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St. Paul Police say Democracy? No.
September 1, 2008 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Amy Goodman Arrested! Amy Goodman, award-winning journalist and host of Democracy Now!, has been arrested after she tried to figure out why two of her producers had been arrested. Already people are responding.

(To get the most recent news about the situation in St. Paul, check out this streaming audio.
posted by history is a weapon (289 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
For some historical perspective, see the Wikipedia entry for Red Squads.
posted by Poolio at 6:29 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is anyone even remotely surprised that this is happening?
posted by damnitkage at 6:32 PM on September 1, 2008


Coldsnap Legal, via their twitter feed, is reporting that Ms. Goodman's been released.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:35 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is anyone else weighing the pros and cons of putting off work for another day or so and heading up to St. Paul to be a witness/heard?
posted by batmonkey at 6:35 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


She has been, but her producers have not. If I was closer, I'd definitely go.
posted by history is a weapon at 6:36 PM on September 1, 2008


My husband just called me with the news and directed me to the youtube link with the footage of her being arrested. Amy Goodman is certainly one of the best of the good guys, and the fact she was arrested is horrifying but, sadly, almost expected (see previously: Asa Eslocker at the DNC).
posted by stagewhisper at 6:37 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Amy's arrest won't get much attention outside of the librul blogesphere. Now, when Brokaw gets arrested there will be middle-'merica outrage and news at 11.
posted by photoslob at 6:38 PM on September 1, 2008


Glen Greenwald: Scenes from St. Paul --

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman arrested.

Federal government involved in raids on protesters.

Massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis.
posted by ericb at 6:47 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Unsurprising: Yes
Unattended to by the traditional (i.e. corporate and conservative-and/or-shallow-but-I-repeat-myself) media: Yes
Still worthy of outrage and pushback: Yes
posted by DU at 6:49 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers

Hah! You're a journalist, not a commando. Come on.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:52 PM on September 1, 2008 [8 favorites]


if only she had a pregnant teenage daughter, photos of herself slaughtering an elk, or a tweaker husband, people will care about her arrest
posted by matteo at 6:56 PM on September 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


Holy shit.

Did you guys actually read the Greenwald piece ericb linked?
Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly...
posted by lodurr at 7:02 PM on September 1, 2008 [21 favorites]


for anyone interested in more convention-esque news similar to this, check out the twin cities indy media site here.
posted by localhuman at 7:02 PM on September 1, 2008


Amy has already been interviewed about the arrest.
posted by history is a weapon at 7:03 PM on September 1, 2008


Send in Blackwater.
posted by Artw at 7:08 PM on September 1, 2008


People went looking for a confrontation. They found one and now they want to whine about it. There are designated areas where to protest and where to set up your cameras and do your journalistic duties. It's all planned out and well orchestrated well before the event. Protest in the designated areas and you'll be fine. It looks like this person was not in the area and went looking for trouble to get on camera.

Her cries of "please don't arrest me" before she was cuffed is pure bad acting. This doesn't impress me much and I don't weep for her.

Or they were just picked on by the vast Republican conspiracy. You decide.

/Obama supporter.
posted by Fairchild at 7:09 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfuly detained.

If the producers were detained unlawfully or not, wouldn't attempting to free them be cause enough for arresting her?
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:10 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


(I'm imagining her hooking a team of horses to the cell window, and pulling it out of the wall.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:14 PM on September 1, 2008


Already people are responding.

This might actually mean something, if you weren't just linking to a press release from Democracy Now!
posted by dhammond at 7:17 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are designated areas where to protest and where to set up your cameras and do your journalistic duties.

Yes, and the First Amendment designates the USA as such an area.
posted by homunculus at 7:19 PM on September 1, 2008 [214 favorites]


some long user name: Hah! You're a journalist, not a commando. Come on.

StickyCarpet: wouldn't attempting to free them be cause enough for arresting her?

What the hell do you two think "attempting to free" means in this context?!?!? This is Amy Goodman we're talking about, not John Wayne.
posted by Chuckles at 7:19 PM on September 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yes, and the First Amendment designates the USA as such an area.

It's a security issue. I'm sure you know this.
posted by Fairchild at 7:24 PM on September 1, 2008


"People went looking for a confrontation. They found one and now they want to whine about it. There are designated areas where to protest and where to set up your cameras and do your journalistic duties. It's all planned out and well orchestrated well before the event. Protest in the designated areas and you'll be fine. It looks like this person was not in the area and went looking for trouble to get on camera."

Do you not hear the wrongness of this when you say it?
posted by 517 at 7:26 PM on September 1, 2008 [27 favorites]


There are designated areas where to protest and where to set up your cameras and do your journalistic duties.

That's true. There are the designated Free Speech Zones. ...as opposed to what?
posted by sluglicker at 7:28 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Areas where the terrorists have won.
posted by acro at 7:30 PM on September 1, 2008 [16 favorites]


Looked to me like she was pushing past the line, they told her to step back twice, she tried to keep going, then they shrugged and arrested her. Being a reporter does not give one the right to ignore the police.
posted by sophist at 7:33 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


There are designated areas where to protest and where to set up your cameras and do your journalistic duties.

the constitution, motherfucker.
posted by tremspeed at 7:34 PM on September 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


Yes, and the First Amendment designates the USA as such an area.

The First Amendment is not absolute. I think "free speech cages" and stuff like that goes too far, but there should be some consideration for safety and the republicans' right to assemble.

I think that the block on which the RNC is held should be kept protester-free and maybe a narrow route to and from that block as well. But free speech cages and designated areas kinda kills the whole idea. Still, violence and civil disobedience only makes the people who legislate those cages think they're doing the right thing.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 7:40 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, 517. I do not hear the wrongness. It appears that Goodman crossed a police line. The cameras that were filming her were not crossing. Notice the cop telling the camera man to stay back.

the constitution, motherfucker.


What are you talking about? This is a security issue. They crossed a police line.
posted by Fairchild at 7:41 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Holy moly this isn't your daddy's Metafilter! You deleted my comment because I was critical of the excessive monitoring of this site? And now I'm sure this comment will be gone in 3...2...1...
posted by billysumday at 7:46 PM on September 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


What are you talking about? This is a security issue. They crossed a police line.

i'm talking about 'free speech zones' and your insinuation that there are permitted areas where journalists may 'do their journalistic duties.' this is contrary to the very spirit of the constitution, and of this country. i'm not sure what's worse, the fact that these guidelines exist at all, or that they are permitted, make that defended, by the people.
posted by tremspeed at 7:46 PM on September 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


> It's a security issue. I'm sure you know this.

Security appears to be prioritized for the paying visitors. The locals aren't being served with similar protection.
posted by ardgedee at 7:48 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


As someone who has attended many protests like this and has been arrested at a few, I can say that this is nothing new and has nothing to do with the Republicans. This is really the problem of the St Paul police, which is a nice way of saying the people of St. Paul. Middle-class white Americans have gleefully watched as local police forces are transformed into Swat teams and have had no problem locking up tons of black people in order to feel a little safer. These tactics are nothing new and arresting someone who is asking questions should hardly surprise anyone.

Look, we get the police we deserve it's just pretty fucking unfortunate that those demanding insane security aren't those directly hurt by it. The spectre of harm is certainly enough for Americans to want to shock-and-awe anyone who might conceivably be a threat as we've seen time and time again.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:49 PM on September 1, 2008 [7 favorites]


What the hell do you two think "attempting to free" means in this context?!?!? This is Amy Goodman we're talking about, not John Wayne.

That's for sure. John Wayne wouldn't have gotten himself arrested.

I don't know what she was doing, but the language "attempting to free" made me laugh. I can think of few situations where "attempting to free" someone in police custody is a good idea.

To me, the phrase very much connotes a lack of cooperation from the captors. I would've said, "attempting to have the producers freed" or something like that.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:52 PM on September 1, 2008


or in other words: if Kent State happened today a majority of Americans would support the national guard and a smaller minority would have been ok if the students had been waterboarded first. Absent any pressure from the people, of course the police are going to do this.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:52 PM on September 1, 2008 [15 favorites]


Notice the cop telling the camera man to stay back.

You need to clean your ears some. The cop clearly states "back up, back up", which tells me that the cameraman is over the "police line". The video clearly supports this, even showing the cameraman closer still to the police.
posted by Hutch at 7:52 PM on September 1, 2008


The protests in St. Paul are a source of complete embarrassment to me.

On the one hand, being a local resident, I am ashamed of some of the actions our cities have been taking and the PR nightmare this convention quite possibly may create for the Twin Cities. I hope we economically benefit, because I don't see how we're shining in the national spotlight. To be fair, I haven't heard of beatings or long unlawful detainment of clearly innocent people, but I still recognize that we'll be lucky to get out of this mess without a stain on our cities.

On the other hand, I'm tremendously upset at the conduct of some of the protesters. As Democrat that has despised the GOP's actions over the course of the Bush Administration, I had hoped for a huge, peaceful march not unlike one Martin Luther King would have advocated if he were still with us. What I am getting are the worst stereotypes of the people that supposedly support many of the same causes I support. Video after video shows disrespect, destruction, violence, and a whole host of immature behavior that will only strengthen resolve against our beliefs. In the days leading up to today's protests, I actually talked to friends to see if they would be interested in joining me in the protests. Unfortunately, we had all read and seen the messages being conveyed by the organizers, and we could not more strongly have disagreed with their tactics. We decided to continue our participation in the political process through different, and in our minds better, ways and we stayed home.

Count today among one of the saddest days of this Democratic march towards the election.
posted by Muddler at 7:56 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


There are designated areas where to protest
I understand this. I don't agree with it so much, but I understand it.

and where to set up your cameras and do your journalistic duties.
This, however, is just scary.
posted by qldaddy at 8:01 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Fairchild writes "It's a security issue. I'm sure you know this."

But, conveniently, what isn't a "security issue", these days?
posted by orthogonality at 8:04 PM on September 1, 2008 [13 favorites]


There are designated areas where to protest and where to set up your cameras and do your journalistic duties.

Thank goodness the authorities have been considerate enough to tell us where and what to protest and where and what to report on!
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:09 PM on September 1, 2008 [8 favorites]


what isn't a "security issue", these days?

This isn't anything new, and these guys shouldn't be surprised that they got busted, and I don't have a lot of sympathy for them. Pulling the tiger's tail is a risky proposition. If this were truly the totalitarian police-state that people are decrying it to be, you wouldn't have even known about the arrests.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:13 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Do not fuck with Amy Goodman.

Thank you.

That is all.
posted by washburn at 8:16 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


If this were truly the totalitarian police-state that people are decrying it to be, you wouldn't have even known about the arrests.

If I had a nickel for every time someone said this, and they were in a roll in my right hand the are places I'd be busted for carrying it.

So, by this reasoning, you'll know you're in a police state when you're no longer allowed to know it? Yeah. Way to stay on top of things.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:19 PM on September 1, 2008 [29 favorites]


I admit that using word "duties" wasn't the best term.

You need to clean your ears some. The cop clearly states "back up, back up", which tells me that the cameraman is over the "police line". The video clearly supports this, even showing the cameraman closer still to the police.

Well pardon me. Back up, stay back, whatever. Evidently, the camera man that was filming Goodman didn't cross.
posted by Fairchild at 8:19 PM on September 1, 2008


I've written three different comments from three different perspectives and I've realized that I truly don't know what I think about this. The whole idea of a "free speech zone" demarcated by a boundary of riot police is repulsive and makes me want to run down the street flinging Molotov cocktails. But the asinine and destructive actions of a few of the protesters is equally repugnant. The delegates from my state had a brick thrown through their bus windshield today. Way to go, protesters. You know who made progress in the civil rights marches? Here's a hint: it wasn't the people doing the brick-throwing, you stupid fucking whitebread children of privilege reliving a past you never understood.

I hate both sides of this argument. I hate the fact that we even have to discuss it. I hate the fact that the crimes of the Bush administration are not enough on the face of it to have them all imprisoned and that the crimes of the police will likely go unremarked.

Our country has become so ugly and so polarized. I want to be proud of the US, and ain't nobody doing a goddamn thing to make me feel that way.

*speculatively eyes Canadian border* Nah. They'd take one look at my rap sheet and turn me away. But I'll bet they'd do it POLITELY, at least.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:21 PM on September 1, 2008 [38 favorites]


AP photographer Matt Rourke was also arrested.
posted by enn at 8:21 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dave Faris:

If this were truly the totalitarian police-state that people are decrying it to be

...then it would be far, far too late to complain.

Truly totalitarian police states aren't dropped from orbit. They're built, piece by piece, on good, normal people saying things like "This isn't anything new, and these guys shouldn't be surprised that they got busted".

The fact that they shouldn't be surprised is the problem.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:22 PM on September 1, 2008 [58 favorites]


You know who made progress in the civil rights marches? Here's a hint: it wasn't the people doing the brick-throwing, you stupid fucking whitebread children of privilege reliving a past you never understood.

qft
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:25 PM on September 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


or in other words: if Kent State happened today a majority of Americans would support the national guard and a smaller minority would have been ok if the students had been waterboarded first. Absent any pressure from the people, of course the police are going to do this.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:52 PM on September 1 [2 favorites +] [!]

Sounds about right.
posted by Phlogiston at 8:26 PM on September 1, 2008


I am perfectly sure that this is not a police state.

However, journalists should go where the news is, not where the state tells them to go. If the protesters were in a non-free-speech-zone then the arrest is understandable (although, again, I am not cool with how the state is defining protest areas right now).

If a journalist covers the arrest and gets arrested for doing so, then that arrest is a threat to the idea of a free media. The state has the responsibility to ensure order. The state does not have the right to do so unobserved.
posted by qldaddy at 8:28 PM on September 1, 2008 [11 favorites]


If you squint, and ignore the particulars, one thing both the left and the right can be presumed to agree on is that we only have the rights that we defend. But for some reason, the right wing gets its panties in a bunch if you defend anything but the second amendment. I'm more than half persuaded that this is the result of deliberate divide-and-conquer policies that are implemented from the top down. If Americans were allowed to notice that they actually agree at the core on a great many things, we'd be a whole lot more difficult to rule.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:32 PM on September 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


BitterOldPunk writes "Way to go, protesters. You know who made progress in the civil rights marches? Here's a hint: it wasn't the people doing the brick-throwing, you stupid fucking whitebread children of privilege reliving a past you never understood."

Agreed.

But in New York, we've had strong evidence of undercover cops acting as agents provocateur; in St. Paul we've had people arrested for bullshit "fire code violations"; in Denver, we saw film of cops pushing a reporter into the street, then a cop arrogantly puffing a cigar roughing up the reporter and arresting him for "blocking" in the street he was pushed into.

If the cops acted above board, there'd be little or no sympathy for violent protesters.

But when you can't trust the cops to uphold the law, when there are mass arrests on flimsy evidence, when even reporters and peaceful demonstrators are arrested and roughed up, it's hard for me to blame the protesters who are forced to either play a rigged game or give up their First Amendment rights to assemble for redress of grievances.
posted by orthogonality at 8:34 PM on September 1, 2008 [29 favorites]


Truly totalitarian police states aren't dropped from orbit. They're built, piece by piece, on good, normal people saying things like "This isn't anything new, and these guys shouldn't be surprised that they got busted".

Cite, please.

The major totalitarian states of the 20th century—Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Communist China—were dropped from orbit. They were not the result of slow accretion of infringements on civil liberties. They were the result of violent revolutions, and the overturning of previous government and law.

I've been hearing the 'slippery slope' argument for decades, and I'm no longer sure I believe it. I'm beginning to think it may just be a variety of FUD. That most political slopes aren't slippery at all, that they actually have a fairly high coefficient of friction.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:40 PM on September 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


But when you can't trust the cops to uphold the law, when there are mass arrests on flimsy evidence, when even reporters and peaceful demonstrators are arrested and roughed up, it's hard for me to blame the protesters who are forced to either play a rigged game or give up their First Amendment rights to assemble for redress of grievances.

Or in other words, and with all apologies to JFK, those who make peaceful protests impossible will make violent protests inevitable.

Unfortunately I think that's actually the plan.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:40 PM on September 1, 2008 [10 favorites]


I don't have a lot of sympathy for them. Pulling the tiger's tail is a risky proposition.

"Don't Mess With The Dragon: Hehe, I just laugh and move on now when I see news like this, I can't even get angry over it."
posted by homunculus at 8:40 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's a security issue. I'm sure you know this.
posted by Fairchild at 7:24 PM on September 1

Ahem, Fairchild. You do know who else sacrificed freedom for "security" at a major public event, don't you?

Remember how well that turned out?

posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:47 PM on September 1, 2008


or in other words: if Kent State happened today a majority of Americans would support the national guard and a smaller minority would have been ok if the students had been waterboarded first...."Kent State killings, the most popular murders ever committed in the United States"
posted by hortense at 8:48 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Didn't a similar situation happen at the '68 RNC in Chicago? Didn't the protest turn violent, and the police reacted with violence in return? And then, as now, didn't anarchists and fringe groups start making bullshit moves for their own agendas? Back then, there was more of a culture war, and there was a huge factor of some police apparently looking for a reason to bash some skulls. And then as now, many people were swept up and arrested, even people who had nothing at all to do with the protests. Yes. Then, the police were considered to have over-reacted. There were plenty of apologies, lawsuits and recriminations, and you'd have thought there would have been lessons learned since then.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:50 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Motherfuck.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:52 PM on September 1, 2008


Slithy_tove:

The major totalitarian states of the 20th century—Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Communist China—were dropped from orbit. They were not the result of slow accretion of infringements on civil liberties. They were the result of violent revolutions, and the overturning of previous government and law.

