Politics: August 2008 Archives

Minneapolis_arrests_1.jpg right there in River City

A throng of media members and interested observers crowd together in a yard next to a house on Iglehart Ave. that was raided by police Saturday afternoon.[Minneapolis Star Tribune caption]

UPDATE: Before going off to a restless sleep, I will note that up to this moment (it's Sunday, 2:30 am EDT) I can find absolutely nothing about these raids on any of the popular alternative political blogs. As usual, they're all totally distracted by the agenda laid out for them by the criminal establishment they are supposed to at least critique and creatively resist. I mean, come on, Sarah Palin? Right now she's just a zero operating as a smoke screen.

I thought New York in 2004 was pretty horrible, but I can't keep up with and can't begin to cover here all the developing stories about the police state tactics employed this year in both Denver and the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

It's not just the nausea induced by these increasingly appalling reports. They already exceed even the expectations of my cynical imagination, and now I'm sure there will be much more, since there is nothing in place to stop the successful progress of our special brand of American authoritarianism. What's happening at the sites of the two political sales conventions is part of a system designed to secure not us, but the reactionary corporate state which has succeeded in turning relatively-free citizens into medicated subjects meaningful to it only as consumers.

If you can still take it, I suggest searching online for news using the key words "police" "arrests" or "Convention". You're going to be shocked.

Ah hah! Barry is sitting just across from me as I'm writing this and he's invited me to look at two posts he's just completed. He's put it all together better and more quickly than I could imagine any one writer could. Look at Bloggy's "It's all ultimately one big (political) party" and "Crackdowns on protestors and press in Denver and Twin Cities".

The second post begins:

[at the homes of activists in the Twin Cities] They are knocking down doors and coming in with semi-automatic weapons to arrest people and confiscate belongings, including computers, journals, and political pamphlets. They have also arrested National Lawyer Guild lawyers trying to find out more information.

This is me again now: I thought a moment about finishing my last post two days ago with the hope that no one tries to burn down the Capitol building in Washington. Now I'm thinking it absolutely wouldn't be necessary this time.

[image by David Joles from StarTribune, where there are more photos and a story]

nothing to see here, folks - keep moving*

Move over, China and Zimbabwe: Make room for America. Okay, so I exaggerate a bit; let's just say instead that the gap is definitely narrowing between us and those nasty foreign governments whose practices we decry, when it comes to what can be done to prop up an unrepresentative regime.

Four weeks ago we were told that in Denver demonstrators who wished to address those attending the Democratic Convention (that is the unpaid, unprofessional, unworthy lobbyists, the unwashed multitudes) were/are not permitted to get within a quarter mile of the gates to the arena. A high-wire-fenced free speech pen was set aside somewhere in the boondocks where attendees would not be able to hear or see the people who want to approach their supposed representatives and the media which fawns on those official politicos. Not surprisingly, no one showed up. And then I have to read Markos of Daily Kos report from inside, with the chosen:

I listened in briefly to a cop and some convention goers having a nice chat as we tried to get a cab to the hotel. He was saying how uneventful the convention had been, how well-behaved protesters had been, and how everything appeared to be going nice and smooth. Knock on wood, I suppose. I don't know how the TV blowhards have been portraying that stuff, but from my vantage point, it's been quite civil and -- dare I say it? -- even tame.

I try not to scream.

In Minnesota, one week before the Republicans meet in St. Paul, the local constabulary shows looks like they're trying to outdo the NYPD Brownshirts. They're taking on the aspect of a Secret Police: Artist/videographer/journalists of the Glass Bead Collective, who were responsible for releasing the video of the New York cop body slamming a cyclist, were detained and searched yesterday morning by Minneapolis police. Their equipment was confiscated. No reasons were given.

They're in St. Paul as members of the independent press documenting the Republican National Convention. Three police and sheriff cars stopped and photographed them at 2 in the morning as they were returning to their rooms. They were videographed by the police and questioned individually about their travel plans and what they intended to report on. They were forced to line up against a police vehicle and they were first searched and then their personal belongings, including notes, phones, computers and personal objects, were confiscated, even though they were released without charges.

The obvious assignment for these thugs with badges was to get information on the identity and plans of anyone planning unregulated speech during the Democratic Party Convention and to intimidate anyone who might be thinking about exercising rights these officers should be protecting. Do not fail to watch this powerful video; if we survive this regime, it will become an important document of these times.

Today we learn that a billboard company has abruptly canceled a contract [signed August 8, revoked last week] which a recognized New York artist had for her "Soldier Billboard Project" to be mounted on billboards in St. Paul next week while the Republicans were in the city. The large-scale photographs of Suzanne Opton are powerful portraits of American soldiers between tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An executive of the advertising company involved (owned by CBS) provided this statement, apparently trying to explain his corporation's censorship:

"The reason we have advised you that we cannot post these as billboards is that out-of-context (neither in a museum setting or website) the images, as stand-alone highway or city billboards, appear to be deceased soldiers. The presentation in this manner could be perceived as being disrespectful to the men and women in our armed forces."

