Tactics and Prognosis for a Successful RNC Protest
by Ray Louis
August 11, 2008
This year's Republican National Convention is likely to face the most aggressive, direct action, take-to-the-streets-style protest that the U.S. has seen since the WTO was shut down in 1999. It likely will be even larger than that protest and, maybe, even more effective. Relative to the WTO, more people in this country are more aware of Republican crimes and, also, living conditions (not to mention civil liberties) have deteriorated greatly since the historic protest of the World Trade Organization. The general public is riled up and in need of protest like never before.
The organizing for this protest has been unparalleled. Use of the internet has expanded greatly over the past few years as a tool for revolutionary activists. Not only are we able to be more informed about why we should protest, but we are also more informed about how we can effectively stage a revolt against the Republican fascists. We have unprecedented access to potential lodging opportunities, caravans, and logistical considerations for this protest. Tactically, we have the works of everyone from Gandhi to Sun Tzu at our fingertips (via the world wide web). More specifically, we have access to information about this particular protest readily available. This protest is going to be historic.
WHY WE SHOULD PROTEST
People in this country have rolled over and played dead long enough. This country began with a revolt against tyrannical forces and the initial protest involved more than milquetoast finger wagging (specifically, it involved destroying government property in the form of tea). But modern Americans have been tamed and pacified. We hardly even know how to complain properly (due to fear of our fellow citizens putting us on a watch list and Big Brother surveillance having finally become a reality).
But now is the time to break our socially constructed chains of passivity and obedience. Each moment of hesitation is a moment that moves us closer to the abyss of no return. The fascists have already taken over and they have nuclear weapons (along with the mindset to use, improve and spread them). This cannot, must not, be tolerated any longer.
America has become a police state. More people are imprisoned in the U.S. per-capita, and in total numbers, than in any other nation. Surveillance cameras have become common on street corners in every major U.S. city (to say nothing of the cameras which the state can sequester). Our phones and computer networks have bluntly been opened up to eavesdropping by the state. Even the so-called "opposition" party has signed on to these intrusions. The state has the ability, will, and the documented history of attempting to crush dissent in it's infancy. The aforementioned violations and intrusions make these trends of power evermore simple to carry out in the effort to reach their fascistic goals of centralized power.
The fascistic state is carrying out immoral wars of aggression against civilian populations (certainly with large civilian casualties) around the world. If you haven't noticed this reality you've been living under Iraq... I mean, a rock. Anyway... the question is: what are you going to do about it? Blogging about it, even waving banners and signs, has had very little effect in stopping the war crimes. Funny that the state doesn't respond to humanitarian petitions, but it doesn't. It continues to plan, promote, and celebrate the war. That's what the Republicans will been doing in St. Paul (the week of Sept. 1, 2008) and that's why we need to take to the streets and shut their convention down.
Beyond the Iraq War and the growing police state, Republican policies (hand in hand with the Democrats) are causing human suffering and environmental degradation around the globe. People are starving at this very moment and the Republicans will be toasting in St. Paul with $525/shot scotch. The environment is being laid to waste and the Republicans promote more drilling for oil. So where do you really stand on these issues or, do you not take a stand at all?
HOW WE WILL PROTEST THE RNC
Already I have mentioned the blogging articles written, like this one, and that's all fine and dandy -- necessary even. But this protest will give us the opportunity to really take a stand and make a statement to the world. We are done rolling over.
Most people who attend the protest will come to take place in the permitted march. They will gather in the ten-of-thousands and march and chant and carry signs. They are to be half-heartedly saluted and congratulated for their courage. These marchers will be good people with good intentions. It's just that a permitted protest isn't really much of a protest. They have been given permission so as to pacify them further (to keep them in line) and their march won't really hinder the Republican party. This type of "protest" is best left for the elderly and the feeble (to whom I would give a whole-hearted salute and sincere congratulations for their couragous participation).
But the march from the State Capitol to the Xcel Energy center is a logistical nightmare. The initially requested route was denied and the route given will, by most estimates, not be large enough to contain the teeming masses in attendance. And then, when it gets to the convention center, it's supposed to double back on itself! It's possible that some will still be leaving the Capitol grounds when others are starting their return. The whole way there (down Cedar to 7th Street) the marchers will be flanked, on both sides, by hundreds of police officers who will effectively be intimidating and demoralizing the marchers. Just be aware that once you get into the main march it will be hard to get out of it.
Fortunately, there will be plenty of alternative actions (requiring various degrees of commitment) in addition to the permitted protest march. With tens of thousands of protesters (and only about 3500 police officers), a breakaway/secondary march is the most likely, and least extreme, alternative protest tactic. If hundreds of people can resist being intimidated (by a few dozen officers at any given intersection), they should be able to go wherever they want in downtown St. Paul. These breakaway/alternative marches will actually make the permitted march useful since it will still be the most heavily policed area. I expect the breakaway marches will head down John Ireland Blvd. to Kellogg and/or another might head southeast (Away from the capitol grounds), but this is pure speculation. The first "alternative" route down John Ireland was the originally requested (and denied) route -- so it seems the most likely path for people who want to go where they choose. If the police decide to try and be present at multiple routes they will spread their forces thin and the marches can flow wherever the crowd takes them regardless of police scare tactics. The thing to remember is that a breakaway/alternative route is going to require a sizable bloc of people to initially be a little pushy in demanding their rights to free movement.