The Nazis were elected.

Other than that, fair enough. Your point is taken.

What I should have said was that authoritarian strains or tendencies within a society are built on statements like Dave's.

The other two examples you give involved societies that were on the cusp of moving from agrarianism to industrialism. The US, on the other hand, is a decidedly "post-industrial" (ie. neo-colonial) state wtih nowhere to advance, really, except splintering inward on itself.

I don't think we're going to see any new clean-break totalitarian states, like we've seen in the past, emerging in the developed world. I think we're going to see increasingly multifaceted states which, depending on who you are, where you're standing, and who you're standing with at the time, may present themselves as liberal and permissive, or as totally fascistic.

From the point of view of the Zaptatistas, or many of the people of Oaxaca, the Mexican government is totalitarian. From the vantage of many others, it's a democracy. That's America's most likely future, in my opinion.

Certainly, though, I also could have just said that totalitarian states are maintained and prolonged by those sorts of statements.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:01 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


police riot in Chicago 68
posted by hortense at 9:01 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The major totalitarian states of the 20th century—Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Communist China—were dropped from orbit. They were not the result of slow accretion of infringements on civil liberties. They were the result of violent revolutions, and the overturning of previous government and law.

My history's a little shaky on #2 and #3, but there definitely was a gradual removal of freedoms for Jews and others in post-1932 Germany. I was recently at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and they do an excellent job of detailing the legal and extra-legal restrictions of the time. Martin Neimoller's well-known poem is a good argument as well.
posted by sapere aude at 9:09 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


> Way to go, protesters. You know who made progress in the civil rights marches? Here's a hint: it wasn't the people doing the brick-throwing, you stupid fucking whitebread children of privilege reliving a past you never understood.

There are jackasses in every protest, but it appears from time to time some of those 'rioters' were planted by the police (linking to canadian story, but I am sure there were cases here but are harder to prove / find actual PR coverage of).

I've had friends chased by guys in hoodies and thrown to the ground, and kicked when they tried to defend themselves, and only after they were subdued did the undercover officers feel it was necessary to identify themselves. So they get booked on assault of an officer.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:10 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Communist China

Wow, 0 for 3. That took talent.
posted by troy at 9:10 PM on September 1, 2008 [9 favorites]


I'm actually pondering whether we shouldn't EXPECT journalists to be arrested occasionally in situations like these. Especially with the blurring definition of journalist.

We have an area where SHIT IS GOING DOWN. The police through whatever legal hokum excuse define SHIT IS GOING DOWN AREA to be off limits, and detain anyone entering said area. Journalists should damn well get to SHIT IS GOING DOWN AREA, and document what is happening. I can only expect an overlap between PEOPLE DETAINED and JOURNALISTS IN AREA, because JOURNALISTS = PEOPLE.

Police erasing footage or confiscating notes pisses me off. But I think the idea of JOURNALIST with his press card as an untouchable prophet of truth was queer to begin with. The detainments by police seem to be an accepted form of crowd control, and the journalists are now part of the crowd.

Detainments suck. But I fail to see why these should be covered much more than any daft kid crossing the line. It seems self-aggrandizing on the part of the semi-estblished media.
posted by FuManchu at 9:15 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


At every protest I've ever been to there has always been a solid block of severe freakjobs - anarchists, hippies, the kind of people who burn flags and pour 'blood' on things for no particular reason. These are the same people whose sense of focus is so poor that they bring "Free Mumia!" posters to a Free Tibet protest.

I will grant that the concept of free speech zones is anathema. We shouldn't tolerate being told that Republicans have the right to never see or hear the people whose lives they're busy trying to wreck. But for every NYPD thug squad arresting people who are trying to peacefully protest, there's a squad of be-dreadlocked people wearing bandanas ready to dump burning trash into the street. These people aren't Democrats, and they don't care that they're making the rest of us look bad.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:19 PM on September 1, 2008


> Detainments suck. But I fail to see why these should be covered much more than any daft kid crossing the line. It seems self-aggrandizing on the part of the semi-estblished media.

Because police arresting reporters reeks of government censure, which the supreme court has upheld as illegal?

Because arresting reporters is an act of intimidation, and a way of ensuring that they don't embed themselves at risk of being arrested again. And while they are arrested, they are unable to report on the events in which we ask them (as you yourself has stated) to report on.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:21 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Because we are shocked and outraged when other countries do it also? While those linked are the extremes, the deaths of the reporters, arresting them silences also (and is not as messy here).
posted by mrzarquon at 9:25 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


@slithy_tove:

What regicide said. The nazi regime was very much "the result of slow accretion of infringements on civil liberties". Hitler was lawfully elected, and the laws against the Jews, gays, intellectuals, communists, romany and other "undesireables" were put into place slowly over time under a veil of nationalism and security.

I'm not claiming that the situation in america is quite so dire yet, but to claim that all police states simply "drop from orbit" is complete and utter bs.


(on preview, what troy said too)
posted by pwicks at 9:29 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


These people aren't Democrats

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Most people protesting the Democratic convention weren't Republicans, either.

Is it possible you're missing the point here?
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:32 PM on September 1, 2008


"There are designated areas where to protest and where to set up your cameras"

Jeez, I wish I had stopped reading before I got to that.
posted by 2sheets at 9:32 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


This isn't anything new

Wake me up when it gets as bad as Chicago, 1968.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:33 PM on September 1, 2008


Bliptv1, 2, 3.
posted by acro at 9:34 PM on September 1, 2008


Slithy_Tove writes "The major totalitarian states of the 20th century—Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Communist China—were dropped from orbit. They were not the result of slow accretion of infringements on civil liberties. They were the result of violent revolutions, and the overturning of previous government and law."

These history books you've read, do they come with ads for X-Ray glasses?
posted by orthogonality at 9:36 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


sapere aude My history's a little shaky on #2 and #3, but there definitely was a gradual removal of freedoms for Jews and others in post-1932 Germany.
. . .
troy: Wow, 0 for 3. That took talent.

You two (and to a lesser extent, regicide) are missing the point. These things happened in societies which were already totalitarian in nature. Yes, totalitarian societies are totalitarian. That's not at issue.

My point is that it is unproven that liberal democracies can transform into totalitarian societies by a gradual loss of freedoms. Nazi Germany, for example, came into being through violent means, including street battles, the burning of the Reichstag, and Kristallnacht, followed by a Nazi revolution, which swept away the Wiemar Republic. It wasn't a gradual loss of freedom, it was an overthrow of existing institutions by means of violence in the streets.

Violence in the streets, eh? Fires? Breaking the windows of people we don't like? Hm.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:37 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Balisong at 9:37 PM on September 1, 2008


mrzarquon, that misses my point. We're talking about journalists getting caught up in the messy crowd they're trying to report on. Police see a person breaking arbitrary rule that they have set up; police don't care whether person is journalist.

Did you really just come at me with "The Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint!"?
posted by FuManchu at 9:40 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Crap getting crappier. Sweet.
posted by zouhair at 9:43 PM on September 1, 2008


Didn't the protest turn violent, and the police reacted with violence in return?

That's not the way most independent observers report the events. Generally, the story goes that people were either protesting peacefully or trying to sleep in the park when police responded with massive force, tear gas and head cracking. While there was some minor, token resistance, by and large you were talking about a group of weak-ass, unarmed hippies, going up against the armed machine of Mayor Daley.

Of course, the most interesting thing about Chicago wasn't so much the riots, as the fact that they charged eight of the protesters with bizzare conspiracy charges for just planning to demonstrate. And although the jury aquitted all of the defendents, the judge charged them with sentences that were sometimes in excess of five years apiece for contempt of court -- including their lawyer, William Kunstler.

This would be the 40th anniversary of that particular Democratic Convention. What with the Democrats support for the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's almost kind of reassuring -- if somewhat disappointing -- to see how little has changed since then.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:45 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Crap getting crappier. Sweet.Fairchild: "People went looking for a confrontation. They found one and now they want to whine about it. There are designated areas where to protest and where to set up your cameras and do your journalistic duties. It's all planned out and well orchestrated well before the event. Protest in the designated areas and you'll be fine. It looks like this person was not in the area and went looking for trouble to get on camera.

Her cries of "please don't arrest me" before she was cuffed is pure bad acting. This doesn't impress me much and I don't weep for her.

Or they were just picked on by the vast Republican conspiracy. You decide.

/Obama supporter.
"

Kuddos! I hope you're rich.
posted by zouhair at 9:47 PM on September 1, 2008


fu- was meaning to illustrate that police arresting members of the press rings of police attempting to censure them.

We want them in the crowd to report on it, and are we surprised when the people who literally have the microphone in hand are going to talk about themselves getting arrested?

also, that is the last of what I will say tonight, because I believe the pain meds from breaking my toe earlier this evening are kicking in
posted by mrzarquon at 9:49 PM on September 1, 2008


According to a press release on the Democracy Now! website, all three journalists have been released.

So much for the slippery slope police state theories.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:59 PM on September 1, 2008


Nazi Germany, for example, came into being through violent means, including street battles, the burning of the Reichstag, and Kristallnacht, followed by a Nazi revolution, which swept away the Wiemar Republic. It wasn't a gradual loss of freedom, it was an overthrow of existing institutions by means of violence in the streets.

And in America you have had street battles, election fraud, September 11, the Minutemen, and, oh, more street battles. If your point is that fascists often work politically and extra-politically at the same time, we agree.

Violence in the streets, eh? Fires? Breaking the windows of people we don't like? Hm.

But if you're just comparing a smashed window of a Republican bus to Kristallnacht, nevermind, because then I think we're pretty much done here.
posted by regicide is good for you at 10:01 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


slithy tove writes: I've been hearing the 'slippery slope' argument for decades, and I'm no longer sure I believe it.

Well, then, you have nothing to worry about in this regard. How nice!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:04 PM on September 1, 2008


I've always felt that threads like this are a litmus test for authoritarians.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:06 PM on September 1, 2008 [15 favorites]


Slithy_Tove writes "Nazi Germany, for example, came into being through violent means, including street battles, the burning of the Reichstag, and Kristallnacht, followed by a Nazi revolution,"

31 July, 1932: Nazi Party wins majority of seats in the Reichstag (German Parliament), voted by the German people.
30 January, 1933: Hitler becomes Reichskanzler (Head of Government).
27 February, 1933: Reichstag fire (most likely set not by protesters, but by the Nazis and blamed on the Communists).
23 March, 1933: The (second) Enabling Act, voted by the Reichstag, gives Hitler dictatorial powers.
15 September 1935: passage of the Nuremberg Laws restricting Jewish civil rights, voted by the Reichstag,.
9 November, 1938 Kristallnacht (six years after the Nazis came to power, three years after the revocation of Jewish rights, perpetrated not by protesters but by Nazis).

So the only thing you're right about is the street battles during the Weimar period.

The dictatorial powers came about through legal, democratic votes, largely in reaction to a need for "security". Or as Fairchild put it "It's a security issue. I'm sure you know this."

Your "history" is simply wrong. Nazi Germany didn't "drop from orbit", nor was Germany a traditionally totalitarian nation. Up until 1871, it wasn't even a nation; prior to that it had been two score nations in a loose confederation, albeit with a shared language. The totalitarianism was voted in, in mostly free and mostly fair elections, by frightened angry people looking for a savior.
posted by orthogonality at 10:16 PM on September 1, 2008 [24 favorites]


According to a press release on the Democracy Now! website, all three journalists have been released.

So much for the slippery slope police state theories.


Yeah, and they'd have had no reason to release them at all if freedom of speech/the press wouldn't have prevented them from getting away with it. But, no, la-dee-da, we're not living in (someone's narrow definition of) a police state, so I guess we can all forget that this ever happened, and go on with the assurance that it will never ever get worse.

Come on. Don't you see that people in power will almost always try to take more if no one pushes back?
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:25 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's a very good chance that the violence (like that brick through the bus window) isn't being done by the actual protesters.

Just like with the monks in Burma being set up by false-robe operations by the Chinese police, there's a very, very strong chance that most or all of the violence being committed by the "protestors" is actually being committed by agents of the government.
posted by Malor at 10:27 PM on September 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


And in America you have had street battles, election fraud, September 11 [...]

If you're going Truther on me, we *are* done here.

But if you're just comparing a smashed window of a Republican bus to Kristallnacht, nevermind, because then I think we're pretty much done here.

I think I am comparing them. Also the smashed windows of stores and banks, and the burning dumpster. These are cases of using violence for political ends, of using violence to intimidate uninvolved citizens, who only wish to avoid violence. They differ in scale, but not in intention.

I guess we're done!

orthogonality: I stand corrected on the timing of the Reichstag fire and Kristallnacht.

31 July, 1932: Nazi Party wins majority of seats in the Reichstag (German Parliament), voted by the German people. Minor point of fact: this is incorrect.

The dictatorial powers came about through legal, democratic votes, largely in reaction to a need for "security". Right. Because of civil unrest perpetrated by the Nazis themselves, not by the existing government. The Nazis used street violence to gain control of the government, and then replaced Wiemar policy with Nazi policy.

If this were happening today, we would be seeing the street protesters in St. Paul trying to gain popular support by convincing the voters that only if they are in control, can violence in the streets be stopped. Maybe that's what they're doing. I don't think they will be successful. The US is not very much like Wiemar Germany.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:50 PM on September 1, 2008


I personally can't fucking wait for America to turn into a totalitarian police state, because I'm sick of all the goddamn whining about America turning into a totalitarian police state.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:52 PM on September 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


we're not living in (someone's narrow definition of) a police state, so I guess we can all forget that this ever happened, and go on with the assurance that it will never ever get worse.

You almost sound disappointed that the situation didn't go worse. No. I'm not suggesting we forget it. I'm suggesting that in a free society, if the police overstep their legal bounds, and make false arrests, that the cops get reprimands, the police department gets sued, and people work towards some sort of way to prevent it happening again. I'd suggest that it's a better approach than to assume all cops are thugs under the control of a corrupt government, out to squelch civil liberties at every opportunity.

there's a very, very strong chance

Very, very? Do you have any actual proof, or are you just going by some gut instinct?
posted by Dave Faris at 10:57 PM on September 1, 2008


Slithy tove:
Fail. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_South_Korea
South Kore was a democracy where the president declared martial law in the 1970s after a long period of increasingly authoritarian measures.
posted by wuwei at 10:58 PM on September 1, 2008


*South Korea
posted by wuwei at 10:58 PM on September 1, 2008


Protest in the designated areas and you'll be fine.

Move along, citizen, and you'll be fine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:58 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I personally can't fucking wait for America to turn into a totalitarian police state, because I'm sick of all the goddamn whining about America turning into a totalitarian police state.

As the old saying goes, we get the government we deserve. And from comments like the above, maybe we do deserve a police state.

Actually, the rest of us usually get the government that only the assholes in our country really deserve. Doesn't seem fair, but there it is.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:04 PM on September 1, 2008 [13 favorites]


Fail. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_South_Korea
South Kore was a democracy where the president declared martial law in the 1970s after a long period of increasingly authoritarian measures.


Did you even read your own link? Wikipedia says the president at the time had first assumed power in a military coup. That's doesn't sound like the sort of gradual stepping toward authoritarianism Slithy_Tove was talking about.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:09 PM on September 1, 2008


Dave: I probably shouldn't have said 'very strong' -- it's late and I didn't think it through -- but 'definite possibility' would fit. In the WTO protests a few years ago, I remember evidence that non-protestors were committing acts of violence and vandalism, and getting the actual protestors arrested.

Basically: don't blame the protestors unless and until it's shown that they actually did the things they're accused of. Most political protestors I've had any exposure to would be horrified by bricks through windows. The right-to-lifers and the PETA people, yeah, maybe, but folks picketing the RNC? Just not the type. You picket political conventions when you still feel a part of the political process, which doesn't generally include bricks.
posted by Malor at 11:11 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just like with the monks in Burma being set up by false-robe operations by the Chinese police,

What?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:12 PM on September 1, 2008


Yea, I ignored that KAC -- I figured he might also be talking about the Chinese police beating on the monks in Nepal, cunningly dressed in Nepalese police garb.
posted by FuManchu at 11:18 PM on September 1, 2008


About 20 anarchists who had started the trash bin fire later tried to block the intersection of St. Peter and Exchange streets. Police quickly dispersed the group, then shot two tear gas canisters at the fleeing anarchists. ... About 200 people from a group called Funk the War noisily staged its own separate march. Wearing black clothes, bandanas and gas masks, some of their members smashed windows of cars and stores. They tipped over newspaper boxes, pulled a big trash bin into the street, bent the rear view mirrors on a bus and flipped heavy stone garbage bins on the sidewalks. One man who seemed to be the leader of the group carried a yellow flag with the motto "Don't Tread on Me." The group chanted: "Whose streets? Our streets!" Meanwhile, a group of about 100 anarchists pushed a trash bin filled with trash and threw garbage in the streets and at cars. They also took down orange detour road signs. One of them used a screwdriver to puncture the back tire of a limousine waiting at an intersection and threw a wooden board at the vehicle, denting its side. Another hurled a glass bottle at a charter bus that had stopped at an intersection. The bottle smashed into pieces but didn't appear to damage the bus. The day's march was organized by a group called the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, whose leaders said they hoped for a peaceful, family-friendly march. But police were on high alert after months of preparations by a self-described anarchist group called the RNC Welcoming Committee, which wasn't among the organizers of the march. -- AP News
posted by Dave Faris at 11:24 PM on September 1, 2008


Chinese police beating on the monks in Nepal, cunningly dressed in Nepalese police garb.

