge over I-94 when the mounted officers blocked our way downtown.

There were even snowplows prepared at the top of the hill. I've thought about it a lot, and even though the bill of rights gives us the right to free speech and freedom of assembly, it doesn't really exist. We can only practice our free speech in the free speech zone, at the free speech time, and everything else that's unpleasant or challenging is illegal. The police were telling us that we couldn't walk on our own streets and voice our own opinions, because it wasn't the right time of day, or the right place.

That video doesn't really show the craziness, but whatever. Anyway, the police stood back for a while, blocking us but not hosing or gassing anyone. At the opposite end, a guy started skateboarding around the intersection that was being guarded by bike cops, then some protesting bikers joined him. Before long, the intersection was filled with bikers, and one guy dancing. Here's some video of the beginning of it all.

The police put on their gas masks and gave everyone a five minute warning to disperse or be tear-gassed. The group split, some staying at the bridge, while others went back to the capitol and more still went to random downtown intersections. Colin and I aren't hardcore at all, because we had a dinner date with Zachary's dad to get to downtown. On the way, we saw some contingents of protesters who seemed to be in a standoff with the riot police at one intersection. We ate, had a nice time in otherwise deserted St. Paul, and on the way home we couldn't get back on I-94 because the on-ramps were blocked by protesters and police. By the end of the night, we heard there were 396 people arrested. During the four days of the convention, we heard there were over 800 arrested, but official counts are still out.

Watching the news and seeing some protesters heckling the police, I shake my head. There were many different views represented at the march (that was supposed to be focused on an anti-war agenda), ranging from pacifists to democrats to anarchists to punks who want to break shit. I can't agree with everyone's methodologies or their rhetoric, but at least finally it seems like we're awake again.


Blogger Eileen said...

Hey Cassie thanks for posting this. I've been really curious about what it's been like there.

2:02 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

Hey Cassie,
It warms my heart to see you and Colin protesting, but not so much you get arrested. The information we got here wasn't anything like what you have said. Our media said there were one thousand protesters, four hundred of which were arrested. And it was on the interior pages of the newspaper. The media moguls really have this information tied up in knots!!! Thank god for the internet, even though the word still doesn't really get out.

You're right, this is a police state. Shit. Now where do we go to be free? Or do we continue ignoring the obvious and do our own thing? O-BA-MA, O-BA-MA. Can he reverse the damage? With a miracle maybe.

8:59 AM  
Blogger GLE said...

Wow, you really didn't get any of that from the news.

10:28 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home