These breakaway marches will effectively serve as a roving blockade to prevent the Republicans from gathering, promoting and celebrating their polices of war and destruction. I honestly don't know where they will go (or how effective they will be) but I guarantee that large groups of freedom-loving people will tend to go where their hearts lead them. Hopefully these roving blockades will go to the west and the south of the Xcel Energy Center (where most of the off-ramps and convention entrances are). They won't have to take the most direct route to get there (bring a small map) and they can take their time getting where they need to go. How effective these breakaway marches will be depends on how likely people are to hold their ground and march right past a relatively small number of police. Hopefully these protesters won't be too intimidated or faint-hearted, but they should consider the real risks that some of the other people at this protest will be taking...
Some people will be engaged in hard-blockade, locked-down civil disobedience. I don't know exactly who or where these people will be doing this civil disobedience, but I know for a fact that it WILL be happening. Just think WTO and you'll get the idea. They expect to be arrested and probably, also, physically abused. These are brave souls intent on stopping the Republican war machine. They effectively will be saying, "the Republicans will not pass."
The next level of risk involves those who, like at the Boston Tea Party, see property destruction as a powerful symbolic act. This is generally a bit more controversial because many people in our pacified conservative society don't get the idea that a window isn't alive and breaking one isn't on the same level as pepper-spraying, beating or executing someone. If breaking the window of a war-profiteering corporation is violent... then tazing someone for it is utter brutality. But it's the former that's more likely to get punished and condemned. I, for one, don't condemn those who will engage in minor property destruction. These corporations that are directly involved with the destruction of the environment and war-profiteering might deserve a brick through their window if no other real justice is going to be meted out and their corporate crimes are going to continue. A smashed window gives them a black eye like a written-off fine cannot (since they budget for their violations and expect trivial lawsuits). I most certainly (and absolutely) won't be engaged in this type of activity myself, because I'm a coward, but I can't condemn those who aren't so spineless.
The next type of protester is the one who has been utterly screwed-over by the system. He lost a brother in Iraq. He lost a sister to the drug war. His father is incarcerated for a non-violent crime. His pension was destroyed in some Enron scandal. He's unemployed and won't take a job at McDonald's for minimum wage. This guy is not happy, and for good reason. What do you expect him to do, write his congressperson? You want him to hold a sign saying, "Out of Iraq," or maybe whistle and dance at some "revolutionary" street party? Well, I got news for you... this guy is going to fight back. I don't blame him and I won't condemn him. I won't join him, because I'm a coward, but I won't try to stop him or get him arrested either.
It is the police who are inevitably brutal at these mass protests and I don't mind a guy kicking back a tear-gas cannister or even throwing a rock at the heavily armoured police with their shields. These kinds of protesters actually keep the rank-and-file police in check because, when people are ready to fight back, and ready to defend themselves, the cops can't just come in and club everybody for merely walking where they want to walk. A few such people like this in your march (and there are more than you might imagine) can keep you from getting totally bludgeoned by the police. I really don't expect there to much actual violence on behalf of the protesters though (since it would be very atypical and since most of the wild ones end up in cages or are culled by the state).
One final suggestion on protest tactics... save some energy for later in the day and/or for later in the week. Be loud when confronted, but quiet when you are not engaged in what might be considered actual protest.
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THE PROTEST
Even if you're not able to physically attend the protest (for whatever good or bad reason) you can still support the protest (it basically just requires the simple effort of plugging in). But first... I should mention that some of the clickable links above will provide you with all the information you need if you just show up in St. Paul (prepared and preferably with at least one friend).
If not able to personally attend... you can lend moral support, legal support, and/or financial support (if you want to help a friend or organization cover the costs of participating in the protest). Some people are working on textmob systems so that protesters will be able to communicate with other protesters, in real time, about developing events in other areas of the city. Others will be editing and distributing footage sent in from the protest so that the corporate media doesn't have the first and last word on what happened at the protest. Some people might simply be staying by a phone to help keep coordinate and touch base with their activist friends.
BE THE MEDIA
Finally... I'd like to request that you don't let the corporate media steer public opinion about the protest. The Republicans are oligarchic fascists. They are literally fascists by definition. They perfectly embody Mussolini's ideal mixture of "corporate and state power" (and corporatism by any other name would smell as sweet). They will be networking, organizing, and promoting their destructive policies at the RNC and that is why it has to be shut down.
When they toast with their $525/shot scotch it is a direct provocation. How can they celebrate and cheer as thousands are dying in the wars they promote?! How can they spend so lavishly when hundreds of millions are malnourished and people around the world are rioting over food costs? These are the questions a critical press should really be asking. But you will be required to speak on behalf of the protesters who are on the scene and ask these questions yourself in any forum you are able. You must work to prevent the demonization of the protesters as the police become brutal and the Republican devils get away with murder around the globe.
THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION (Sept. 1-4, 2008 -- St Paul, MN)
HELP MAKE HISTORY!
And please check out the clickable links in this article! Some of them might impress you or give you another angle on the protest activity which you may have not considered before.
Out of nothing, nothing.