What? I can't find anything on Google about this, either.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:25 PM on September 1, 2008


Opps, sorry. I was referring to the confusing photos being passed around during the Tiben riots. Anti-CNN.com [partially Chinese] [Wiki reference] has a bunch of photos from media outlets showing old photos of Nepalese police, but with taglines claiming they were Chinese. The media replied with the typical "fake but accurate" lines.

I figured it fits well with Malor's ignorance of the specifics, while he remains certain of his conclusion.
posted by FuManchu at 11:32 PM on September 1, 2008


Just like with the monks in Burma being set up by false-robe operations by the Chinese police,

What?


There were reports from the protests in Burma last year and the protests in Tibet this year that police dressed as Buddhist monks acted as agents provocateur. It's easy enough to do: just shave your head, put on a robe and join the crowd. I think Malor just mixed the two events together.
posted by homunculus at 11:35 PM on September 1, 2008


Oh, thanks for that link, FuManchu. Never saw that before. Apologies for the derail.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:38 PM on September 1, 2008


wuwei:

(With the usual caveats about the reliability of Wikipedia entries)

I'm not expert on the history of Korea, but reading that Wikipedia article, it doesn't sound like South Korea ever had a stable democracy with liberal democratic freedoms, from 1948 until 1987. Rather, it was ruled by a series of autocrats and military rulers, who sometimes ran for office, sometimes came to power by coup, and usually suppressed dissent. You really can't talk about South Korea sliding down a slippery slope: from the standpoint of democracy and civil rights, it started at the bottom of the slope, and stayed there.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 11:40 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speaking of protestors and Tibet: The Chinese government was ruthlessly effective in quashing dissent during the Summer Olympics, but few noticed until a group of scruffy American activists were arrested, jailed, and deported for flying the Tibetan flag outside the Bird’s Nest stadium. In an exclusive interview, John Watterberg and Jeremy Wells describe their ordeal at the hands of a repressive regime.
posted by homunculus at 11:43 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


This part (via Greenwald) was the best:

"the police ended up agreeing not to do anything so long as the front door was fixed by 6pm (the front door they'd busted in)."

Part of me now wants to cling to the slim hope that this is actually an intricately staged advertisement for an upcoming Blu-Ray rerelease of Brazil.

Unfortunately, that's just not plausible. If this was being backed by advertisers and film companies we'd have been able to get all the important details from CNN, not just a bunch of blogs.
posted by roystgnr at 11:50 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


So much for the slippery slope police state theories.

Well, it might be a little early for us to start giving each other celebratory reacharounds, here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:51 PM on September 1, 2008


Right now, getting Obama elected should be the only goal of the US left. You probably make his election less likely by allowing yourselves to be associated with civil unrest, regardless of whether the trouble is caused by bent rightwing cops or by the sad stilt-and-drum corps that shows up for these things. Don't protest their convention. You're just putting overtime money in the pockets of every cop in town. Spend your time and money organizing in your home town for election day. Win.
posted by pracowity at 12:19 AM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


It will happen so slowly that you won't notice that anything is wrong until it is too late.

Is it too late?

I hope not, but then again, hope is the last thing to go.
posted by Darned account name at 12:25 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, I'm tremendously upset at the conduct of some of the protesters. As Democrat that has despised the GOP's actions over the course of the Bush Administration, I had hoped for a huge, peaceful march not unlike one Martin Luther King would have advocated if he were still with us.
First of all, these same types of people were doing the same thing at the Democratic convention in Denver, although it sounds like there were not as many and the local police were not as obnoxious.

Secondly, how are you going to organize a huge peaceful march when the organizers have their houses raided the week before?

Also, remember that King's march on Washington took place with the government's permission. Other civil rights marches were not nearly as controlled or photogenic, and of course there were troublemakers involved, often placed there in secret by the very people who were being protested against. Do you have any idea what actually happened in the 1960s?
There are designated areas where to protest and where to set up your cameras and do your journalistic duties.
This woman was a credentialed journalist, who had just been inside the convention center. I realize that it makes sense for police to limit where protestors can protest, but why exactly would they need to limit where reporters can report? I mean, obviously anyone could "claim" to be a reporter, but this particular person had a press credential from the GOP, specifically to cover the convention (If I'm not mistaken, I could be. But she was talking about having a credential and mentioned that she'd just been inside the convention before getting arrested.)
If this were truly the totalitarian police-state that people are decrying it to be, you wouldn't have even known about the arrests.
That is totally wrong. There is no reason why having a police state is incompatible with freedom of speech. It's like how NRA members run around saying that you can't have a police state and an armed populous, but look at Iraq under Saddam, anyone could buy any kind of gun, and no one would call it a free society.

I'm not saying that the US is a police state, but the fact that you have freedom of speech is not evidence against it.
Nazi Germany, for example, came into being through violent means, including street battles, the burning of the Reichstag, and Kristallnacht, followed by a Nazi revolution
You don't seem to have any idea what you're talking about. I mean the Kristallnacht before a "nazi revolution"? First of all there was never really a "nazi revolution" they did win an election and gradually gained more and more power in government. Obviously violence was involved, it was a complicated era, but to say they were "dropped from orbit" is way over the top.

I mean, this is stuff a 9th grader should know.
posted by delmoi at 12:41 AM on September 2, 2008 [12 favorites]


It's interesting how polarized this discussion is. It seems like everyone is either "Blah, throw 'em in jail, they deserve it" or "But what about the constitution!?" Well, the constitution states that everyone has the right to peaceably assemble, and that means that the government has to protect people from protesters. That means they had to protect Civil Rights marchers in the 1960s from white supremacists protesters and today they have to protect white supremacist protests from (usually much larger) counter protests.

How would you guys feel if the police provided no protection for the DNC and it was overrun by anti-abortion zealots?

On the other hand, it seems like the St. Paul police department is going over the top. In particular, they are raiding the homes of people suspected of staging protest (and confiscating computers and notes), even though it's not clear that they were planning on breaking any laws. They are also arresting journalists, which they should probably not be doing.
posted by delmoi at 12:53 AM on September 2, 2008


YOU CAN'T ARREST ME I HAVE A BLOG DAMN YOU
posted by quonsar at 1:37 AM on September 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is absolutely every protest against government policy presumed to be a terrorist attack? If so, perhaps I can understand why it would be perfectly acceptable to raid people in their homes for painting protest signs and organising others into saying that they're not happy with the way things are going; because someone might go apeshit and attempt to kill someone because they are just so pissed off.

Is it a realistic threat? Is it enough to justify ignoring the 1st amendment that many of you have quoted?

I guess it must be hard to differentiate between actual terrorist groups and people who organise groups in order to have a voice. I don't know. I actually have no idea how people gather information and how they sort it and parse what is real and what is hyperbole.

Personally, I'm glad I'm not an American right now. I'd be so utterly pissed off. I'm a Queenslander though, so I have some idea what it's like.

If you let them stop you telling you that you're pissed off, you're fucked.
posted by h00py at 1:44 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


guys, there is a perfectly good contemporary authoritarian comparison here - that would be China. In China, there are protests and while it is waaaaaay worse there still - people get shot and jailed for YEARS - there are now REPORTS on the occasional Chinese protests against government corruption/one's house getting bulldozed/labour union stuff/etc on the internets and everything, and there are 101st fighting keyboarders poo pooing the protesters there, and there is a heap of media-FUD and everything that is going on here. As they get slooooowly better, we get worse and borrow lots of our authoro-shit from them. Now in the UK, when some heads get smashed like that, it might not be any better, but at least you have M.P.s and shit taking umbrage!
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:53 AM on September 2, 2008


Wow. Just, like, wow.

You guys got through all this without ever mentioning that the Minneapolis Police were conducting mass raids, in advance, on the homes of people who were planning to protest.

Source, as cited (way) up-thread by ericb: Glenn Greenwald. Who was actually there for one of them.

Here, more from Greenwald:
There is clearly an intent on the part of law enforcement authorities here to engage in extreme and highly intimidating raids against those who are planning to protest the Convention. The DNC in Denver was the site of several quite ugly incidents where law enforcement acted on behalf of Democratic Party officials and the corporate elite that funded the Convention to keep the media and protesters from doing anything remotely off-script. But the massive and plainly excessive preemptive police raids in Minnesota are of a different order altogether. Targeting people with automatic-weapons-carrying SWAT teams and mass raids in their homes, who are suspected of nothing more than planning dissident political protests at a political convention and who have engaged in no illegal activity whatsoever, is about as redolent of the worst tactics of a police state as can be imagined.
So this is real pre-emptive violation of civil liberties, not something happening in China or something that might happen. According to people in the houses that were raided, warrants were not shown until the end of the raids, excessive force was used.

So, why don't you guys give up on the whole hypotheticals thing and look at this as a real example of what happens when we backslide on civil liberties. You don't get this stuff and sit on it. You have to work to keep it.
posted by lodurr at 2:19 AM on September 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


(Well, mostly without mentioning it.)
posted by lodurr at 2:32 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is pretty ridiculous... if she was concerned about her producers getting arrested the way to handle it wasn't to go down to the police line in an area where violence had been occurring and confront the riot police... it was to go talk to the police spokesmen and headquarters... to call the mayor, etc. The way she chose to tackle the problem it's not surprising she ended up in handcuffs.
posted by Jahaza at 2:37 AM on September 2, 2008


My point is that it is unproven that liberal democracies can transform into totalitarian societies by a gradual loss of freedoms

Early Showa Japan might be an example of the sort of crises required to turn a parliamentary democracy into a military dictatorship over ~10 years.

Us getting into a shooting war in China like the Japanese Army did 1931-1938 would probably send us down a similar road.

Draft riots, a losing war, military deserters, general strikes, mass unemployment, food shortages, internal kremlinesque power struggles: these are the ingredients that put any society on the edge of anarchy, and these preemptive raids are part, like IMO the TSA security approach that the citizen is always a suspect and has no rights of transit other than what the state grants, the baby steps to totalitarianism.

heh, us blowing off China's $500B hoard of treasuries and another ~$400B in agencies would certainly serve as a wonderful casus belli to get the party started.
posted by troy at 2:44 AM on September 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


And the dishonest reporting going on doesn't help... here's Glenn Greenwald:

"Finally (for now), here's a woman being pepper-sprayed at close range by a marching legion of police while standing on the side of the road holding a flower."

Now you can argue about whether she should have been pepper sprayed, but she's clearly not "standing on the side of the road holding a flower", but rather standing in front of an advancing line of riot police.
posted by Jahaza at 2:44 AM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


The arguing about whether she was 'attempting to free' her producers and what that means is disingenous - she walked up to the police line and asked to see their commander, and was immediately arrested. She was wearing convention credentials at the time. This was a bad, snap decision taken by police officers who clearly consider anyone not immediately kow-towing to be a threat to be met with detainment.

This kind of needlessly over-the-top reaction is the reason why protests have become so fraught with these kinds of wrongful arrests. Like I said in another thread, when you dress for a battle and treat every contact with peaceful, legal demonstrations as a battle, you end up with battles.

Put a load of unarmoured, career cops with their Minnesota nice turned up to 11 on the front line and I'd imagine there would be fewer scuffles, fewer angry confrontations and little to no wrongful arrests.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:54 AM on September 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


I first heard of Amy Goodman when she spoke at my graduation. (Hampshire College, '04). Oddly enough, the student speaker whom she followed had given a rousing speech advising us all to "start an international incident."

I'm sort of glad to see Amy taking her advice, even if it may only be a "national" incident.

Now that I've said this, I'm going to actually *read* the thread.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:03 AM on September 2, 2008


"This was a bad, snap decision taken by police officers who clearly consider anyone not immediately kow-towing to be a threat to be met with detainment."

But it was also a bad snap decision by Goodman to try to confront the police there.

"This kind of needlessly over-the-top reaction is the reason why protests have become so fraught with these kinds of wrongful arrests."

I think "needlessly over-the-top reaction" can describe both sides. For instance, protest groups are always going off about police surveillance of their activities. But given the kind of civil disobedience practiced today, these groups often amount to criminal conspiracies.

Civil disobedience like that of Thoreau focused on disobeying unjust laws on the basis of St. Augustine's principle that an unjust law is no law at all.

But this has devolved into protests where people obstruct traffic, or trespass on military bases. The laws against these things are not unjust. Therefore, there's no warrant to disobey the laws.

You see the same thing on the right where people have been influenced by this flawed understanding of civil disobedience. Folks who do stuff like this should be arrested (and shouldn't be let off easy because they did it for a cause) and there's nothing wrong with breaking up their plans in advance.
posted by Jahaza at 3:13 AM on September 2, 2008


troy, that's an interesting example, but can we really say that Shōwa Japan, which had a god-emperor, was a liberal democracy?

It occurred to me that Zimbabwe might be an example of a liberal democracy declining into a oppressive dictatorship, by a series of small, almost imperceptible steps. The problem with that example is that Zim has never really had a democracy. Mugabe took power by force, and among his first acts were the ouster of his fellow revolutionary Nkomo and a bloody war against his tribe. To non-locals, Zim had the appearance of a liberal democracy for a decade or so, but I'm not sure that was ever really the case.

A fictional example of a slippery slope decline from democratic capitalism into fascism is the plot of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Yes, I know. Rand. Still, it's an example that the 'slippery slope' argument is the bugbear of both the left and the right, whether or not it actually happens very often.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 3:14 AM on September 2, 2008


I'm even less surprised by Goodman's decision to confront the cops on the line after reading the press release from "Democracy Now":

"Amy Goodman is one of the most well-known and well-respected journalists in the United States. "

Those cops probably wouldn't have arrested "one of the most well-known" U.S. journalists. But Goodman isn't even one of the most well-known public broadcasting journalists in the U.S, let alone one of the most well-known U.S. journalists generally.
posted by Jahaza at 3:19 AM on September 2, 2008


I'd like to take this moment to point some things out to those still reading. The economy is in the toilet. The job market is in the toilet. People are loosing their homes all over the country.

The government is engaged in war of aggression. They are torturing people and lying about it. Politicians in both major parties are doing things they find it wise to lie about.

There are two very clear 'realities': That one you hear reported about on American Major Media, and the one you hear about in foreign press and blogs. They are far more different than could easily be explained by the usual differences of outlook.

So people want to protest, do they? Fuck 'em, lock 'em up! Be thankful for what you have, or they'll make you sorry you ever dared complain. You'll get the crumbs they choose to allow you, or you'll get much worse.

What's missing from this picture? Simply this: "Government by the people, for the people". It's clear and simple. The details may be subject to argument, but that argument is a distraction.
posted by Goofyy at 3:22 AM on September 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Mentioning Nazi Germany feels like a troll to me, but I feel compelled to at least say something to this particular point re: Kristallnacht.

They differ in scale, but not in intention.

Uhhhhh... No. The intention of Kristallnacht was to destroy Jewish businesses and by extension, make a bold statement that Jews were not welcome in the Third Reich.

We in the US have yet to even come close to our own Kristallnacht, and for that I thank G-d on a daily basis.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:25 AM on September 2, 2008


But it was also a bad snap decision by Goodman to try to confront the police there.

We're going to have to disagree on that point. Personally I don't think the reaction to someone approaching a police line, clearly unarmed, should automatically be detainment and arrest. If evidence emerges that she approached the line shouting and making threatening gestures, carrying a weapon or otherwise presenting a clear danger, then fair enough, arrest her. But what I'm advocating here is a presumption of peaceful intent, rather than of violence and disorder. At the moment, both sides are assuming there will be violence, arrests and confrontation, and it's a self-fulfilling prophecy as protesters over-react to lawful orders from police and police subdue (often violently) anyone who questions them, approaches their lines or otherwise doesn't immediately get out of their way.

The situation could have turned out remarkably different if the majority of the officers on the line were dressed like this, and not like this. If there was a friendly, helpful, non-confrontational liaison officer (who could have talked to Amy Goodman) for every four or five heavily-armoured riot police, there would be a way to defuse these incidents before they even happen.

Of course, this assumes that St. Paul police genuinely wish to effectively police RNC protests with the minimum of disruption and allow people their right to free protest while safeguarding the right of the Republicans to assemble, and don't just want to stir some shit up like this situation in Canada and break some commie treehugger heads. Which isn't at all out of the question given the chuckling thugs shown here having a larf about shooting a peaceful protester with 'stinger' paintball guns.

