This is not my America.

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Behind all the patriotic hyperbole that accompanies the conventions, and the thousands of journalists and media workers who arrive to cover the staged events, there are serious violations of the basic right of freedom of the press. Here on the streets of St. Paul, the press is free to report on the official proceedings of the RNC, but not to report on the police violence and mass arrests directed at those who have come to petition their government, to protest. […]

Nicole was videotaping. Her tape of her own violent arrest is chilling. Police in riot gear charged her, yelling, “Get down on your face.” You hear her voice, clearly and repeatedly announcing “Press! Press! Where are we supposed to go?” She was trapped between parked cars. The camera drops to the pavement amidst Nicole’s screams of pain. Her face was smashed into the pavement, and she was bleeding from the nose, with the heavy officer with a boot or knee on her back. Another officer was pulling on her leg. Sharif was thrown up against the wall and kicked in the chest, and he was bleeding from his arm.

I was at the Xcel Center on the convention floor, interviewing delegates. I had just made it to the Minnesota delegation when I got a call on my cell phone with news that Sharif and Nicole were being bloody arrested, in every sense. Filmmaker Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films and I raced on foot to the scene. Out of breath, we arrived at the parking lot. I went up to the line of riot police and asked to speak to a commanding officer, saying that they had arrested accredited journalists.

Within seconds, they grabbed me, pulled me behind the police line and forcibly twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me, the rigid plastic cuffs digging into my wrists. I saw Sharif, his arm bloody, his credentials hanging from his neck. I repeated we were accredited journalists, whereupon a Secret Service agent came over and ripped my convention credential from my neck. I was taken to the St. Paul police garage where cages were set up for protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Nicole and Sharif were taken to jail, facing riot charges.

The attack on and arrest of me and the “Democracy Now!” producers was not an isolated event. A video group called I-Witness Video was raided two days earlier. Another video documentary group, the Glass Bead Collective, was detained, with its computers and video cameras confiscated. On Wednesday, I-Witness Video was again raided, forced out of its office location. When I asked St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington how reporters are to operate in this atmosphere, he suggested, “By embedding reporters in our mobile field force.”

On Monday night, hours after we were arrested, after much public outcry, Nicole, Sharif and I were released. That was our Labor Day. It’s all in a day’s work.

That’s an excerpt from Amy Goodman’s Why We Were Falsely Arrested. You can read the whole thing over at truthdig.

Here’s the video of her arrest:

(You can view more RNC videos here.)

Since there’s been precious little reporting of police brutality and repression in the msm, here are some resources y’all should check out:

Lindsay Beyerstein has a ton of photos – with firsthand accounts – up on her Flickr photostream, as well as on her blog Majikthise.

Lindsay, along with Jane Hamsher (who’s live blogging the RNC), is also talking about the raids and arrests on firedoglake.

Glenn Greenwald has been blogging the conventions, including police misconduct, over at Salon.

Over on Theuptake, you can view a live video stream from their reporters’ cameras at the RNC. (The Republican hack they’re interviewing at the moment is *this close* to making me vomit in my own mouth.)

Also check out Twin Cities Indymedia, indymedia.us and Green is the New Red for more.

And, of course, there’s also Democracy Now! and I-Witness Video.

Finally, pattrice jones offers a History of Activist Repression to give us all a little perspective.

Wake me up in 2012, mmmkay?

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Regarding the ongoing [as in, right. now.] police raids on activists protesting the RNC in Minnesota, Glenn Greenwald writes:

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that they have received virtually no attention from the national media and little outcry from anyone. And it’s not difficult to see why. As the recent “overhaul” of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated — preceded by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror — we’ve essentially decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore, from the citizenry.

Beyond that, there is a widespread sense that the targets of these raids deserve what they get, even if nothing they’ve done is remotely illegal. We love to proclaim how much we cherish our “freedoms” in the abstract, but we despise those who actually exercise them. The Constitution, right in the very First Amendment, protects free speech and free assembly precisely because those liberties are central to a healthy republic — but we’ve decided that anyone who would actually express truly dissident views or do anything other than sit meekly and quietly in their homes are dirty trouble-makers up to no good, and it’s therefore probably for the best if our Government keeps them in check, spies on them, even gets a little rough with them.

After all, if you don’t want the FBI spying on you, or the Police surrounding and then invading your home with rifles and seizing your computers, there’s a very simple solution: don’t protest the Government. Just sit quietly in your house and mind your own business. That way, the Government will have no reason to monitor what you say and feel the need to intimidate you by invading your home. Anyone who decides to protest — especially with something as unruly and disrespectful as an unauthorized street march — gets what they deserve.

Go check out the whole piece; it’s a must read, and well worth the forced advertising. And afterwards, since you’ve already suffered through the latest Toyota commercial, scroll through for Glenn’s most recent updates. It’s fucking mind-boggling, the crimes we allow our government to perpetrate against its citizens.

And if you think Obama will save you, think again. Remember, the man – giddy with the anticipation of unchecked presidential powers – voted in favor of FISA. On a more global level, the DNC also saw police repression and brutality against American citizens.

All of which is doubly infuriating after all the self-serving, racist/xenophobic hand-wringing over China’s civil liberties violations during the Olympics, as Glenn rightfully points out.