Sunday, August 10, 2008

Denver Braces for Anarchist Uprising?

The ACLU and protest groups, unfortunately, just lost a lawsuit charging that Denver's restrictions on protest at the upcoming Democratic National Convention constitute unconstitutional violations of First Amendment rights.

And the non-critical reporting of Denver's police build up/plan to keep protesters in a pen is expected, sadly, standard fare when consuming corporate media. 

A Times piece from August 5th matter-of-factly conflates potential white supremacist violence aimed at Obama with "militant" Leftists/anarchists angry at the Democratic Party for reasons that go unmentioned--which, of course, constitutes standard media treatment of Leftist opinion. All you need to know about us is that we're extreme: "Officials say that what makes Denver different than past conventions is the historic nature of Senator Barack Obama’s nomination, a megawattage event whose global spotlight could draw tens of thousands of demonstrators, including self-described anarchists who the police fear will infiltrate peaceful protest groups to disrupt the weeklong event."  

Reporters David Johnston and Eric Schmitt then, paradoxically, go on to note, "Intelligence analysts, however, have not reported a heightened threat from Islamic extremists or domestic threats from antigovernment groups or environmental militants like the kind that operate in many Western states, according to federal officials. “ 

Unfortunately, the stenographers at the Times do not feel compelled to actually, you know, evaluate the city's claims, concluding, "New worries about protests and anarchy could bolster the government’s case that the plans are justified." What exactly is "new" about the worries? And are these cutting edge concerns justified? Didn't they just say that intelligence officials report no heightened threat? Apparently such evaluation of the "facts" isn't part of the journalistic repertoire. After all, they report, we decide.

Police repression in the 2000 conventions in LA (Dems) and Philly (Republican) was deemed necessary for the protection of the democratic process--by which the corporate media means a political system securely under the total control of two parties, ratified by a televised spectacle every four years. Mass protests at the 2004 Republican Convention in NYC--where Bush and his cronies cynically sought to exploit post-9/11 emotions--were greeted with mass preemptive arrests, illegal denials of protests permits (namely for Central Park's Great Lawn)  and violence. 

Denver organizers see that previous convention hosts have suffered very few consequences for their creative interpretations of the First Amendment--and when there have been consequences, they've come in the way of fines, painlessly ex post facto. It doesn't matter so much when courts rule police tactics illegal years after the protests because the police, a la Judge Dred (haven't seen it, just previews, really), are "the law", the Alpha and the Omega, etc during the conventions themselves, when this shit actually matters.

Basically, city government and police departments wager that the net value of removing thousands of law abiding protesters from the streets is worth whatever fines they might have to pay a year or two down the road. 

The only way to upset this cynical wager is for judges to issue injunctions against city's "protest control" plans prior to the conventions. Unfortunately, a judge has just done the opposite, saying that Denver is justified in doing whatever it need to ensure security. According to the Reuters, "Protesters at the Democratic National Convention in Denver can be restricted to fenced-in areas, federal judge ruled on Wednesday, saying that security needs outweighed curbs on their rights." Fenced in areas? Whew.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger said that, "The restrictions inhibit the plaintiffs' ability to engage in some forms of expressive conduct, (but) ... the plaintiffs have a wide variety of alternative means of expression that will allow them to effectively communicate their messages." I hope to God that she isn't referring to blogging!
A quick biographical note: I was 17 years old when I participated in the LA protests at the Democratic National Convention. The LA police, well known for being aggressive, violent and racist, didn't much like the thousands of lefties who came to protest the Dem's support for "free" trade agreement, the death penalty, etc. I got clubbed by a policeman one of my first day's at the protests in the midst of a permitted, legal march in solidarity with the U'wa people of Colombia. The march was drawing attention to Mr. Green-Al-Gore's financial ties to Fidelity Investments, a major stake holder in indigenous land destroying Occidental Oil. The police also famously attacked a legal gathering of thousands (I couldn't find something more specifically on this, anyone?) interrupting a Rage Against the Machine performance, with tear gas and rubber bullets, a supposedly proportional response to a few black block anarchists throwing bottles...They also tried to raid a church that I was sleeping in, surrounded the Pico Union convergence center only to be shouted out by Latino neighbors, and on and on. 

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