I don't believe we'll ever reach a Shangri-La with completely impartial, apolitical police forces conducting completely violence and strife free protest regulation. However, I do believe that the state has a duty to present an aggressive response when facing imminent and visible violence itself, and that even then it should work as hard as possible to avoid violence, through unarmoured officers on the ground, riot police kept in reserve out of sight of protest routes and a presumption of peaceful intent. We should also work through the courts and through evidence gathering to make officers who bring their politics, their prejudices or just their dislike of counterculture kids with an attitude to book, and make their actions reprehensible to society as a whole. Threads like this and videos like the one above are a good start, even if they bring out the bar stool authoritarians in the room. I find a conversation about the things they find important enough to protest about, then extrapolation to the point where they themselves get batoned in the face can change minds. The secret is to talk about these things with the minimum of hysterical name-calling and invocations of Nazism.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:42 AM on September 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


"to present an aggressive response only when facing imminent and visible violence" - forgot the qualifier.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:47 AM on September 2, 2008


america is looking more and more like Putin's russia every day now.
posted by flyinghamster at 4:24 AM on September 2, 2008


Happy Dave -- I think you're exactly right on that point. I can't seem to find any decent reference on the internet, but I once saw a video comparing and contrasting police dealing with WTO protesters in Seattle '99 and World Bank protesters in Washington DC '00.

In Seattle, the cops prepared for war, set up barricades, sat behind riot gear, and had gas guns in hand. They were eventually assaulted with bricks . DC police had tons of police mingling and talking to people, with an occasional mounted officer letting people talk to his horse. The result was minimal confrontations.

Of course, I also think the DC cops did some of the pre-emptive detainments back then. So maybe other departments have just taken that lesson and not the rest.
posted by FuManchu at 4:29 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. The brownshirts are really out in force here. Yay, authoritarianism!
posted by Thorzdad at 4:33 AM on September 2, 2008


FuManchu, I'd love to find a copy of that video - this is an argument I often find myself making (having trained briefly in public order myself and thus having something of an insight into the other side of the police line), and to have a solid example to refer to would be great. I've had a good look, but no joy.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:02 AM on September 2, 2008


Sieg Heil.

Godwin all you like. Sometimes it's true.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:07 AM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Know who else carried out raids on protesters? Thats right - Italy another democratic? country.
posted by adamvasco at 5:08 AM on September 2, 2008


You guys don't think she went down to the police line, videographer in tow, with the intention of getting arrested, so she could reap all this publicity, do you?

Geraldo Rivera would be proud.
posted by Dave Faris at 5:15 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The discussion about the USA becoming a totalitarian state or not always looks a little funny to my European eyes. A bit like two people inside a house that's on fire arguing about how high to set the thermostat on the heater.

The USA has a long history of civil liberties violations and totalitarianism, starting with slavery (it was already supposed to be the land of the free then!), apartheit after slavery was abolished, concentration camps for citizens of Japanese decent during the second world war, communist witch hunts, countless horrifying acts in countless wars, support for dozens of dictatorships around the globe, the Iraq war and now legalised torture. And the list goes on...

The USA isn't changing, it has always been like this. It just finds new ways to express itself once in a while.

In this context, endless discussions about if it was a bad decision of Goodman to try to confront the police there seem completely absurd.

It truly amazes me how anyone can look at the USA and not see a horrible, totalitarian and dangerous mess.
posted by Djinh at 5:15 AM on September 2, 2008 [9 favorites]


(You forgot John Adams, and the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798.)
posted by Dave Faris at 5:28 AM on September 2, 2008


I wish these protectors were not quite so shrill and easy to dislike, because it's obvious that a perception of some of those on the vocal activist left is corrupting many people's impression of everyone on the left.

Amy Goodman is a fantastic journalist and a wonderful person. Neither she, nor her staff are bomb-throwing trust-fund babies. They're journalists.

This is outrageous and I will do my part by spreading this far and wide.

Thank You Amy for doing a great service to the public. You and everyone else in St. Paul will be in my thoughts and prayers.
posted by willie11 at 5:32 AM on September 2, 2008


BTW, none of the Missile Dick Chicks were busted. My sister is one and she says the cops love them.
posted by Xurando at 5:38 AM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dave Faris writes "You guys don't think she went down to the police line, videographer in tow, with the intention of getting arrested, so she could reap all this publicity, do you?"

If so, you guys don't think that the cops being duped into playing her game (if you believe that was her game) isn't stupid policing?
posted by orthogonality at 6:11 AM on September 2, 2008


It truly amazes me how anyone can look at the USA and not see a horrible, totalitarian and dangerous mess.

It really amazes you? Well, I live in the US, and nothing about my life is "horrible." I live comfortably, work in my chosen profession, come and go as I please, buy what I want, associate with who I like, and so on. If totalitarianism just means that some dipshits with buckets of urine get busted, then I guess totalitarianism really isn't that bad at all.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:44 AM on September 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Steve: please stop being a T.W.A.T ( Total Wanker and Troublemaker)
posted by adamvasco at 6:56 AM on September 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


You probably make his election less likely by allowing yourselves to be associated with civil unrest, regardless of whether the trouble is caused by bent rightwing cops or by the sad stilt-and-drum corps that shows up for these things. Don't protest their convention.

It's true that the activities of some of the "anarchists" in Minneapolis right now are very counter-productive, but not every protester, or even most protesters, should be associated with civil unrest. Freedom of speech and assembly (and even civil disobedience of bad laws) are supposed to be American ideals, not voter-terrifying unrest.

Right now, getting [] elected should be the only goal of the US [].

There, generalized that for you. Hopefully with the specific name and political leaning deleted, you now recognize this philosophy as the one that destroyed the US right. Putting candidates above principles is a great way to lose the latter while becoming disappointed by the former. I can't speak for the US left, but although Obama looks like the lesser of several evils this time, I hope that next time you guys can find someone who's a little more committed to our Constitutional rights. I'd like to vote for a candidate from the left because he'll actually restore the freedoms the left claims to care about, not just because it'll be sadly amusing to watch the Democrats take the helm just in time to get tarred with the blame for the fallout of Bush's failures.
posted by roystgnr at 6:56 AM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Steve: please stop being a T.W.A.T ( Total Wanker and Troublemaker)

You're personally insulting me simply because I disagree that the US is a totalitarian state and am willing to give reasons for my disagreement?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:02 AM on September 2, 2008


It really amazes you? Well, I live in the US, and nothing about my life is "horrible." I live comfortably, work in my chosen profession, come and go as I please, buy what I want, associate with who I like, and so on.

What is it they say about those who give up freedom for security? When the day comes that that what you say stops being so, what is your recourse? When your rights start being infringed upon will you look back at days like this and wish you stood up for the right of your enemies to be peaceable heard? If for no other reason but to preserve that right for the one day you will need it as well?

To act as if somehow our nation is exempt from becoming a dictatorship is naive when every other nation on earth has succumbed to it at one time or another. The Bill of Rights are in place to allow revolutionaries the privacy they need if ever they need it.
posted by any major dude at 7:10 AM on September 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


But it was also a bad snap decision by Goodman to try to confront the police there.

How in the hell was she "Confronting" the police? Watch the video, she's clearly speaking calmly, if not pleading, trying to tell them that she has a press credential and that she just got off the convention floor. She's not saying anything confrontational or argumentative at all.
posted by delmoi at 7:31 AM on September 2, 2008


I live comfortably, work in my chosen profession, come and go as I please, buy what I want, associate with who I like, and so on.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese people could say the exact same thing. So what?
posted by delmoi at 7:33 AM on September 2, 2008 [10 favorites]


It's true that the activities of some of the "anarchists" in Minneapolis right now are very counter-productive, but not every protester, or even most protesters, should be associated with civil unrest.

Of course they shouldn't be, but voters will form mental associations based on what they see on television. Republicans vs. noisy, scary street demonstrators. Republicans for law and order. Democrats vs. police. Things like that. It's bad PR for the Democrats.

I'm sure it would be a lot more productive if all of the people who went to Minneapolis to protest instead stayed home and worked on voter education, registration, and turnout. You have to get rid of the Republicans, not accidentally help them stay in.
posted by pracowity at 7:38 AM on September 2, 2008


in some amazing and mysterious manner, grownups just know to go to the precinct house to inquire about the release of people taken into custody.
posted by quonsar at 7:41 AM on September 2, 2008


I must have missed the bit about Amy Goodman having a bucket of piss. I repeat... Troublemaker; sometimes called Troll .
posted by adamvasco at 7:42 AM on September 2, 2008


Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers
Hah! You're a journalist, not a commando. Come on.


I'm kind of assuming that she used her words, not a machine gun.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:50 AM on September 2, 2008


delmoi writes "Hundreds of millions of Chinese people could say the exact same thing. So what?"

I'm waiting to see the user "Mr. Chairman Dr. Steve Elvis China", or maybe just "Chinese Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America".
posted by orthogonality at 8:01 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm beginning to suspect a lot of you are inhuman.

A lot of you really believe that police officers have the right to arrest people who disagree with them. Exactly what is Amy Goodman doing that is a "crime"? Can you see that video with her getting arrested for simply talking politely to a police officer and say, "Yes, that's justice in action?" Do you really not see how much the officer is enjoying what he's doing?

Or take the girl with the flower. Now, she is actually standing at the side of the road, not in the middle of the road - note that the soldiers never break step, the zoom lens is deceptive - but she is still in the road trying to impede the soldiers by holding up a flower.

It's not just that they spray her in the face with pepper spray when simply picking her up and moving her out of the way would be simple and effective - it's that when she's stumbling, blinded some big, tough man sprays her again from behind.

Sickening. A lot of you are inhuman.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:51 AM on September 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


I live comfortably, work in my chosen profession, come and go as I please, buy what I want, associate with who I like, and so on.

Me too. The only difference is I tried to organize a march at the Republican Convention. Suddenly there was a SWAT team breaking down my front door to inspect for "fire code violations". Turns out my freedoms were mostly illusions.
posted by ryanrs at 8:53 AM on September 2, 2008 [8 favorites]


I hope you posted pictures of it to your blog.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:00 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


demonstrator1: Holy shit, they're going to teargasshdfnfjkdf,s ssss - about 5 minutes ago from twitterrific
posted by Artw at 9:05 AM on September 2, 2008


note: I did not organize a march at the Republican convention. My use of the first person was a rhetorical device to highlight the small differences between Steve's point of view and my own.
posted by ryanrs at 9:16 AM on September 2, 2008


About 200 people from a group called Funk the War noisily staged its own separate march. Wearing black clothes, bandanas and gas masks, some of their members smashed windows of cars and stores.

From the Funk the War website:

Now we’re at the Republican National Convention, incorporating our booty shakin' beats into the RNC Welcoming Committee blockade strategy the best way we know how: we're going to dress fierce, we're going to blast our music loud, we're going to party hard.
...
Though we hate this capitalist system with every fiber of our being, we have to hustle to survive it long enough to overthrow it.
...

Aww! Narcs are just sooo cute when they're being all narc-y and stuff! I just want to muss their hair and pinch their cheeks, the little dickenses!

You go, fellas! Stick it to that bad ol' man!
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:19 AM on September 2, 2008


I totally got shot at Kent State in the 70s.
posted by Artw at 9:20 AM on September 2, 2008


Nazi Germany, for example, came into being through violent means, including street battles, the burning of the Reichstag, and Kristallnacht, followed by a Nazi revolution, which swept away the Wiemar Republic. It wasn't a gradual loss of freedom, it was an overthrow of existing institutions by means of violence in the streets.

That's a self-serving reading of history you've got there...

My point is that it is unproven that liberal democracies can transform into totalitarian societies by a gradual loss of freedoms.

The paradigm "liberal democracy" is useless for the purposes of this debate.. I mean, take the USA for example (could we pick any place else?!?!). When did it become a "liberal democracy"? When they freed the slaves maybe? When women got the vote? Civil rights era? Remember, in the '50s you already had a President (yes, the fucking President for God's sake!!!!) warning of the coming military-industrial domination of the country.
posted by Chuckles at 9:33 AM on September 2, 2008


I should add that the way it used to be in early 80s New York City at least was quite different, and quite inspiring.

You'd call up the police department and say, "We're intending to demonstrate at XXX, tomorrow at 5PM." They'd say, (I'm not joking), "Are you expecting any arrests?" and you'd say, "No, we're going to hold up signs and pass out leaflets," or "Yes, four people are going to trespass and get arrested."

Either way, you'd get a lecture about what you could and couldn't do, they'd ask questions about how many people were going to show, that sort of thing. If you got arrested, if you were polite they'd book you and throw you out pretty fast for the most part. It was very civilized and in some sense even reduced the importance of the demonstrations as being "just part of the landscape".

I remember being at one where the police stopped traffic to move people across the street (what we used to call "crowd control" when it meant, "organizing a large group of people for their safety and comfort" rather than "showing who's in control here") and a woman complained, "I'm late for my appointment! Can't you stop this?" and a policeman said boredly in a thick New York accent, "Lady, it's a free country." (Really, those exact words.)

It was a free country, for a while.

(NOTE NOTE NOTE: yes, I know that the history between police and demonstrators in New York has always been touch at times but there was a point in my lifetime where the official policy was generally benign even if there were some less-good parts. I think Tompkins Square was when the policy started to change...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:34 AM on September 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


take the USA for example (could we pick any place else?!?!). When did it become a "liberal democracy"? When they freed the slaves maybe?

Now, now. I remember those days and nothing about them was "horrible". I lived comfortably, worked in my chosen profession, came and went as I pleased, bought what I wanted, and associated with whomever I liked (except those darkies), and so on. If that wasn't a liberal democracy, then I guess liberal democracy isn't all it's cracked up to be.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:49 AM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


it's all kabuki theater - both sides show up, go through their motions, say the usual things and nothing is actually changed by either side

and they all get their egos boosted because they fought for "their side"

the protesters want to be repressed and the police want to be seen as thugs

it's good public relations with the people who support them

what a charade
posted by pyramid termite at 9:49 AM on September 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


in early 80s New York City

Who would ever imagine we'd be pining for the halcyon days of the Koch administration?
posted by Dave Faris at 10:06 AM on September 2, 2008


I live comfortably, work in my chosen profession, come and go as I please, buy what I want, associate with who I like, and so on

this was true for middle class people in Pinochet's Chile, Stroessner's Paraguay, or, you know, -- yeah, Godwin, Godwin -- Hitler's Germany (pre-1939, then travel got somewhat restricted and lots of people got drafted).

is this the best you can do? really?
posted by matteo at 10:13 AM on September 2, 2008


it's all kabuki theater - both sides show up, go through their motions, say the usual things and nothing is actually changed by either side

It is all theater, but that is the entire point, so I don't see how it is a very interesting observation. And, there certainly is change. In particular, and apart from the larger political issues -- not that it makes any sense to separate those issues from the debate -- the tactics have changed. In the late 90s violence levels were escalating, and now the act of protesting itself is being criminalized.
posted by Chuckles at 10:28 AM on September 2, 2008


I SPENT YEARS ARGUING THAT AMERICAN NAZIISM IS [IMMINENT/IMPOSSIBLE] AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS SHABBY KLEPTOCRACY.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 10:35 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


“I live comfortably, work in my chosen profession, come and go as I please, buy what I want, associate with who I like, and so on.”

Me too.
It’s not enough.

I demand the right to disagree with and petition my government for redress without fear of retaliation by other means. If I have no disagreement or need to petition my government, I demand the right be open to others. Even those, perhaps especially those, who may disagree with me. And, upon arrest, I expect those exercising their right to peacefully assemble to not be met with police violence.

Now, strongly excepting the knuckleheads who show up to just smash things, activists are protecting and exercising our constitutional rights. They are absolutely vital to our freedom. They should be treated with respect in a measure equal to those inside the convention(s) the police are ostensibly protecting them from.
I grant, protestors do not have the right to be heard, only to assemble. But neither is it the job of the police to silence the critics of a political arm of the government. Which is one of the big problems with the “free speech zones.” You cannot place peaceful protestors where (or suppress them to a degree such that) they cannot possibly be heard by the people they are protesting.
It stifles the exact reason for the existance of the first amendment. Leadership cannot deafen itself to the vox populi.
At the very least, you have a breakdown of one of the major methods of feedback essential to a republic.
(Hitler: “I’m doing ok?” “Sure, sure, they love you!” BOOM! “Whawazzat?” “What, the bomb? Ach, some nut. We all love you Adolf. Really.”)

This targeting homes and busting in and arresting people is way way beyond what should occur in the U.S. and shows that ‘I’ am only free to work, come and go, be comfortable and associate with whomever I wish as long as I do not exercise - or appear to be planning to exercise - my constitutional rights at a given time or place.
That is completely unacceptable.

And I would willingly sacrifice all of my comfort in favor of those freedoms (and to some degree I have) but I greatly respect legitimate activists because they have made that exact sacrifice.
So - good job, comfortable life, instead of the freedom to speak as I will to power? No thanks. A cage with golden bars is still a cage.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:40 AM on September 2, 2008 [15 favorites]


Dave Faris writes "I'm suggesting that in a free society, if the police overstep their legal bounds, and make false arrests, that the cops get reprimands, the police department gets sued, and people work towards some sort of way to prevent it happening again."

