When I arrived yesterday in St. Paul, Minnesota I checked my email to read stories about local police raids on homes of protest organizers. The cops came armed with warrants to search for all kinds of illegal stuff, none of which they found. They cuffed folks and put some in jail for the next week, taking them completely out of the loop for the upcoming protests here at the Republican National Convention. This is supposed to be a "liberal" state but the opening round indicates that when it comes to "Homeland Security" anything goes. Watch this video footage
for one of the raids.
This morning the local newspaper carried a story
about the raids and explanations by the local authorities that they don't want a possible "Battle in Seattle" to hurt the local business communities chance to "showcase" Minneapolis-St. Paul (twin cities) to the world. So business interests come first and civil liberties second - the local courts can sort out the legal details in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Right now there is money to be made.
I joined the Veterans for Peace march today from the state capitol that attempted to go near the convention center where the RNC will be meeting. We were not allowed to get very close and at one intersection, about one-quarter of the 400-500 people in the march turned left and headed toward the barricades. I followed this group and watched as about a dozen or so folks went under a fence
into the waiting arms of riot squad police. Everyone seemed to handle themselves very nicely. Tons of media, not having much else to do today, swarmed the action at the fences and seemed particularly interested in one white-haired woman who they learned was 78 years old.
Back at the capitol, before the march began, five military helicopters circled overhead a few times as if warning us to be good children or else. Sitting inside the open doorway of each chopper were 5-6 troops in green fatigues seemingly ready to ponce on us if need be. Just another warning to us and the community that the big boys were going to be firmly in charge.
As I was watching the folks crawl under the fence near the convention center I was standing right next to a young conservative couple who were talking with one of the Veterans for Peace guys. The peace vet was explaining why we were there and the conservative, who said he was a vet too, replied that he wanted to see the spaces allowed for protest "get smaller and smaller."
Sadly the right-wing guys wish is coming true. The space for legal protest is diminishing and in fact people are now being arrested in these house raids under the charge of "conspiracy to commit riot" according to the local media. The U.S. foreign policy of "preemptive or preventive strike" is now being applied domestically in the form of "preemptive or preventive arrest" for even planning to hold a peaceful protest.
In my view that is fascism and there is no doubt about it.
Tomorrow an even bigger protest is planned. I'll be there and will let you know how it goes.
Out by the airport there is a big billboard that has been rented by John Stewart's "The Daily Show". I saw it last night, my hosts drove us out to look at it after we had dinner at a local Thai joint. The billboard reads, "Welcome, Rich White Oligarchs".
That says it all.