Resistance to corporate domination, repression, mark convention protests
The vintage song by Buffalo Springfield "For What It's Worth" starts off: "There's something happening here, what it is isn't exactly clear . . . " That song was penned by Stephen Stills in the mid 1960s about the youth uprising taking place in America over issues of racism, injustice, and the expanding war in southeast Asia.
Well, what's happening here in America in the last ten months, since blasting onto the national radar screen in Seattle on November 30th, is another awakening of youth and allies over another war--not a war in another place, though there's certainly aspects of that in these, because wars by embargo of Cuba and Iraq are noticed and opposed--but a war on our futures. What's being seen now, and faced head on by a very wide spectrum of people, is a war by corporations on our culture, our country, and our economy.
This is NOT the sixties again. This is bigger, broader, and more rooted in people's personal lives. Corporate power offers a future of temp work and unaffordable health care; gives us strip malls of corporate businesses that drive out the locally owned businesses, transforming our communities into repetitious Flintstone backdrops of Anytown USA; and takes decent-paying jobs overseas to sweatshops and cheap labor.
And avenues of debate are cut off in this time of a pivotal election. The corporate media barons give us shallow horse race coverage, and the two main political parties go along right with it, each happy to keep feeding the military contractors and prison contractors.
On August 30th, just under a dozen local folks who went to protest either or both the Republican and Democratic conventions came together at the Civic Media Center to report back to the community on their experiences. For some, the convention protests were uneventful but powerful, seeing the broad condition of opposition to business as usual. For others, it was a real initiation to the power of a virtual police state, for there is nothing else to call nonviolent protestors being arrested, jailed, beaten, and otherwise maltreated.
For Megan, it was being in the house where puppets were being constructed at the time of the police raid in Philadelphia. Seventy-five people were swept up in a mass arrest, continuing the police's practice of the seizing the organizing space of the protesters. This outrageous trampling of our rights also occurred just before the April IMF/World Bank protests-that case is just now going to court in Washington D.C.
Megan witnessed people with plastic cuffs too tight--to the point of bleeding-left on schoolbuses for 6 hours with no toilet facilities or water, deprived of their medications and medical care, and locked in cells so small people had to take turns sitting down.
For another attendee at the report back, it was different yet equally brutal. Also at the puppet space, but before the raid, this young man, who requested anonymity due to the felony charges that he is facing, had been befriended by some other activists, men who claimed to be union stagehands from Wilkes Barre, PA. They said they were wanting to lend a hand to the protest. They were welcomed in after some initial hesitation and actually proved to be very handy puppet builders, including working on the Corporate-zilla semi truck prominent at the Unity rally. Later in the week, on a mission a group had planned together to nonviolently disrupt a Republican party event downtown by blocking traffic, their van was pulled over, and they were arrested. Except for the driver, a "stage hand" who immediately left the van when it was pulled over and went with the police, they were locked up for over a week on a wide range of charges, with beatings and harsh treatment while held in custody.
Were the "stagehands" really cops? On September 7th, National Public Radio (NPR) carried a report based on a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer that said, yes, the police had put people inside the puppet house for days--undercover agents who were Pennsylvania State Troopers. The Philadelphia Police Department is under restriction from doing political infiltation without first getting approval from the Mayor, the managing director, and the police commissioner. This directive is a result of a federal lawsuit in which the Philadelphia police infiltrated groups planning to protest celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the constitution. More lawsuits will follow to be sure, but the young men and women arrested, jailed, and facing multiple charges, have had their lives seriously messed with.
The media's self-muzzling over the excesses of police activities is a further aspect of the malevolence of corporations, this with the corporate media. It is not that the big media did not know about the violation of rights by police, because other small media sources did carry reports. They chose, at some level of their organizational structure, to censor themselves.
Take these two events from L.A., reported on Jacksonville's public radio station on Wednesday, August 16th. Some of the folks at the Civic Media Center report back confirmed the information firsthand.
In the afternoon and evening of Monday, August 16th, the large concert and rally held in L.A. opposing the death penalty in general, and the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal in particular, had been going on peacefully for hours with a variety of speakers (including Jesse Jackson) and performers (including Bonnie Raitt.). Two disturbances along the fence broke out. One concert goer had climbed the tall wire fence (30-40 ft.) and was waving a black flag from his perch. Police on the other side of the fence responded by repeatedly shooting the flagwaver with rubber bullets. This caused some in the crowd to throw plastic water bottles and other things over the tall fence. Instead of letting security staff handle and further isolate what was an isolated situation of 50-100 people in a crowd of 10,000, police seized the stage, cut off the music in midsong, and told the crowd they had ten minutes to disperse. Before that ten minutes was over, police were already firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. Even after the crowd had left the grounds and were moving through city streets, police pursued and kept firing. A guest named Jim Lafferty on Kgo Nnamdi's public interest NPR program, who was there as an official spokesperson for the legal observer program ofthe National Lawyers Guild (NLG), reported how the NLG people pleaded with police to stop firing, even going so far as to form a line of NLG observers between the cops and the people. Still the firing continued, with some NLG people hit over half a dozen times each. In the Civic Media Center program, some reported that police seemed intent on provoking demonstrators-trying to create confrontation-there and throughout the week in L.A. Lafferty also reported that eight L.A. Times reporters were shot by rubber bullets.
Or consider this event, also reported on NPR talk radio (not their newscasts or anybody else's). A Volkswagen van was being used as a radio studio by the grassroots media collective, including the Independent Media Center and Pacifica's Democracy Now radio show. About an hour before airtime (for satellite uplink nationwide on Dish network) on Monday evening, police seized the van, and secured the whole parking lot under pretense of a bomb scare, keeping them and others from transmitting for almost three hours. According to Free Speech TV's Brian Drolet, speaking on the NPR show, the Free Speech TV folks, unable to get the signal from the broadcast truck, instead broadcast a written message explaining that their broadcast vehicle was being held by L.A. police, and to call the L.A.P.D. 1-800 number shown on the screen. L.A.P.D. was deluged with calls, interfering with their phone system enough that they asked Free Speech TV to remove the notice, which surely was what gave Free Speech TV the power to get their vehicle back. Good story, yeah, but did you hear it amid the convention patter about prolonged kisses and Kennedy kids? I didn't. Again, words from "For What It's Worth": "Young people speaking their mind/Getting so much resistance from behind/You gotta stop/Hey/What's that sound/Everybody look what's going down."
You can look what went down, and what's going down, on the web. Try first the Independent Media Center's site at www.indymedia.org and pick up links from there. Also, at the Civic Media Center, we have audio tapes of the Unity rally in Philadelphia with speakers like Patricia Ireland, Tony Mazzocchi, Granny D, Urvasi Vaid, Jonathan Kozal, Horatio Ross, Fr Roy Bourgeois, and dozens more-other rallies and some coverage from Pacifica and WBSI in NYC, as well as the previously mentioned NPR interviews about L.A.
Health care, and the distortion of our political system with drug company and insurance company money, was a major theme at the protests of the Republican convention in Philadelphia. A large, unpermitted march led by the Kensington Welfare Rights Union walked from City Hall to the convention center on the theme, "We will not be invisible, stop hiding poverty in America."
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