Then we're not living in a free society, because that rarely, if ever, happens when police overreact. People get let out of jail and the charges get dropped. If you try to take it any further, you run into the blue line, and things could get very bad or you get stonewalled. If you don't believe me, then I take it you've never been the victim of police brutality.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:40 AM on September 2, 2008


Seven months after the mass arrests of over 1,800 protesters at the [2004] Republican Convention in New York City last summer, 91 percent of the nearly 1,700 cases that have been concluded have resulted in acquittals or the dismissal of charges.
...
In a related development, a legal case arising from the conditions under which those arrested at the Republican Convention were held was settled [in April, 2005], with the city paying $231,000 in legal fees and a small fine, in exchange for protesters dropping charges of criminal contempt against the city. The settlement gives 108 plaintiffs a token amount of $150 each, or a total of $16,200, with the rest going to legal fees to the Legal Aid Society and the National Lawyers Guild. Those arrested and held incommunicado for 48 hours and longer under filthy and abusive conditions can still file civil suits, and 570 notices of claim totaling $859 million have been filed.

The case arose after State Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo found the city in contempt for failing to bring those arrested into court within 24 hours, or else releasing them. The tactic was a transparent attempt to intimidate dissent and keep protesters off the street during the Republican Convention. “It was the worst performance by the police I had ever seen in my 30 years,” said one Legal Aid Society lawyer. “The courts were fully staffed and were essentially empty of defendants.” With the contempt charge due to come up within days, City Hall apparently decided to settle rather than generate additional publicity about the techniques of the police department in a year in which Bloomberg is running for reelection.
World Socialist Website
posted by Dave Faris at 10:48 AM on September 2, 2008


voters will form mental associations based on what they see on television
...Republicans vs. noisy, scary street demonstrators. Republicans for law and order. Democrats vs. police. Things like that. It's bad PR for the Democrats.
.

Key words: see on tv. The corporate media have a vested interest in reporting on the freak show (ratings!) and aligning themselves with the pov of their corporate masters.

Pretty much everything gets turned into bad PR for the Democrats, anyway - we need some of those magical i.o.i.y.a.r. cloaks.

Man oh man, I have to admire the peace protesters who have the courage to represent in the face of this show of force. Even some of the fringe groups - time and again, I see the code pink women getting smacked around and hauled off to jail by cops, and I gotta say that they have earned my grudging admiration for not just tolerating this insufferable shit quietly the way I am.

Prior post on Chicago 1968 with a lot of historical links about what went down at the time. For any of you young'uns who don't know about the Chicago Seven Trial or any of the surrounding events in Chicago, it's a pretty fascinating piece of recent history laden heavily with a lot of popculture. The interesting thing is that the conspiracy charge didn't take back then - but at least it was rooted in actual events. Today, the conspiracy charges are all about precrime.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:48 AM on September 2, 2008


Jahaza writes "But this has devolved into protests where people obstruct traffic, or trespass on military bases. The laws against these things are not unjust. Therefore, there's no warrant to disobey the laws."

The presence of unruly protesters (or even agents provocateur) is not an excuse to arrest anyone and everyone in the vicinity. Applying "just laws" to people who aren't disobeying laws is not justice, and is potentially used to intimidate people and prevent them from speaking freely, IOW intimidating people into silence.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:57 AM on September 2, 2008


Yeah, Dave, then check later at the next protest to see if anything has changed. This is a song and dance, not accountability. I've seen it get much, much worse, not better. Police treat these events and the people in them like they're potential riots, then they're surprised when things get out of hand. A different approach by law enforcement actually does result in different outcomes.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:59 AM on September 2, 2008


My original position was that this is nothing new. That there are constructive ways to combat over-reaching measures of police security, and they didn't necessarily include classifying all cops as thugs. News reports seem to indicate that there were thugs on both sides yesterday, and both were apparently braced for a conflict.

I mean, the video of the girl with the flower getting pepper-sprayed is appalling, but what about the Connecticut RNC attendees who were attacked and doused with bleach? Are you not equally appalled at that?

While it's clear that the police over-reacted yesterday -- and the raids, which included 5 different houses -- are pretty much all unacceptable, how would you propose a modern police force, faced with a potential riot, with threats of destruction, react? Do you suppose it would have been better, though, had they not reacted? And if they hadn't, would the protesters, bent on getting attention, escalated their acts of civil unrest?

All I'm saying is that it's easy for us to choose a side and sneer at the people who disagree with you when you're safe behind your computer, hundreds of miles away.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:22 AM on September 2, 2008


...here's a better description of the attack on the delegates.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:31 AM on September 2, 2008


Hello friends in Minneapolis. This will be cold comfort but: plan a protest and hope you get arrested like this. The law suit will be lucrative. Take that money and run to the coast as fast as you can.

Unfortunately these lawsuits, which are a forgone conclusion, will break your cities government. Services will deteriorate and the city will fall to the Midwest plague of inevitable urban entropy and decay. However the OTHER upside is the budget short fall will then force the city to defund your police and most of their homes will be foreclosed on as well.

PS. America look forward to more of the same when McCain gets elected. And they won't use even "potential" convention riots as an excuse.

Worried yet?
posted by tkchrist at 11:38 AM on September 2, 2008


Dave Faris writes "While it's clear that the police over-reacted yesterday -- and the raids, which included 5 different houses -- are pretty much all unacceptable, how would you propose a modern police force, faced with a potential riot, with threats of destruction, react?"

The difference, Dave, is that the police are supposed to be accountable to us. We can admonish the protesters, but they don't act as agents of the government. It's incumbent upon the police to act professionally, not to overreact. You act as if the police are victims here, but they are the ones who are supposed to prevent violence, not to incite it. Their actions are not means to that end, but rather are predicated on the idea that the show of force is always the best method for any situation involving protesters. That's not good strategy, forget about the constitutional, moral or ethical implications.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:49 AM on September 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Fine. So, Police Chief Krinklyfig, the RNC convention is 2 weeks away. How are you going to keep our streets safe?
posted by Dave Faris at 11:51 AM on September 2, 2008


Jell-O cannons.
posted by waraw at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2008


Dave Faris, if you look upthread, there are plenty of solutions about how to reduce the chance of violence at protests. Ad hom/appeal to authority 'well, what would you do?' rhetorical questions only work as a conversation gambit when you keep ignoring the suggestions offered.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2008


I wonder if that will ever make the MSM.. Probably not, it doesn't make for a nice clean story (despite the presence of "dilute" bleach -- whatever that means).

To measure the outrage though.. Personally, I expect a higher standard of conduct from the authorities (or myself, or groups I choose to associate with), than I expect of the general populace. In fact, to get all deconstructionist about it, I think that's what makes me a lefty :P

It is obviously a problem for people to be throwing bleach around. So, I wonder, is there any purpose for bleach on the protest 'front lines' other than attack? Like maybe it helps get pepper spray out of stuff or somethign? I mean, I understand the whole urine thing -- on the assumption that it was true -- young people acting childishly. Why was the bleach there? It seems stupid and mean spirited. As a protest 'weapon', nothing is as awesome (in any sense of the word) as a pie.
posted by Chuckles at 12:22 PM on September 2, 2008


Dave Faris writes "Fine. So, Police Chief Krinklyfig, the RNC convention is 2 weeks away. How are you going to keep our streets safe?"

Don't be silly. I'm not a police chief, and I don't have a list of logistics, and I don't have to be qualified to be a police chief to criticize their actions.

But I can tell you the way they did it is not working, and there is a way to do this right, so that any unruly protesters don't start a riot, and so that you don't brutalize people or sweep up innocent people. First thing, you don't plan and dress for a riot that hasn't happened, and you don't use riot gear on peaceful protests. That's a start.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:27 PM on September 2, 2008


Just start with the practices you use when your city's team wins the big game, or when the celebrity of the weak hits town. Those things do degrade sometimes too, and so you probably can't eliminate the riot gear and tear gas completely, but...
posted by Chuckles at 12:45 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


“...how would you propose a modern police force, faced with a potential riot, with threats of destruction, react? Do you suppose it would have been better, though, had they not reacted? And if they hadn't, would the protesters, bent on getting attention, escalated their acts of civil unrest?”

The problem is (as noted) one of engagement. If you simply try to stonewall the protestors you’re going to have problems. If you communicate and soak in to the protest, it’s going to go much much easier. Indeed, the legitimate protestors often point out the troublemakers.
Typically the people at the heads of these kinds of things have a gift for organization and are charismatic to boot (they pretty much have to be). They don’t want random nuts busting shop windows or threatening people in the name of their organization.
But it’s not the random violence a police organization has to worry about. That can be dealt with fairly easily - well, to be fair, in theory easily (since a lot of states are low on national guardsmen) - without straining your resources.

What strains your resources is not putting guys in equipment on the streets, it’s investigation. Which is why a lot of departments don’t do it. Which is what actually does threaten candidates. It’s not too hard for the limo driving set to dodge a riot. A rifle, say, zeroed to 750 yards, not so much.*
Defending against the former requires only a bunch of guys in the right place at the right time, otherwise you just get property damage, and some nobodys hurt and that’s not a big deal (to the PD, I mean, given the grounds of what we’re talking about here). Defending against the latter requires methodical investigation and a major enterprise. Which is usually why the feds are involved.
So, they have to do *something* to justify that grant money from the DHS. And apparently these folks don’t have a whole lot of imagination.
But it’s the old saw - good generals study tactics, great generals study logistics. Cops in riot gear = tactical response. Cops meeting with organizers, working with them, developing intelligence and preventing escalation before it happens = logistics.
Everything else is just details. And you have sergents to handle details.

(*not that I totally buy the Obama meth head shooter story, a rifle does not a sniper make... even a ‘sniper rifle.’ I mean, was he using civilian optics? What kind of bullets - and grain - did they have? How’d the cops know how it was doped out? They go and shoot it or did they just check the mils? (Assuming finer optics there...I mean I doubt it. They’re saying ‘yards’ after all) And is he used to shooting at a mile high? With a *stolen* rifle? Why shoot at a high angle? Because you don’t have a drop compensator on your scope? (Lots of fun shooting in that thin air) Or so you don’t have to do the trig on bullet drop? F’ing meth heads doing trigonometry on the fly, yeah. ‘Hey man, just take the inverse tangent to derive the minute of angle...uh...yeah, gimme another hit.’ Shooting a political figure with a rifle from a high window, gee I wonder why no one’s ever thought of that before. And inside 800 yards is insane, SS countersnipers would eyeball to eyeball with him. You’re going to find a shooting pos within 800 yards of Obama in the open at Mile High? Hell, *I* couldn’t do that, and I’m fucking Superman. Ah, don’t get me started.)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:46 PM on September 2, 2008 [7 favorites]


I live comfortably, work in my chosen profession, come and go as I please, buy what I want, associate with who I like, and so on.

Only so long as you only like the people that you're allowed to like. If on the other hand, you were to like Minneapolis hippies, you could be in jail right now for merely going over to their apartment for a chat over a cup of tea and biscuits.

It's not really free association if you're only associating with those it is safe to associate with - even in the most totalitarian of police states, it is safe to associate with those whom it is safe to associate with. Minneapolis has shown that you don't enjoy free association, you just have a safe choice of friends. There is a difference.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:48 PM on September 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


(Also - a lot of DHS grants go toward equipment, not overtime, et.al. So it’s not just a matter of St.Paul cops being idiots. You just can’t make lemonade out of some lemons. If all they give you is money for batons and riot gear, etc. etc. - well, there you go. Similar to the engineering principle - function follows form. But this has been said before (the idea of embracing the crowd and engaging the organizers sans riot gear) here and elsewhere. Up the budget for more overtime, training, etc. - and you’d likely have a better response. Likely. But a lot of politicians like to shove equipment at police departments, in part because it’s a one time thing and is big and showy and looks ‘tough on crime’, and in part because if they lose an election the next guy doesn’t reap the benefit of the ongoing budgeting program you initiated. And it keeps the departments coming to you cap in hand for money every year. Etc. etc. And so, you get this crap. Point is, I guess, it is, at least in part, a mechanism. It’s not only ideological.)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:54 PM on September 2, 2008


It's not really free association if you're only associating with those it is safe to associate with - even in the most totalitarian of police states, it is safe to associate with those whom it is safe to associate with. Minneapolis has shown that you don't enjoy free association, you just have a safe choice of friends. There is a difference.

which amendment is it that guarantees my safety while choosing to do unsafe things?
posted by quonsar at 12:59 PM on September 2, 2008


Well, I live in the US, and nothing about my life is "horrible." I live comfortably, work in my chosen profession, come and go as I please, buy what I want, associate with who I like, and so on. If totalitarianism just means that some dipshits with buckets of urine get busted, then I guess totalitarianism really isn't that bad at all.

TRANSLATION: I got mine, to hell with anyone else.

Way to live the dream, Steve.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:06 PM on September 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


quonsar writes "which amendment is it that guarantees my safety while choosing to do unsafe things?"

What unsafe things would those be?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:06 PM on September 2, 2008


Being in the vicinity near edgy cops.
posted by Artw at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2008


Today I am typotard.
posted by Artw at 1:09 PM on September 2, 2008


"No, I won't do what you tell me to do, Officer Riotgear. I need to know where my bff is!"
posted by Dave Faris at 1:11 PM on September 2, 2008


What unsafe things would those be?

uh, for you? reading, apparently.
posted by quonsar at 1:48 PM on September 2, 2008


Goodman and her producers gave their version of events on Democracy Now this morning.
posted by homunculus at 1:50 PM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone is advocating for free reign to do whatever they want (i.e. splash bleach/urine/ink/whatever, break windows, overturn garbage cans/kiosks/cars/people, but instead simply asking for their right to assemble peacefully and air their grievances. For my own part, having been a peaceful protester, I understand why the police react as they do, but that reaction is akin to swatting a gnat with a buick. When the first (very large) anti-war protest took place in NYC, I was there with hundreds of thousands of people, and there were very few incidents that I knew of, although I watched mounted police overrun some punk kids (punk here is not intended to be disparaging, rather a neutral descriptor). That was frightening in itself, and I made sure that I was well out of the way. Fear. That's what they are trying to employ here. Fear of assembling, fear of even planning to assemble. That's SO messed up. I understand both sides--though I only agree with one. That is, I understand why some folks think that crying "totalitarian!!11" is hyperbolic, but really, on the face of it, when you look at the rights guaranteed us in the Constitution, there seem to be some wee breaches in its interpretation, lack thereof, and the enacting of policies that fly in the face of press freedom and the other freedoms we're discussing here. (I knew there was a problem when I saw that they were corralling people, particularly the press-- that was one of many wake-up calls for me.)

After reading about Amy, and clicking on some of the links here (par. the woman getting shot in the face, the shitheads laughing about it) I'm upset. (aside: I recently saw a documentary on a local P.A. channel, the contents addressing the use of non-lethal crowd control methods, especially rubber bullets and beanbags, and the trauma they cause-- for non-lethal, they're pretty damaging.)

When are they going to break out the Raytheon Pain Ray?

Apologies for being so scattered, but this shit upsets me. I sense that all of the apologists making excuses for the behavior of the police and the actual crowd-control methods are clinging to an ideal, an image of America as a pretty good place to live, with lots of freedoms to do whatever we want within reason . . . yet, are these protests and airings of grievances unreasonable? Should we just all shut up and thank goodness we live in such a wonderful place? Leave well enough alone?

THE IDEAL IS JUST THAT. Unfortunately, it's just an idea, and in order to make it a reality, people need to exercise their rights, without fear of reprisals, fear of incarceration, fear of being trod upon by a horse or having capsicum resin sprayed in their face.

Such bullshit. Canada looks better every day.
posted by exlotuseater at 1:55 PM on September 2, 2008


The Revolution Will Be Twittered
posted by homunculus at 2:02 PM on September 2, 2008


I personally can't fucking wait for America to turn into a totalitarian police state, because I'm sick of all the goddamn whining about America turning into a totalitarian police state.

In a very small way, I agree with this. Or at least a part of the sentiment; I think we need another Kent State kind of event to happen, something the police equivalent of September 11th, where it unifies practically everyone behind the idea that "shit has got to change".

The last few years have seen most local police departments get that War on Terror money, which they have used to deck out the officers in their tactical ninja clothes, and lacking terrorists to do battle with, they have started employing their new toys in the War on Drugs, or the War on People Who Might Do Something Political, or whatever.

And whenever some crazy cops-kicked-in-the-door-and-shot-the-dogs-but-it-was-the-wrong-address kind of story comes out, many people defend it as the cost of being safe.

I think something needs to happen to show that under the current system, they aren't safe.

A common complaint with the way thing are going in Iraq is that we are asking soldiers to act as law enforcement agents; something they are not qualified to do. And as a result, we've seen terrible things happen. We are, more and more, asking our Police here at home to act (and dress, and be equipped like) soldiers in the field, this leads to similarly bad things happening.

