Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Hand Account of RNC Protests

"First Hand Account...

I just wanted to blog this morning, after finally getting about 4 hours sleep, to tell the world - or what bit portion of it is still paying attention, my account of the RNC activism events today.

I am just one person, my story will not fully depict the absolute circus this convention has turned my state into. what brought me to St Paul today, a city that is normally extremely quiet and without event, was the Take Back Labor Day festival. I went to the city to see friends and hear music and stand up as a supporter for real worker's rights and further, most importantly, the freedom of our Republic.

What i saw was extreme...

There is no doubt in mind, from the limited exposure I did get of the whole RNC scene, that we are in fact under Martial Law. There is no walking through downtown St Paul without coming to the absolute realization that we are not safe and most certainly not free.

From Harriet Island, where the above-described music and awareness event was taking place, dozens of us saw, with our own civilian eyes, the true arsenal the federally-sponsored RNC had in store for us. "The department, awarded a $50,000,000 security grant from the federal government, will have at its disposal $330,000 in helmets, $1,000,000 in chemical masks and $1,900,000 in chemical irritants, according to plans approved by the [Saint Paul] City Council this month."

First hand, I saw at least 4 snipers on top of downtown buildings surrounding the RNC ground zero at any given time. In the river just ahead of our festival, there were coast guard boats with massive machine guns loaded and ready to fire, two per boat. Many boats patrolled the waters of the mighty [city-polluted] Mississippi throughout the day. Later on, about 10 boats were seen at once, all surrounding a non-violent sit-in on the banks of the Mississippi, along with various officials inland, their squad lights ablaze.

I plan to bike from MPLS to the free Rage Against The Machine show (they are the 'secret' headliner) today (Sept 2nd) in downtown Saint Paul but for Labor day I decided to bus it with a friend. On the way into the city, everything became increasingly intense. Our bus took at least 4 detours... We saw the March on The RNC To Stop the War and many blocks away we observed troops of swat teams in complete & full gear doing coreographed marches in 20 some numbered groups. I personally recall noting 3 separate groups of these swat teams during my pilgrimage to the island for the show.

The downtown area was completely shut down. I believe it was about a six block radius which was under a military-like rule. The secret service, national guard and fbi were all in attendance. I estimate that every corner had at least 2-3 cops or service individuals posted to it, giving each block about a 10-person cover by the government's forces. Later bike & horse police were also seen in massive groups. Video of excessive force from todays events can be found with a swift 'google' on the subject.

Finally, the helicopter...
I suppose I note this lastly because of the role it later played in my first hand experience... All day we saw police helicopter fly-bys over our festival and the RNC & back again. They could clearly see us and probably knew all about our event prior to its arrival, especially given the constant state trooper walk-through's that plagued the festival. When the fest finally ended and people began to make their way back downtown, the officials shut down the bridges crossing the Mississippi one by one until none were left to cross and people were catapulted into a panic. The people at the front of the group I was in explained that the cops threatened them with tear gas if we tried to cross.

Most of us were poorly dressed for any sort of riot or for that matter, conspiracy there-of, many attendees sporting swimming suits and flip flops. This was a day of high humidity and music, after all. Most were from the Minneapolis area and just needed to cross the bridges safely and load a bus back to home base. We were obstructed from doing so, seemingly at the attempt of officials to instigate riot.

When the bridges did finally start to reopen and the group I was with did get across, one young girl's mother told us that there was no reason for them to shut it down. No one was doing anything "stupid" on the bridges. That "all of a sudden there were just swarms of cops and then they just shut the bridges down."

On the bus ride back home, people cheered when we reached the highway en route back to Minneapolis. When I finally unloaded from the 4th bus of the day, I felt relived, like I was finally on solid ground again. Its strange to spend almost an entire day feeling like a caged animal only to wake up the next and return again, all in the name of freedom and liberty. "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

22 y/o MCAD Student & Non-violent Civil Activist