In the days leading up to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, police raided the offices of progressive activist groups planning peaceful protests, including Food Not Bombs. The raids seem to be serious infringements on U.S. citizens' rights to assemble and peacefully protest. It has come to light that police have infiltrated many of these groups through spies. Today, Amy Goodman of the progressive radio program, Democracy Now! was arrested roughly as she advocated for the release of two of her colleagues who had been arrested while they reported on protests from the street. It appears that a virtual police state has been enacted in St. Paul. The early evidence seems to indicate that civil liberties are being trampled left and right, but the mainstream media does not seem to be covering it, at least not sufficiently. Those on the scene are calling police action by local, state and federal authorities, "excessive," "unprovoked" and "illegal." Here is a print story on Goodman and two of her colleague's arrests. Check out these reports here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Footage of police using pepper spray here and teargas here.
For the record, there have been reports of small numbers of masked activists - anarchists? - engaging in violent protests, but according to several reports most of those arrested were/are not engaged in violent protest. As is always the case in these situations, it is hard to get a full grasp of what is going on there right now. Things are evolving fast. No doubt the pre-convention raids and the arrests of peaceful protesters and journalists like Goodman only fuel the more radical and violent elements.
Here is some video of Goodman's arrest:
More footage of harsh police tactics:
Please look at the resources I've linked to in this post and SPREAD THE WORD. Write to your congresspeople and tell them to help put a stop to this. Write a letter to your local newspaper protesting these actions by law enforcement. If you know of other good coverage of these events, please post the links in the comments section of this post.
Of course, the primary concern is what this says about the state of civil liberties in the U.S. The secondary concern is that the Republicans will turn this to their advantage, ramping up a "law and order" rhetoric to rile reactionary elements in the electorate. It is important that progressive media outlets and citizens like you and me become active in spreading the word and defining what is going on in our own words. If the frame gets set by police, or Republicans, that these are just a bunch of violent, radicals destroying social order, it could spell real trouble for the Democrats this fall. Mass, peaceful protest, YES! After the last 8 years, it is understandable. The other stuff, though, is very problematic, even when it is done by a small minority of the protesters...
As my friend Maura Giles-Watson wrote earlier today about the Goodman arrest, "Is this a preview of what the country will be like when the 'Homegrown Terrorism Act' passes-- journalists swept away in unmarked police vans? What/who is next?"
UPDATE: Goodman and her colleagues, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, have now been released. Goodman grills St. Paul Police Chief about arrests.