I like cops. I think they have a tough job, and they don't get paid well enough for the work that they are asked to do. But I also think that under the current trend, there needs to be a serous shake up in the way our nation interacts with it's law enforcement. We shouldn't ever have to tolerate the excesses we've been seeing.
posted by quin at 2:04 PM on September 2, 2008


I recommend even generally disinterested residents of any town where riot police will be in effect to show up and watch the scenario unfold as it will indeed change your opinion of these situations. I attended such an event in my own hometown and was generally terrified by the large, confused masses of police geared for conflict and their followup activities which could only be described as paranoia-inducing, massive displays of force. I was quickly spirited from Steve's America to some nightmare place where police drive by in unmarked, tinted cruisers to take photographs, where protesters with no outlet for dispersion were informed they would be arrested if they did not disperse and other provocational events.

One only needs to see one or two urban assault vehicles with police atop surveying the scene with readied shotguns to understand that you are no longer in Steve's America and that there is no way out and no way back.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:17 PM on September 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Great read, homunculus. Forgive me, but that's a hilarious read. A couple people, trying to get a dialogue going, get tackled by three converging teams of police. Way to judge the threat level, guys. Then on the other hand, you have the press emphasizing to each other how awful it was that yelling "I'm Press!" doesn't automatically make the cops ignore them. I mean, that shouldn't happen to anyone, but once it's happening, I can't imagine what magic will make the cops care that you've got a camera and blog.
posted by FuManchu at 2:20 PM on September 2, 2008


quonsar writes "uh, for you? reading, apparently."

To be crystal clear: What unsafe things were you referring to, specifically?
posted by krinklyfig at 2:21 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


which amendment is it that guarantees my safety while choosing to do unsafe things?

You're getting ahead of yourself. Amendments (such as the 1st and 4th) are not intended to keep you safe if you choose to do unsafe things that invite government persecution - such as having coffee with friends who are hippies and who have not committed a crime, and are not planning to commit a crime. The amendments are intended to ensure that having coffee with friends (who are hippies who have not committed a crime, and are not planning to commit a crime) should not be an invitation for government persecution in the first place.

Once the constitution has failed, then it ceases to be relevant whether there are any amendments that guarantee your safety should you choose to do unsafe things - if the amendments were working, you wouldn't need any such protection (to have coffee with friends who are hippies and who have not committed a crime, and are not planning to commit a crime), and if they've failed, then even if such protection were in there, it would be just as worthless.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:25 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


quonsar: which amendment is it that guarantees my safety while choosing to do unsafe things?

For these particular unsafe things? Such as planning protests in the privacy of their own homes? Or peaceably assembling, or speaking freely?

I'd go with the 1st and 4th, myself. But others may also apply.
posted by lodurr at 2:29 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


What unsafe things were you referring to, specifically?

He wasn't referring, specifically. He was insinuating. It's much easier and more convenient.
posted by lodurr at 2:30 PM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


remember when quonsar used to say interesting things? those were the days.
posted by Hat Maui at 3:20 PM on September 2, 2008 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: We love you until we hate you.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:32 PM on September 2, 2008


“I think we need another Kent State kind of event to happen, something the police equivalent of September 11th, where it unifies practically everyone behind the idea that ‘shit has got to change’.”

I understand and sympathize with that sentiment. I wholeheartedly oppose the reality.
In part because - who takes the hit? And also in part because couple that desire with the will to see it and you move from believing in a system to “you have to make it fall” (to quote Guevara) agent provocateuring.
I mean - why not incite a Kent State? Make the police overreact and visibly kill innocent people? Obviously that’s not what you’re talking about.
But one of the reasons one opposes a given opponent is because of their methods. And all things being equal, I’d rather not have innocent folks suffer as long as I’ve got any other option open. I’d rather prevent it, even if it would serve the ultimate ends of reform (I suppose that is how I define my conservativism. In contrast to radical) - as long as it’s humanly possible. Again, not at all what you’re positing, but I wanted to address the thought.

And while I disagree we are in earnest a totalitarian state, I’ll agree that in localized cases we can be.

You don’t need to be prosecuted to be persecuted. They need only deny you your voice - at the time - and that’s all it takes. And then they can let you go be free somewhere else.
(Old saw: You can kick my ass any day of the week... but not today)

I think the problem is one of communication.
In part, yes, I think the organizers of given groups should have contacted the police, but also, there’s an obvious disconnect between what is reported in media and what the actual story on the ground is.
So there’s a lot of apathy and learned helplessness.

And I think that must serve someones interest.
(And I don’t think it’s the cops. Sure some guys are brutal thugs, but most people don’t dig the stress.)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:51 PM on September 2, 2008


Actually, those that just accept the official version of these things are a huge part of the problem. These police (they, by and large, were not St. Paul police officers, many of whom I know and talked to during the march) decked out in riot gear, some with sleeves rolled up to show their ripped arm muscles, were brought in from all over, some as far away as Philadelphia. Their presence was meant to intimidate people and it really did, but the few among us who are not intimidated by such displays because they have no home or job to protect were provoked, because even more than intimidating, it was provocative. As I marched by the first impulse was to reel at the absurdity of their over-the-top black gear and large batons for beating, since most of us were pretty meek anyway, kids, grand-parent aged grey-hairs, and college students. The "anarchists" were putting on their show, mostly chants and putting bandanas over their faces. The ridiculousness was emphasized by the fact that these goons posed as ready to battle anyone who looked cross-eyed at them, while local bike-patrol cops lounged relaxed on their cycles right next to us as we passed, returning our greetings (I made a point of telling Minneapolis police "Welcome to Saint Paul; thanks for coming over!" Most of them smiled and responded, "Thanks!"). Three of the Minneapolis cops tried to defend the riot gear by saying that early in the day, some "anarchists" tried to block the street and one of them had a slingshot (!). I noted that there were perhaps hundreds of gang members running around the Twin Cities with actual firearms AT THE EXACT SAME TIME, so why weren't the cops disarming and arresting them? The response was rather scattered, referring to "security" and "the convention", as though the rest of us aren't deserving of security 24/7, but, good god, we can't let these Republicans have their feathers ruffled.

I've known the owner of one of the raided houses, Michael Whalen, for over 30 years. He's been a long time supporter of anti-war and other generally left-leaning causes. He was unable to fathom the idea that the police would raid his duplex without probable cause and that they would fabricate to the media materials to justify their raid, materials not appearing on the receipt lists and clearly not present. For example, at one house they listed things like cardboard, rags, empty bottles, Molotov cocktails, etc. Now, I shouldn't admit this, but with one exception these all can be found in my house. I strongly suspect that that exception was also not in this house, and that the police's clever strategy is to list all these things and then later say that the list is "essentially" correct, there may have been an error or two. It's bullshit, plain and simple, and meant to provoke exactly the behavior that occurred from those who were so clearly abused by the system.

I am ashamed for my city and they way our officials allowed this to happen. It's clear they were influenced by the FBI, who it appears may have led the effort, but it does not excuse their abuse of power. This is how police states behave and the smell of fear they emanate regarding the power of dissent, especially inconvenient dissent, is repugnant and out of place. To say that the convenience of the convention goers outweighs totally the right of the people to air publicly their grievance to those who would govern is an announcement of the end of our democracy.

The march should have been routed directly around the Xcel Center. Small delays entering or leaving the venue would have paled in comparison to the inconvenience the convention creates for the citizenry during the week it convenes. The government casts its lot with the empowered and specifically repudiates the idea that it is of the people and for the people. This will affect both my financial support and voting preferences in the next election.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:59 PM on September 2, 2008 [9 favorites]


No Kent State. In today's climate, the police could mow down a group of kindergarten children who were singing "We Shall Overcome" and carrying flowers, and the mainstream media would depict the children as dangerous or dupes of dangerous adults, and the usual suspects would appear on Metafilter to defend the slaughter.
posted by bad grammar at 5:33 PM on September 2, 2008


Back then, there was more of a culture war, and there was a huge factor of some police apparently looking for a reason to bash some skulls... and you'd have thought there would have been lessons learned since then.

There have. The police have learned that you can arrest or pepper spray anyone you want, but you can't bust skulls.

I think it speaks a lot about the general character of those involved in the main march itself that there were very few arrests. I am smart enough, and respect that while they're not all perfect, police are just working folks like me, to realize it's a bad idea to taunt the riot squads lining the route. But at the same time, I wish I could expect that same respect in return. Yes, the law and order side knows that there ARE going to be some self-styled anarchist fools who are going to break shit no matter what. And they should have riot squads at the ready, spread throughout the city IN LOW VISIBILITY. Most of us who were protesting realize that there is a need for the riot squads and certainly for a police presence. First of all, we do need police lining the route simply because they need to set up the traffic blocks. But I expect the benefit of the doubt and to be treated like any other peaceful parade or demonstration, and to have normal barriers to keep OTHERS from interfering with the MARCH, not the other way around. By using police decked out in riot gear, with beatin sticks at the ready, the side of law and order effectively made the first move. Most of the people didn't bite. There were plenty of taunts and heckles, but few resorted to illegal actions. The police should always be ready, but never provoke. They (collectively, as an organization, not talking about individuals here, as they were all well disciplined and just doing their job any time I saw them) provoked. Riot police lining the march route, and around every turn downtown, are not an effective visual deterrent. It's just overboard. Have them visible here and there, sure. But don't use them as road blocks when a few cops and a barricade will do.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:36 PM on September 2, 2008


What is it they say about those who give up freedom for security? When the day comes that that what you say stops being so, what is your recourse? When your rights start being infringed upon will you look back at days like this and wish you stood up for the right of your enemies to be peaceable heard?

Oh yes, the perennial bugbear of the wingnut: "Someday they'll come for you too!"

Bull-fucking-shit. They're never going to come for me, and that's why I'm not worried. I don't think totalitarianism "can't" happen here. I think it won't, or at least not the sort of totalitarianism I give half a shit about.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:44 PM on September 2, 2008


Bull-fucking-shit. They're never going to come for me, and that's why I'm not worried.

And there it is.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:04 PM on September 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


But there's a good chance you might find yourself on that no-fly list, Mr. President Dr. Steve Osama America.
posted by ryanrs at 7:09 PM on September 2, 2008


Of course, nothing says 'community policing' like a tank mounting a belt-fed, .50-cal turreted machine gun. Hope they keep track of what's behind their target, and the building behind that, and the next one...
posted by bitmage at 7:14 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bull-fucking-shit. They're never going to come for me, and that's why I'm not worried.

I've never wanted them to come for someone so badly in my life.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:24 PM on September 2, 2008


I've never wanted them to come for someone so badly in my life.

Haha! Too bad.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:27 PM on September 2, 2008


a belt-fed, .50-cal turreted machine gun.

What in the name of holy FUCK is the point of that?
posted by Artw at 9:42 PM on September 2, 2008


What in the name of holy FUCK is the point of that?

Because in Richland County, South Carolina criminals are made of PURE TITANIUM.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:36 PM on September 2, 2008


They're never going to come for me, and that's why I'm not worried. I don't think totalitarianism "can't" happen here. I think it won't, or at least not the sort of totalitarianism I give half a shit about.

I really hope you're right. Would you care to elaborate on the reasons why you don't think totalitarianism can happen here? I used to think that neither secret prisons, nor publicly sanctioned torture, nor public unpunished unwarranted wiretapping programs could happen here, but my only real reason turned out to be an unjustified faith in the American public's capacity for outrage and hypothetical opposition politicians' sense of self-interest. If you've got good (or even just mediocre) reasons for thinking that things won't go any further, I'd very much like to hear them. I also would bet that things won't go much further in the near future, but I'd like to have a more solid foundation for that than "hope" and "The guy leading the polls seems to find socialist types of government overreach preferable to fascist types".

I'd also like to think that, even if more people who are positioned to profit psychologically or materially from totalitarianism amass power, they wouldn't be stupid enough to repeat the historical mistake of taking it so far as to risk a backlash and upset that profit. But it's not always up to them. Something I'd never heard until recently: "NKVD agents became not only executioners, but also one of the largest groups of victims. Most 1930s agency staff (hundreds of thousands), including all commanders, were executed." One problem with exploiting paranoia for personal gain is that it can be an unstable process - there's always someone who could stand to gain in your place if only the list of targets was a little longer. I know you're trolling, but there really are people whose reaction to this mess is "Thank God those cops are on my team"... as if the guys who have no problem bashing down doors and jailing mouthy reporters would think twice about messing with a Real American.

Just something to think about while muttering reassurances. Historically the targets of totalitarianism haven't all been obvious, and of course there are any number of other counterexamples to the idea that those people have all been deserving targets. When "they come for you", it's not primarily about "you", it's about "them".
posted by roystgnr at 10:46 PM on September 2, 2008


What in the name of holy FUCK is the point of that?

If you have to ask, you must be an impotent communist.
posted by homunculus at 11:01 PM on September 2, 2008


If you've got good (or even just mediocre) reasons for thinking that things won't go any further, I'd very much like to hear them.

I don't think that the abuses today are any worse than any historical abuses. America's authoritarian streak ebbs and flows. The founders were civil rights hating authoritarians, in many ways, as was Lincoln. FDR too.

I don't see anything special about today. A lot of the fundamental freedoms that we take for granted weren't even established in the form we know them until the 20th century, and a step backwards won't inevitably turn into a slide toward destruction. Hell, people are bringing up Kent State--kids getting shot to death for protesting (or being near a protest). Did that bring about the dystopian nightmare? Apparently not.

Look, maybe you guys are prescient, and this really is the big one. I know people like to bring up the fact that a totalitarian state isn't always visible even when it's right ahead, but I can't help but wonder if the instances of people erroneously crying wolf maybe don't make their way into the history books as often.

I'm confident that in 50 years I'll be proven correct. I'm not totally close minded, but it's going to take more than a shrill chicken little act to get me concerned.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:28 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


MPDSEAILF
posted by Hat Maui at 12:47 AM on September 3, 2008


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America - thanks for the longer, more considered response. More in-depth explanation of your thoughts in threads like this one like you've just done would lead to a lot less accusations of trolling.

Anyway, on to your assertions:

America's authoritarian streak ebbs and flows. The founders were civil rights hating authoritarians, in many ways, as was Lincoln. FDR too.

Well, yes, there have been bad things in the history of the United States, like any country. However, the use of the term 'ebbs and flows', as well as the rest of your post, suggest you view it as essentially uncontrollable, like the tide. In fact, every change, good or bad, in the way a country is governed and policed comes about because of a multitude of factors, but they all ultimately boil down to decisions by individuals. There was nothing inevitable about the Alien and Sedition Acts, just as there is nothing inevitable about warrantless wiretapping, pepper-spraying of protesters or waterboarding. All of these things come about because of a mixture of zeal, lack of empathy, lack of knowledge and personal decisions, both on the part of people doing bad things and people who do them. Bad legislation, bad enforcement, bad governance and bad business practice are stopped by individuals and groups refusing to accept them, and using the systems that our governments, legal systems and media provide to address them, including protest, redress through the courts, publicity, investigative journalism and the like.

The fact that many of these things have come about in their current form in the 20th century is both very important (because it indicates progress from fundamentally unfair, unfree times) and utterly irrelevant in the context you're deploying it (because the fact that persecution, quashing of free speech and governmental abuses of power happened in the past does not mean that it doesn't matter if they happen now).

I know people like to bring up the fact that a totalitarian state isn't always visible even when it's right ahead, but I can't help but wonder if the instances of people erroneously crying wolf maybe don't make their way into the history books as often.


The thing is, we are locked into ideas about what totalitarianism is in your discussion frame. In your view, it is jackboots, striking visual design, mass rallies, indoctrination and repression, if not outright slaughter of minorities.

But we are, I hope, past that in the modern industrialised West. When I say 'past that', I mean past outright slaughter, death camps, complete censorship and 1984-style repression of an entire people.

What we are not past, however, is the marginalisation of independent thought, anti-intellectualism, demonisation of anything remotely outside the mainstream, the extension of religious and personal mores into the public sphere and disenfranchisement of millions of people because of their race, social class, sexual orientation or political beliefs.

I always found the idea of the US inspiring, because it is explicitly based on the idea of a single standard for freedom of thought, assembly, speech and religion for all people, regardless of the differences above. And I don't doubt you when you say that none of your freedoms have been restricted or repressed. I'd hazard a guess that this is because they don't stray far from what the government of the day and social atmosphere regard as mainstream and 'right'. But the entire point is that the government of the day (and especially the dominant segment of society) cannot be allowed to dictate what is 'right' to everyone else without avenues of petition and redress. Just because you, personally, don't feel like your right to air your grievances, associate, assemble and live your life is being impacted, doesn't mean that everything is hunkydory and everyone should just shut up.

What's really sickening though, is that the majority of this is being done through extra-legal means, with little or no oversight or restraint from governing authorities, and based largely on the personal prejudices and opinions of law enforcement themselves. Surrounding a house where protestors are organising, smashing doors down without showing a warrant, these are terrible things to be happening to people who are not breaking any law.

This is not something to be ignored or explained away as 'not that bad' because there are not cattle trucks, deaths-head cap badges and jackboots involved. It is a very dangerous subordination of a principle that guards everyone's right to live a free life, being directly challenged. Just because the life they choose is not the one you choose is no reason to discount it.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:58 AM on September 3, 2008 [10 favorites]


Happy Dave, you complete me.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:12 AM on September 3, 2008


"Surrounding a house where protestors are organising, smashing doors down without showing a warrant, these are terrible things to be happening to people who are not breaking any law."

