Thursday, September 11, 2008

Street Fights and People Power

There were protests against American warmongering and imperialism, against the Democrats and the Republicans, against the Bush Regime, and against abortion in Denver and St. Paul during their conventions, and there was an overwhelming police presence in both cities. You really didn't hear much -- maybe nothing -- about the "ordinary" protests, because they were just like any other street protests during the past decade or so, with people marching and carrying signs against war, poverty, and injustice -- or whatever, following their permitted paths, and hearing the usual line up of speakers, and then going home or back to their jobs or whatever permitted activity they chose. No news.

On the other hand, there were "break away" protests in both cities, somewhat spontaneous seeming, but not really spontaneous at all, intended for one purpose: to demonstrate -- by defiance and disobedience -- that we live in an oppressive police state, and that if you "get out of line" in any way, or if you're just watching people get out of line, or if you're watching the police impose their will, you'll get maced, bludgeoned, teargassed, arrested, and hauled off to the hoosegow, and if you announce you're planning any sort of defiance or disobedience of Authority, you'll get your house raided, your stuff confiscated, and if you look likely or have been fingered by an informant, you'll not only be arrested and hauled off to the hoosegow, you'll be charged with terrorism.

This is, after all, America, The Surveillance State, The Security State, The Police State, The Anti-Terror State. Never forget where you are.

Many people in St. Paul were charged with "conspiracy to riot," which is a sort of catch-all charge in Minnesota for any kind of actual or proposed getting in the way of law enforcement or acts of civil disobedience. It's not really a "riot" charge at all. This is in some ways important legally because there was no "riot" in St. Paul, but there were mass arrests, and the only way to justify them is to assert that some of those arrested were planning nefarious activities that could become riots, or that might disturb the public peace, or in some other way inconvenience the Good Burghers of the Twin Cities.

For all the hoopla in the alternative media about what was going on in the Twin Cities, all the police repression and so on, the actions of the dissenting citizens were surprisingly mild, nothing compared to the street fights and open warfare between citizens and police forces in this country in the past, and the not so distant past at that. Of course part of the purpose of the defiance and disobedience of Authority was to show quite clearly what sort of militarized policing was deployed on the streets of Denver and St. Paul, against unarmed and essentially non-resisting citizens who sometimes did not obey "lawful orders."

It was an almost classic demonstration of civil disobedience in the face of inappropriate Authority, and unlike some previous examples of civil disobedience in this country, there was very little "passive resistance." There was very little resistance at all to arrest.

Much was made of the fact that journalists and lawyers were arrested. The emphasis may have been put on their arrests so as to get the attention of other journalists and lawyers who might otherwise be ignorant (by neglect or design) of what the advancement of the Police State really means. Whether that strategy was successful remains to be seen, but it clearly was a strategy.

Because so many ordinary citizens were swept up in the police raids and the mass arrests, many of whom were apparently merely passers-by or at most observers, there will no doubt be civil legal repercussions for the jurisdictions involved. They apparently don't care at this point, and some claim that no complaints have been filed, so they have no intention to respond to any citizen uproar about what they did.

We would do well to ask if this was a prelude to a return to People Power, or perhaps its reinvention, in America. There have been plenty of mass protests in America in the last decade, some of them turning violent, but few have actually utilized the tactics of civil disobedience and defiance of Authority which have been shown to be effective in mitigating, modifying, or even overthrowing repressive regimes world-wide and in this country.

Are Americans coming to understand that passive observation of the "show" simply isn't enough, and that simply voting for a predigested candidate won't necessarily achieve political objectives?

Were these actions by citizens and by police the catalysts for real change in this country, perhaps even a restoration of constitutional self-government and accountable Authority?

Remains to be seen, but it's possible.

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