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RNC in St. Paul Reveals Neocon Dream of (Police) State
By Ward Reilly
VVAW member Bill Perry with wife Terry at Minnesota capitol with banner
Veterans took an active role in protesting the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan at the Republican National Convention during the first week of September, 2008, in St. Paul, Minnesota. During the week before the RNC, both Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Veterans For Peace held their national conventions in Minneapolis, and they both ended their respective conventions with 2 protest marches with only veterans and family members. Many VVAW members were a part of all of the events, acting as marshals for IVAW in their march. On Monday, September 1st (Labor Day) there was a statewide march with approximately 25,000 in attendence.
What the veterans witnessed on the streets in St. Paul was the truth about the neocon dream, and the right-wing vision for the USA as a police state. There were many different government agencies involved in "security," and Blackwater-type goons were out in force. What we veterans saw was the current US administration shitting on the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, and thereby shitting on the service and sacrifice of every man and woman who has sworn to defend our nation and its laws. 900+ people were arrested, gassed, maced, or shocked with stun guns, including many journalists who were simply trying to report the facts of the day.
As during Hurricane Katrina, the Republicans again partied on, this time at their convention, while large areas of southern Louisiana and the Texas Gulf coast were devastated by hurricane Gustav. The republicans delayed their grand opening for 6 hours on Monday, to show how much they care. And again, we can only say, "thanks for nothing."
$50 million dollars was given to both St. Paul and Minneapolis for security by Homeland Security, and they used the money to outfit a gestapo-like presence in the Twin-Cities, formerly known to be progressive and peaceful. The hundreds of brand new SUVs, and millions of dollars worth of technology that $100 million purchased, only shamed both cities and shocked the local population. Never in my life have I seen such a massive group of robo-warriors, armed to the teeth, and ready to act against peaceful citizens that were simply exercising their right of dissent against the war criminals in Washington DC.
On Sunday, August 31, during the veterans march from the Capitol building to the RNC site and back, police reps told the organizers that anyone would be arrested if they left the parade route, so a handful of us volunteered to resist. At a predetermined intersection, a dozen or so of us challenged the police orders by going around the barricades to march off-route, breaking off from the main contingent of 1000 or so veterans that were marching. We called their bluff, and they didn't touch us.
I think that the sight of police arresting innocent veterans and Gold Star parents for walking down a street (that they own), all documented on film by many journalists, would have been a PR disaster for the RNC, so we were allowed to march unmolested, escorted by about 250 robo-cops. None of the veterans or Gold Star members were arrested. I, Ann Wright, Mike Hastie, Bruce Berry, Hal Muskat, Leslie Harris, and a few others were among the group of civil-disobedience-minded resisters. We marched behind a flag-draped coffin being pulled by Gold Star father Carlos Arradondo and his wife Melida, who's son (Army Sp. 4) Alexander Arradondo was KIA in Iraq. Also resisting police orders with us was Gold Star father Juan Torres, who's son Juan Jr. was also KIA in Iraq.
On Monday morning, IVAW had a separate action, in which they marched from the capitol to the RNC to present their demands regarding Iraq, to John McCain, and the McCain camp was too cowardly to send a rep out to receive their demands, in spite of many attempts to arrange a meeting. A week earlier, IVAW had marched in formation to the DNC convention in Denver, and there they were met by a member of Obama's staff who DID accept a copy of their demands. The neocons proved yet again that they have no courage, nor do they care to hear from the actual veterans of their filthy and criminal occupations.
Non-veterans weren't so lucky during the entire week, as more than 900 people were arrested, many for simply being there. The police were short tempered, and were ready to attack at the slightest provocation, and everywhere in the city, even at a concert, the police violated the civil rights of our citizens, rounding up and arresting 200 at an anti-war music event. In St. Paul, some windows were broken, and some newspaper boxes were tipped over (perhaps by police infiltrators??) and the police used those acts as an excuse to go wild with tear gas, concussion grenades and tasers.
All in all, the republicans showed their true colors at the RNC, fascism in the disguise of a political party. The RNC was a true vision of what life in the USA will be like, if we don't stop them first. It was truly something to behold, and to have been a part of.
Ward Reilly is the VVAW Baton Rouge contact.