Planning direct action, blocking streets, highways etc, and coordinating the work of others planning direct action and aiding their efforts sure sounds criminal to me.
posted by Jahaza at 4:58 AM on September 3, 2008


So "direct action" = criminal behavior?

Interesting dictionary you've got there....

"Planning" isn't "acting." And there is still the small matter of the fact that they appear to have refused to show warrants until suspiciously late in the process, and in at least one case don't appear to have had one at all until several hours after the raid started.

Real Libertarians and real Conservatives ought to be squirming really uncomfortably about now....
posted by lodurr at 5:05 AM on September 3, 2008


Oh, come on. How can you have a protest march without blocking a street? And last I checked direct action was only criminal when coupled with the word 'violent'. Plus, as you well know from following this thread, the policing itself here was really, really bad practice. A full SWAT team, handcuffs and throwdowns? For an armed crackhouse maybe.

At the heart of all of this talk about constitutional rights, protecting the right to free speech and everything else is the simple fact that there is a lot of shitty policing being done in the Twin Cities right now.

But you carry on telling yourself that everyone who goes to a protest is a lawbreaker - makes it easier to ignore them.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:05 AM on September 3, 2008


I would seriously like to know what Ron Paul thinks about all this. No snark intended. He's in town for his "anti-convention", isn't he?
posted by lodurr at 5:49 AM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


"How can you have a protest march without blocking a street? "

You get a parade permit as many of the protest groups have done. The group whose headquarters was raided was a coordinating group for those planning illegal activity.

And last I checked direct action was only criminal when coupled with the word 'violent'.

All sorts of non-violent direct action is illegal. Among the most common is trespass, for instance at the annual School of the Americas protests. Non-violent and definitely illegal. Another form of non-violent direct action is the blocking of roads and highways, something that's been done in

"Planning" isn't "acting."

IANAL, but my understanding is that planning illegal activity amounts to conspiracy and is itself illegal activity.
posted by Jahaza at 5:50 AM on September 3, 2008


Then wouldn't it have been nice if they'd been able to provide probable cause that illegal actions were being conspired about (e.g. gotten warrants that didn't amount to fishing expeditions) before they bashed in the doors with large armored SWAT teams, hmm?

What I'm hearing you say is that the agents of order are justified in making arrests whenever anybody opposes that order by means other than ... orderly. "Apply for your parade permit. Sorry! No parades that day. Try again next time we have the RNC here!"
posted by lodurr at 6:32 AM on September 3, 2008


Following up on self, nothing on Paul's house site or Presidential site. I didn't watch the videos, but I skimmed the text. Huge missed opportunity to promote libertarian values. (Sorry, that actually was snarky. As little regard as I have for Paul's positions, I thought he might actually might be willing to take notice that people who shared some of his ideals around personal freedom were having their rights abrogated.)
posted by lodurr at 6:41 AM on September 3, 2008


What we are not past, however, is the marginalisation of independent thought, anti-intellectualism, demonisation of anything remotely outside the mainstream, the extension of religious and personal mores into the public sphere and disenfranchisement of millions of people because of their race, social class, sexual orientation or political beliefs.

but that's not totalitarianism - in fact, if you look closely at how these things have been accomplished in our history, you'll find that the people were the ones doing most of this, not the government - and a lot of your list is arguable anyway

you have a right to independent thought, but you have no right to demand that thought be listened to and unmarginalized by the mainstream - you have the right to be intellectual, but you have no right to demand that others respect you for it - you have the right to be outside the mainstream and the mainstream has the right to demonize you for it, as long as they do not actually violate your rights - (and why not? calling something totalitarianism is demonization, isn't it?) - people extend their religious and personal mores into the public sphere all the time, in any kind of system except the most repressive ones, and in fact, your argument itself is an extension of your personal mores in to this, a public space

the disenfranchisement of millions of people is of course a much more serious matter, but it doesn't need a totalitarian state to do that, as our own history proves

in short, calling all this totalitarian is a case of you getting carried away with rhetoric

But the entire point is that the government of the day (and especially the dominant segment of society) cannot be allowed to dictate what is 'right' to everyone else without avenues of petition and redress.

and it doesn't and it hasn't - there was this other political party with a different plan from the government's and an alternative convention in a another city, wasn't there? - and amy goodman and others have been able to broadcast, to write, to contact their elected officials and say what they think - in short to petition the government, which is what they are guaranteed

you should note that the government is not required by the constitution to "redress" them or agree with them

Surrounding a house where protestors are organising, smashing doors down without showing a warrant, these are terrible things to be happening to people who are not breaking any law.

i don't defend that, but i find it disturbing that you seem to think this is the way the system actually is working instead of an aberration and that you think it is an indication that we are headed towards a totalitarian society when a) it can be explained as the local action of some people who really need to retake their high school civics classes b) thousands of others have managed to protest without their doors being kicked down

i don't believe we can slide into a totalitarian state, as it is commonly defined for one simple reason - in recent history, when that level of repression has started, the result typically has been civil war, anarchy, guerrilla tactics and mass bloodletting - the only current totalitarian states were established before the recent tactics of insurgency and terror became common - i find no reason why the u s would be any different

of course that doesn't make as good rhetorical propaganda like saying we're going to become a totalitarian country does
posted by pyramid termite at 6:52 AM on September 3, 2008


... i find it disturbing that you seem to think this is the way the system actually is working instead of an aberration ...

Well, to pick nits: It can be both an aberration and the way the system is working. That seems to be the case, here.

The really salient point seems to me to be that at least at this point, there seem to be effectively no consequences for the Sherrif's department with regard to their choice of tactics. If you do a news search on Yahoo or Google, you'll find hardly any mention of the house raids, for example, outside of the "alternative" press.

It's not a totalitarian state, but it is the pre-req for one: The Neimollerian state of "I was not an anarcho-syndacalist, so I did nothing."
posted by lodurr at 7:05 AM on September 3, 2008


"... syndicalist...."
posted by lodurr at 7:07 AM on September 3, 2008


a belt-fed, .50-cal turreted machine gun.

I am finding it impossible to construct a realistic scenario where a local law enforcement department would ever need something like this. When things have gone so wrong that you start considering the solution to be a belt fed anti-materiel weapon, it's time to call in the National Guard.

This is the very definition of a "bad idea".
posted by quin at 7:27 AM on September 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


Relax! It's not totalitarianism!

Relax! It's not a hanging until the trap door opens! It's simply a bit of rope hanging loosely around your neck!

"They", whoever the fuck they are (certainly it isn't just about one political party, and pretending it is is counter-productive), control the media who, for the most part, control what people think and know about what is happening. Do we have, or are we getting close, to this state of things we call "totalitarianism"? Is it even possible to make an objective definition and evaluation? I'd say 'no'.

What we can say is that many things have been happening over the last 8 years that simply should not be happening. Where we are on the spectrum is hard to say, but the very fact that the line "Surely this will..." has become so trite, speaks volumes. It's been one outrage after another, yet Gitmo is still open for business. The government still listens in where they shouldn't. And the war drums are still beating for yet another war of aggression. And now, journalists are arrested for nothing, and people's homes and personal papers are ceased by zealous government personnel. Oh, and don't lets split hairs over this. We're talking about police actions over political speech, which is supposed to be more free than any other sort.

There are those here who love to quibble about that last part. Save that bullshit for the trial. There was clearly a lack of respect for the delicate nature of political opinion and the expression thereof. And it's not like this kind of shit didn't happen in NYC, last time. The quibblers are only trying to confound us all, for their own amusement.
posted by Goofyy at 7:35 AM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Note to Anarchistic Peace Activists in 2011 : It's probably not a good idea to blog about your plans to rock the vote at the next political convention ahead of time. Posting your rad plans for mayhem to your MySpace page is equally unwise, and twittering your intentions just turns all of your followers into co-conspirators.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:37 AM on September 3, 2008


What in the name of holy FUCK is the point of that?

It shoots through schools.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:53 AM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


"How can you have a protest march without blocking a street? "

You get a parade permit as many of the protest groups have done. The group whose headquarters was raided was a coordinating group for those planning illegal activity.


And if you do, they will be sure to keep you far away from the people you are trying to reach with your protest, so it isn't really a protest. This is exactly the situation in Saint Paul, and I can see why young people with nothing to lose challenged that route and were angry at the way it was set up.

I mean, c'mon, this is the time we most vehemently practice the activities of democracy, during a presidential race. This is the most important time to petition for redress of grievances. And if the government helps to protect the ruling party from even hearing these grievances by coopting the citizens ability to communicate in a lawful way at a public function on a public street. And if you veer off that prescribed route, you are "breaking the law" and, apparently, in for dire punishment including a beating with a large baton. So appropriate, in your mind, I suppose for the audacity of using the city streets for a democratic, free activity like protesting government policies. Yes, it all makes sense to me.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:05 AM on September 3, 2008


So, whaddya sayin, Dave Faris -- are you suggesting that technologies which enable activism might also enable spying on activists?! But I was on the Cluetrain and everything!
posted by lodurr at 9:06 AM on September 3, 2008


American riots are so dull these days. Half the rioters are cops, so property destruction should be second nature, but all we get are just enough broken windows to make the shocked news announcers speculate on al-Qaeda connections of anyone on the scene not wearing a suit and tie.

Contrast to the French slum riots. Strange how a thousand burning cars turn racial profiling and rotting high-rises into a matter of serious national discussion.
posted by Anything at 9:09 AM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Police Gas Docile Crowd Outside the RNC
posted by homunculus at 9:50 AM on September 3, 2008


quonsar writes "which amendment is it that guarantees my safety while choosing to do unsafe things?"

We're talking about freely associating here, and people being arrested for it.

A bunch of people coming together to talk.

Similar to a church group, or a new congregation without a church building gathering at a member's house, to worship.

Or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Or a labor union meeting. Or even a meeting of anti-abortion groups.

Should cops be given carte blanche to raid Christian Fellowship meetings or AA meeting quonsar, without warrants, arresting those Christian or alcoholics for bullshit "fire code violations, breaking down doors and handcuffing everyone even five year-old kids? Would that be OK if a police chief got a bug up his ass about a particular evangelical denomination, or if he wanted leverage to shake down an AA member he suspects is a criminal?

Would that sit right with you?

Fuck no it wouldn't sit well with you. You'd be incensed if your friends or fellow congregants were treated that way, when the Constitution of th United States of America was written precisely to protect those rights.

You'd be angry and sickened and rightfully so.

Just as those of us here, most of us not protesters ourselves, who feel some however minor identity with these protesters, feel sickened and angry and impotent in the face of this.

It's the same Constitution that ensures these protesters' right to peaceably assemble that ensures your right to worship together with the congregation of your choosing.

But all you can do is mock the protesters, and mock us. And in doing so, though you don't know it, you mock your rights and freedoms too.
posted by orthogonality at 10:08 AM on September 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I tried to find something, but it looks like Obama hasn't issued any statement about the police activities in Minneapolis. You'd think he'd be all over that.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:17 AM on September 3, 2008


Here's a very basic question for the police; a simple question that ought to be easy to answer: how are reporters to report situations where riot police are involved?

Obviously, this has become awfully unclear these days, since in so many cases, everyone present is treated like a criminal.

I would also be keen to hear the same question asked of reporters of any of the big news organizations who deem these events not newsworthy. You're not reporting this, but if you were, how would you? Everyone loves a puzzle, right?
posted by Anything at 10:24 AM on September 3, 2008


Thanks, Homunculus.

Can't help but wonder: What makes the police think this sort of behaviour on their part is reasonable, proper, permitted or even practical? Is St. Paul so wealthy a city they can afford to use teargas without regard to the need?
posted by Goofyy at 10:40 AM on September 3, 2008


I've gotten the idea -- there are Twin Cities folks on this thread, so they can correct/rebuke me on this -- that a lot of folks from St Paul think Minneapolis is full of angry communist punk rockers. If that's true I'd expect it to have contributed to the thought around the planning.

Note also the comments up thread from a local who pointed out that a good percentage of the riot cops (and possibly some of the SWAT?) aren't actually local, but rather were shipped in from as far away as Philadelphia.
posted by lodurr at 11:08 AM on September 3, 2008


A bunch of people coming together to talk. plan illegal activity or plan to support illegal activity.

Is your local AA meeting is like that? Part of a criminal conspiracy? And when your local church is like that they do the same thing.
posted by Jahaza at 11:09 AM on September 3, 2008


Dave Faris: Kind of disappointing, yes. But I'm sure he's avoiding the show for the same reason as the mainstream press: Most Americans will see these protestors as effete intellectual snobs, commies, degenerates, punks, etc. So decrying what happens to them, when the situation is already framed by the local media and cops is a battle lost before you start.

It's annoying as shit.
posted by lodurr at 11:11 AM on September 3, 2008


Jahaza: Oh, right, because a bunch of suburban 20-something political activists are so much like the Branch Davidians, the Church of Scientology or the Westboro Baptist crowd.

Really, let's just be clear on something: You don't actually have any evidence that anyone at any of those houses was planning violence, do you? In fact, all the available evidence, other than vague police statements about the existence of ordinary household items like rags and empty bottles in those homes, suggests that there was no violence planned at all.

But we do know that one of those houses raided was having a meeting to organize people so they could videotape protests, to prevent the local cops from doing what the NYPD did in 04: Fabricating video evidence against people they arrested.
posted by lodurr at 11:17 AM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, Jahaza, I find it ironic as fuck that one of your posts to the Blue was about heckling and its suppression at the British Labour Party conference, and the comical response thereto. So, people are 'planning illegal acts' when it's protest you disagree with, and it's all barbershop quartet hilarity when you agree with them?

One day, something is going to mightily piss you off, and you're going to want to talk to people about it, in your own home, and someone is going to kick down your door. It's all commie punk hippie kids planning to disrupt normal law-abiding society, until the government does something that affects you personally, and then you'll be mightily surprised and pissed off when you're cuffed, tear-gassed and searched. And you shouldn't be fucking surprised, because when you make excuses for this kind of shitty policing, you're opening the door for more of ti.


Seriously, your moral equivalence and excuse-making for the authorities is sickening. It's shit policing, it's abdication of responsibility by those in government, and you're pissing 200 years of gradual progress down the drain.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:27 AM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


lodurr, I guess you could say that. I'm not sure though. I think there's a general perception that Minneapolis has more young, liberal or radical kids, and it's probably true. There are almost certainly more people in the 18-30 range, as most of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus is here. But I'm not sure most people really think that some sort of staggering percentage of the anarchist types are from Minneapolis. There are certainly some of them in St. Paul too. People probably know that... But I live in Minneapolis and really don't see St. Paul that much, so it's hard for me to say.

And yes, many of the cops were out of towners, though the majority were probably still from the Twin Cities. But neither city has the best reputation when it comes to restraint.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:29 AM on September 3, 2008


Well, it may just be all a miscommunication. A cursory look at the RNC Welcoming Committee's website announces that they are anarchists. One of the two definitions for the word "anarchist" is "a person who believes in, advocates, or promotes anarchism or anarchy; especially : one who uses violent means to overthrow the established order." Clearly, the police just took them at their word, not realizing that they meant anarchist in the snips and snails and puppy dog's tails sense.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:35 AM on September 3, 2008


Looks like part of the over-reaction to the "anarchy" bit stems from a youtube video produced by the group that shows masked people peacefully uses of molatov cocktails, fighting with riot police, as well as festive street bowling, and the fact that they released transportation plans of the RNC, although the official line of the police was that they weren't that concerned with the outdated information getting into the wrong hands.

I'll just say it again -- if you are planning on doing criminal behavior, using your website to promote it and using trigger words and imagery that indicate you plan on using violent techniques, even if you're just joking around, you shouldn't be surprised if you get a violent reaction, like these folks did.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:55 AM on September 3, 2008


Ah yes, because a comical youtube video in which someone in a bandana lights a barbecue with a molotov cocktail is a clear sign of violent intent.

Jesus fucking wept - this is like talking to London cabbies.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:59 AM on September 3, 2008


But in New York, we've had strong evidence of undercover cops acting as agents provocateur; in St. Paul we've had people arrested for bullshit "fire code violations"; in Denver, we saw film of cops pushing a reporter into the street, then a cop arrogantly puffing a cigar roughing up the reporter and arresting him for "blocking" in the street he was pushed into.

Anyone who doubts just how much chicanery officials are capable of when it comes to their efforts to discredit legitimate political critics and pretty much any organized citizens groups with points of view authorities deem incompatible with the preferred social and political order should read up on the FBI's COINTELPRO operations in the 60s and 70s.

These are the officials you want us to trust.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:03 PM on September 3, 2008


because a comical youtube video in which someone in a bandana lights a barbecue with a molotov cocktail is a clear sign of violent intent.

For people inclined to want to bash hippie skulls anyway, yes. Yes it is.
posted by Dave Faris at 12:08 PM on September 3, 2008


So, people are 'planning illegal acts' when it's protest you disagree with, and it's all barbershop quartet hilarity when you agree with them?
You don't see the difference between that and blockading streets, smashing property, and attacking delegates?