It's now clear they've got us where they want us, wherever we live. All they have to do is say that what we do is what terrorists do, and that seems to be enough for our frightened or doped fellow citizens. The new fascism: Don't expect a formal announcement.

Agence France-Presse caption:

Members of the Denver Police Department patrol Auraria Parkway outside the Pepsi Center as activists protest prior to the Democratic National Convention on August 23, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. A tight security net enveloped Denver as the city braced Sunday for the arrival of tens of thousands of supporters and protestors for the Democratic Party's political extravaganza.

[image by Doug Pensinger from AFP]

NYPD_anti-protest_squad.jpg the NYPD at the front, fighting the First Amendment

We'll call it a win, even if the forces of reaction prevailed on the street, as they always have in this city. But silencing and intimidating an entire citizenry wasn't the only outrage: In addition to the April 7, 2003, NYPD assault on our civil rights itself, the City's years of delays in negotiating the civil settlement announced today helped to lock down protest everywhere in New York (abominably, during the 2004 GOP Convention), served to educate "law-enforcement" agencies fighting the fraudulent "war on terror" in other cities across the country, and cost taxpayers here plenty.

Go to this page on the site of the Center for Constitutional Rights for the complete press release, parts of which are excerpted here:

A group of 52 local activists today announced a $2 million settlement in their lawsuit against the City of New York. The activists were illegally arrested on April 7, 2003 while protesting against the Iraq war in front of a military contractor's offices in midtown [the Carlyle Group, known for its ties to the Bush family and its extensive portfolio of holdings in the military-defense sector]. The settlement in Kunstler et al v. New York City follows the dismissal in 2003 of all criminal charges brought against these individuals and four costly years of delays by the City in negotiating an end to the civil lawsuit.

. . . .

Attorneys and plaintiffs noted, however, that the City's decision to drag the case out is part of a long and disturbing pattern by which it attempts to "wear down" plaintiffs to avoid political damage, even at huge expense of tax dollars and City resources.

. . . .

The police tactics used that day became the model used by the NYPD during the 2004 Republican National Convention held in New York.

At that event, thousands of activists were illegally arrested, jailed and mistreated. Lawsuits related to the police conduct at the RNC are still winding their way through the courts. NYPD officials are now consulting with police departments in Denver and Minneapolis on their plans for the 2008 Democratic and Republican Conventions.

[image of riot police at March, 2005, downtown Brooklyn anti-war protest from dailyheights.com]

curb cut Smart

yellow line Smart

I spotted these two Smarts on the same block of West 21st Street this past Tuesday. They were both parked on the north side of the street, the front end of each safely (although barely) behind lines across which they legally cannot venture, back bumpers only a hair away from much larger vehicles parked to the rear.

These shots show that here in New York, and in Europe for ten years now, size really does matter.

Roland Freisler presided over the show trials of another regime

I've been buried among memoirs and histories of Nazi Germany lately so the news of today's verdict by an illegitimate, burlesque* court operating inside a room of an abandoned airport control tower within our remote, bargain-rental military base at Guantanamo Bay brings to my mind the Volksgerichtshof (People's Court) established by the Nazi regime after the Reichstag fire. That court continued operating (eventually without Freisler, who was killed in an Allied bombing raid February 3, 1945) until the end of its creators' own gruesome unjustifiable war, initiated several years later.

No, in spite of our government's attempt to maintain the contrary, including commissioning a special film, this is no Nuremberg trial. Interesting fact: Roland Freisler may have been a screamer and a monster, but at least the Nazis had the courage of their convictions: their show trials were open to the public - and filmed exhaustively.

One more thought: Does it mean anything that after all this time we still don't even know the name of this dangerous terrorist, the little man from the other side of the world whom the full power of our state condemned today? It's not in any headline I've seen, and you'll find you have to go well into the first or second paragraph of a news story to find it.

I'm ashamed of my country's government, and don't talk to me about our mute Democrats, the frightening-loyal "opposition". At this moment I see no reason to hope for an end to our fundamentally stupid or simply abominable policies at home or abroad. The patriots of the German Resistance eventually came to understand that only a German defeat could save their country, Europe and the world. It would be good to be able to believe we haven't gone that far ourselves, but I'm not willing to bet on it right now.

The prosecution has announced that even if a defendant ends up acquitted, he (so far they are all men - or boys, at the time they were rounded up) can be thrown right back into a Guantanamo cell or imprisoned in some other rathole which would be equally or even more isolated.

Can we pinpoint the moment when a nation sold its soul?

[image from a currently-inactive site, germanika]

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from August 2008.

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