It's not a jokey Youtube video when on their web site they announce plans to blockade intersections and bridges.
2. Transportation Troubles – This includes blockades downtown (at key intersections), on bridges (10 bridges over the Mississippi River in the metro area), and other sporadic and strategic targets (busses, hotel and airport shuttles etc).
That may not be violence, but it is criminal activity.
posted by Jahaza at 12:15 PM on September 3, 2008


blockading streets, smashing property, and attacking delegates?

How are these all equal? Since when was blocking a street a criminal activity? Geez, the police don't need to take anything away from us - we're handing it all over to them with a big bow on top.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:33 PM on September 3, 2008


"Since when was blocking a street a criminal activity?"

MN Statutes:

"609.74 PUBLIC NUISANCE.
"Whoever by an act or failure to perform a legal duty intentionally does any of the following
is guilty of maintaining a public nuisance, which is a misdemeanor: ...
"(2) interferes with, obstructs, or renders dangerous for passage, any public highway or
right-of-way, or waters used by the public;
"History: 1963 c 753 art 1 s 609.74; 1971 c 23 s 74; 1986 c 444"

So, at least since 1963 (pdf).
posted by Jahaza at 2:17 PM on September 3, 2008


"Whoever by an act or failure to perform a legal duty intentionally does any of the following is guilty of maintaining a public nuisance, which is a misdemeanor: ...

Oh yes....good old "Public Nuisance" - the official term for "I can lock you up anytime I want."
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:30 PM on September 3, 2008


Also, speeding and jaywalking are criminal activities, but you'd be mighty upset if a cop tear-gassed you or beat you over the head to get you to stop, now, wouldn't you?

It's a matter of proportion, or rather way disproportionate response to the problem. They don't bring this much force to bear on the supposedly huge problem of gun-toting gang bangers.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:54 PM on September 3, 2008


“the group whose headquarters was raided was a coordinating group for those planning illegal activity.”

It’s illegal to fart in a church in some places in the country. See any doors being kicked in over that?
But this “free speech zone” B.S. isn’t just bad or stupid law, it’s contrary to the spirit of the constitution. It’s against the foundational principles the country rests on. Democracy is supposed to be uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be a hassle. It’s supposed to be a pain in the ass and get in your way, block your street, shout at you. It would need do a lot less of that if people weren’t sitting on their asses doing nothing and not caring when their government, unchecked, passes all sorts of silly laws. But there you go.
It’s supposed to be a duty AND a privilege. Too many people ignore the former and take the latter for granted.

“I don't think totalitarianism "can't" happen here. I think it won't...”

Well, that’s the thing - locally - it already has.
As said above, tons of police shipped in to serve a given agenda and present a certain type of front. That makes a statement.
That folks’ rights aren’t ongoingly violated as a matter of policy isn’t relevent to the fact that they were violated, and apparently by design aforethought and with impunity.
So it is what it is. Doesn’t matter that they’re not kicking in my door right now.
Tyrrany anywhere is a threat to liberty everywhere.

It’s the business of a totalitarian government to make you not give half a shit about it. Especially in the U.S. because there are so many people with enough juice to be a problem.
“Big Brother is watching you” is just a slogan used for dramatic effect. Totalitarianism looks like any other government - in terms of the window dressing. It has to in the modern age.

It’s not what happens to those of us that are fat, dumb and happy and just watching t.v.
It’s what happens in the back room or at a certain time and place.
It’s what happens to those who are exercising their rights, the response of their government, that determines what kind of government you have.
Are we in a totalitarian system? Not really.
Is this here what we’re talking about totalitarianism? Yeah. It doesn’t have to constantly quack to be a duck.

But that’s the fight. The freedoms we enjoy today exist because people said “We’re not going to stand for this shit” and pushed the bar a little higher.
Same thing going on here.
Makes me happy to see and fills me with pride (and envy that I couldn’t have been there).
So totalitarianism, not totalitarianism - meh.
Let’s just call it “Shit we shouldn’t have to put up with.”

“which amendment is it that guarantees my safety while choosing to do unsafe things?”

The Second. Got a problem with that? Come kick in my door.

On that note - I find it strangely ironic that the police arresting lawless protesters bent on destruction and chaos instead find only quiescent neo-hippy peaceniks.

It further irritates me that if they were, in fact, any kind of real threat they’d be organized. And if they were organized they’d be funded.
And if they had funding, they’d have lawyers, who (even if they were marginally competant) would eat the prosecution for lunch in court because (apparently - given it’s accurate) they didn’t go through the standard police procedure (warrants, et.al) and respect the rights of the arrestees or work on building, y’know, a real case against them.

And that’s a big red flag that this is harrassment, NOT police work.
Therefore the question of legality, conspiracy, etc, is irrelevant. That’s not why the police were there.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:50 PM on September 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


...not realizing that they meant anarchist in the snips and snails and puppy dog's tails sense.

Or, you know, in the definitional sense.

In my experience, anarchists aren't that much of a threat.
posted by lodurr at 5:44 PM on September 3, 2008


I would bet that the cops are working from Webster and not Wikipedia. It's more of a stretch to come up with a definition of non-violence.

I wonder if this guy is a follower of Laozi and Zhuangzi, or of Rousseau?
posted by Dave Faris at 5:57 PM on September 3, 2008


i'm just psyched smedleyman's back. good to see you again.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:36 PM on September 3, 2008


I wonder if this guy is a follower of Laozi and Zhuangzi, or of Rousseau?

Try Bakunin.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:56 PM on September 3, 2008


So, people are 'planning illegal acts' when it's protest you disagree with, and it's all barbershop quartet hilarity when you agree with them?

Why is this at all strange? It's perfectly normal to feel good about bad things happening to people you don't like, but to feel bad about bad things happening to people you like (or to you).
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:25 PM on September 3, 2008


/off topic

“which amendment is it that guarantees my safety while choosing to do unsafe things?”

Smedleyman : The Second. Got a problem with that? Come kick in my door.

Well, you still turn a damn good phrase, and I'm glad to see you back.

posted by quin at 9:43 PM on September 3, 2008


Here's the affidavit and search warrant application submitted by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office after a year-long investigation of the RNC Welcoming Committee.

According to the affidavit, the investigation was instigated by "information found from publicly available sources," and that "it was determined that there was reasonable suspicion that persons associated with the RNCWC were planning and conspiring to engage in criminal activity... criminal damage to property, riot, civil disorder, use of incendiary devices and unlawful assembly."

Reading it, it seems like the thing that scared the police the most was the group's fixation on Molotov cocktails, including the group's display on the promotional video, but also that the group hosted an "action camp" at the end of July in Lake Geneva, WI, attended by 50 people, where informants claim that the group practiced using them. One individual at the camp supposedly boasted he was going to throw balloons filled with a dangerous chemical, and that "he would go to jail for a very long time" if the police caught him with them. The group had apparently planned to transport their weapons of destruction ("Molotov cocktails, bricks, caltrops, shields, and lockboxes") inside large street puppets.

The group also set off alarms because their plans also included kidnapping delegates as well as sabotaging a nearby airport. Whether you think the group's threats were credible or not, the sheriff's application for search warrants on six locations was approved by District Judge Joanne M. Smith on Aug 29th.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:26 PM on September 3, 2008


(Correction... this application is specifically for the search warrant on the "Convergence Center," a two-story commercial brick building in St. Paul under short-term lease by the group, and not for the 6 residences also named.)
posted by Dave Faris at 10:48 PM on September 3, 2008


Except that there are a lot of anarchists in the Twin Cities area. The local cops encounter them all the time. They know that Social Anarchism has absolutely nothing to do with violent overthrow.

So the whole 'anarchism = violence' or 'Webster not Wikipedia' thing is a bit of canard.
posted by lodurr at 5:23 AM on September 4, 2008


What will be most interesting is if there ever emerges any actual evidence that any of those tactics (calthrops, shields, molotovs, chemical bombs, etc.) ever got past the bluster stage.

I'm betting there won't.

There's a long (and I think regrettable) tradition of radicals (on all sides) talking up false plans to scare the normals. Some of the Yippies talked about creating fragmentation "bombs" by deep-frying and quenching large marbles that would then be fired with slingshots against a hard surface. That was at the DNC in '68. It was all provocation, and it paid off in spades -- but whether the payoff was negative or positive is a matter for history to decide (and still after that, of opinion).
posted by lodurr at 5:29 AM on September 4, 2008


"absolutely nothing" was a bit of a stretch, as I re-read. But still, I've met a lot of people who self-identified as one or another form of social anarchist, and none of them thought violence was appropriate except in self-defense.
posted by lodurr at 5:31 AM on September 4, 2008


I would be willing to bet good money that if you asked a group of 10 people -- admittedly, they'd have to be less politically savvy than you -- all 10 of them would probably identify anarchy and anarchists with violence.

if there ever emerges any actual evidence that any of those tactics (calthrops, shields, molotovs, chemical bombs, etc.) ever got past the bluster stage.


According to this article, Police found "sharp objects to puncture the tires of Republican National Convention delegates' buses. ... Large-scale maps with routes targeted to be blocked." and " materials for creating sleeping dragons (PVC pipe, chicken wire, duct tape), a method by which protesters lock themselves together; wrist rocket slingshots; a gas mask and filter; homemade caltrops (devices Fletcher said could be used to disable buses on roads); empty plastic buckets cut and made into shields; and materials that Fletcher said could be made into Molotov cocktails. " It does say that "some of the materials found could be regarded as ordinary household items."

They claim to have found "large amounts of urine, including three- to five-gallon buckets," though their defenders say that the buckets were found in the garage, where someone lives, and doesn't have plumbing facilities, and that some of the buckets actually contained water which the accused used to flush the toilets in order to conserve water.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:10 AM on September 4, 2008


“Reading it, it seems like the thing that scared the police the most was the group's fixation on Molotov cocktails...”

Well, point still being - if they did have a legitimate concern - it’s all the more reason to have due diligence taken care of.

I’ll cede - (again, given the accuracy) that they certainly appeared to be preparing for agitation.
But again there is a well documented history of certain interests within the government using LEA of various levels (local P.D., state troops, federal agencies for infiltration) to suppress dissent of any sort. And there is evidence that it is occuring now.
It does make sense therefore to attempt to diffuse and overwhelm one’s opponent’s resources in order to resist this suppression.
This, what they were planning, is one way to do that.
I say this in the same way I would describe a successful operation by, say, the IRA. In that latter case I may disagree with harming innocents, terrorism, etc., but I can’t deny the will to seek a successful mechanism to achieve goals in dissent of power.
Particularly a power that has surveilled activists who have ONLY dissented. Activists who have not coupled act to will.


I mean, we can dicker about what is the proper form for action should take. And we’d most likely agree on that.
(Much as I *personally* enjoy distruction, chaos, and bloodshed, I’m getting older and I have kids so stability and peace are more appealing).

But the question of whether to take action when one is harassed simply for dissenting is no real question at all.

So the real question is - what do you do when the government (or agents thereof whether acting alone or at the behest of someone) escalates and denies you legitimate means of dissention?

Either you accept it, or you pursue other means of dissent.

(And again, not that I’m on board with the (apparent) means here. The whole buckets of urine thing, etc. etc. is just silly.
The evidence indicate it’s all for property damage which shows a lack of imagination. I mean you’re only really messing with the insurance companies, who ultimately pass that cost along to the public.)

So on the police side, you’re facing scared, angry people who don’t know how to make themselves heard. The solution is not to continue to provoke and harass them until they do discover a method that works. Rather, engage them and open up avenues by which they can be heard (ya don’t have to agree) and make their point.
Otherwise you are creating (ultimately) terrorists. Which might be by design.
I mean, call me paranoid, but every legitimate counterterrorist and counterinsurgent fighter knows the strength of any insurgency rests on the government applying pressure on the population.

So the simplest method of preventing that is to, y’know, not.
Maybe knock on the door, ask what’s up. Talk to them. Maybe send a guy around to investigate.
You don’t fight someone simply because they want to fight you.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:22 AM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hello friends in Minneapolis. This will be cold comfort but: plan a protest and hope you get arrested like this. The law suit will be lucrative. Take that money and run to the coast as fast as you can.

Unfortunately these lawsuits, which are a forgone conclusion, will break your cities government.


Ah, tkchrist, I wish this was actually true. But it's not -- it's BETTER -- from this story:
In fact, St. Paul actually negotiated a special insurance provision with the Republican Host Committee so that the first $10 million in liability for lawsuits arising from the convention will be covered by the Host Committee. The city is very proud of this negotiation. It’s the first time it’s been negotiated between a city and the Host Committee. But it basically means we can commit wrongdoing, and we won’t have to pay for it.
Sickening, but if you like the thought of the Republicans paying that first 10 million in damages out of THEIR pocket, then rock on. I wonder if Denver negotiated anything similar?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:19 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you ask me, all this information indicates to me that the people, including Amy Goodman and her cohorts, who were wrongly arrested, or who were peaceful protesters and were subjected to excessive force and tear gas can lay part of the blame at the feet of the of the RNC Welcoming Committee.

Clearly, the police have over-reacted, but they were primed for what looked to be acts of domestic terrorism. If these idiots with their buckets of piss hadn't ratcheted it up with all their blusterous and publicly available schemes for the last year, things could have conceivably turned out different, as demonstrated by Denver's reaction to the protests for the DNC.

Should the police have recognized, in their year-long investigation, that these guys were just complete amateurs? Probably, but apparently they decided that they didn't want to risk it.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:04 PM on September 4, 2008


I agree Dave Faris. But that's the point. "Not wanting to risk it" = overreaction.

Y'know, there's so many people that have this set pattern "fight" mindset. That if someone challenges you, well you just gotta show up and bring the heat.
No.
You dictate the terms of contact, or you lose.
And, as I (and others) alluded to above - ratcheting up the rhetoric and forcing the police to overreact is a tactic in and of itself.
It's exactly what an agitator does (on the thin end).

Hell, if I wanted to get the ball rolling on something like this I'd plant something on some regular mind-his-own-business Joe who has nothing against anybody and never expects to be harassed (like, say, Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America) and get the cops to harass the hell out of him.
I'd have my cadre say "Hail Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America!" and smash out the windows of some squad cars and fade.

Pretty soon they're knocking on some innocent guys' door, and you have the exact argument you're posing here.

Maybe the cops over reacted. And yet, it sure seemed like Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America was running some sort of sabotage outfit.

That's not always an accident.

Point being - we're arguing method in response as more than a single isolated tactical scene or investigation. I don't think you're at all wrong that the RNC Welcoming Committee appeared to be spoiling for a fight. But appearances can be deceiving. (And we all know what all warfare is based on).

I mean, whether it was by the design of the RNCWC, or whether it was in spite of themselves. The police response did far more damage at a far higher profile by bringing this collateral B.S. to Goodman, et. al. than those punks ever could by throwing urine and tossing some wire caltrops.

And there's the grandstanding factor. Dogs like pleasing their masters (as a former dog of war, I can say that). They tend to show off when there's folks in power about. Although, meh, fairly ubiquitous human trait.

So they like to play up how wonderful and just too damned efficient they are. Like the "they were gonna kill Obama" stuff with the Feds and the meth heads. Maybe it was legit, but they ran to press waaaay too early on it and got caught saying "well, maybe not..."

But overreaction is part of the game, by your opponent's design or not, and not without consequence. Just ask any poker player.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:34 PM on September 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm glad we managed to see eye to eye, even if we both seemed to be coming at this from different angles. That's a bit of a rarity around here.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:05 PM on September 4, 2008


St. Paul in the Hot Seat over Journalist Arrests
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on September 5, 2008


Better late than never, but I want to retract and apologize for my suggestion that Amy Goodman got herself arrested on purpose as some kind of publicity stunt. I guess I was feeling especially cynical that day.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:57 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Peace Island in a Police State--When in Doubt, Hold a Picnic!
posted by homunculus at 11:40 PM on September 6, 2008


It is helpful to emphasize that the police embedded informants and undercover police in groups whose sole intent was to report on police behavior during the demonstrations. They raided their house and took from them the very tools of reporting - cameras, computers, and cell phones - under the guise of preventing riots. Their only real motive could be that they planned to use illegal tactics to suppress dissent and wanted the ability to make shit up to justify their actions. They did not want these reporters to be able to contradict their stories the way the New York City police stories were contradicted. This is de facto evidence that the police premeditated the use of illegal force and lying to justify it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:52 PM on September 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to McCain's Speech
posted by homunculus at 4:51 PM on September 11, 2008


Newly released footage, which was buried to avoid confiscation, shows riot cops arresting and abusing a giant group of people for nothing.
posted by homunculus at 1:54 PM on September 19, 2008


Charges Dropped Against Reporters Arrested During RNC
posted by homunculus at 12:16 PM on September 20, 2008


Gotta love the Brownshirt from Denver
posted by caddis at 4:27 PM on September 29, 2008


Newly released footage, which was buried to avoid confiscation, shows riot cops arresting and abusing a giant group of people for nothing.

In order to justify their presence and expenditure on riot gear and intimidation tactics, the police reported arresting over 800 "rioters and anarchists". The gullible public has been eating that up, as though there were over 800 people committing violent acts. If these 280 people are representative, it is clear that the police are bullshitting.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:38 PM on September 29, 2008


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