After witnessing and filming police state tactics in St. Paul Minnesota during the 2008 RNC, I was left with the question "Do Cops Hate Freedom?" And it really is a question, not a statement. Objectively one wonders such things when "The Poor People's March" (a march made up of mostly old men and women and children and families is attacked by police with pepper spray, tear gas, and other so-called less lethal weapons that turn a peaceful protest into a war zone.
In addition during the many different protests and direct actions that happened in St. Paul during the convention many people were arrested on bogus charges, including many fully and visibly credentialed journalists.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) bravely provided legal observers during the protests. They wore special brightly colored hats that clearly designated them as non-protestors who were simply there to observe (and police were well informed about these observers and their hats in advance). They and the journalists were also arrested often though, which calls into question whether the first amendment still exists or means anything anymore. Same goes for the protestors themselves, 99.999999% of whom were peaceful. Same goes for passersby who again like in New York in 2004 were swept up and arrested and gassed like the rest by police knowingly.
I'm not going to try to write the end-all essay about this as there are many others doing that already, but I have to say, being on the streets of St. Paul was truly surreal that week. I have lived here my whole life and I can tell you that St. Paul has not seen a storm like this ever before in its history. The Gustave tropical storm in the gulf which Republicans delayed their proceedings for was nothing compared to this.
Even miles away from the Xcel Center riot cops were at every turn telling you that you could not go here or there... You can't talk to them to find out why because they are ordered not to talk to you. The only thing you hear from them is them yelling "Move!" as they thrust their batons at you, tackle protestors and journalists alike and shoot off concussion grenades and gas and pepper spray.
Meanwhile, of course the corporate mainstream media was mostly showing clips of one guy breaking a window. The effect of this one-sided coverage is to mislead the public into believing that the heavy handed and unconstitutional manner in which the policing of the RNC was carrried out was justified and legitimate.
"The police used a lot of restraint and were really nice to the protestors" is the most common bullshit disinformation PR line you'll hear when any protest happens, and we heard plenty of that this time as well of course. A few mainstream sources did actually show some disturbing footage of the police state conditions, or semi-accurately described them for what they were. But, usually these same outlets also ran many more stories that painted the police as friendly and heroic for their actions at the RNC.
FBI, NSA, Homeland Security and many other law enforcement agencies were also in St. Paul for the convention working hard to disrupt the protests covertly, and spying on their own citizens... taking photos and video of protestors for their big brother files archive. There were also reports of agents provacateurs which are cops and feds that dress up like protestors and then do bad things so that the protestors can be blamed and the police actions can look justified. Given this it cannot conclusively be said with any certainty if there was actually any real violence committed by any actual protestors.
Watch my video (below) to see riot cops attack peaceful protestors and journalists alike with tear gas, concussion grenades, and pepper spray.
In the video you see police violently pursue non-violent protestors who are marching down by the Mississippi River at Shepherd Road and Robert Street in St. Paul Minnesota during the Republican National Convention on September 1, 2008. Tear gas and concussion grenades (aka flash bangs) are used by police on protestors as the protestors try to escape. Later the confrontation ends in a mass arrest (not shown in this video). You can also see Coast Guard gun-ships with two high caliber fully automatic machine guns mounted on each.
What such a massive over-kill style show of force is supposed to do is obvious: intimidate. What beating up and arresting protestors is supposed to do is obvious as well: squash constitutional rights to free speech, free assembly, and to dissent. Why police violently attack protestors who are not being violent is obvious: so that the news media focuses on violence instead of the message that the protestors are trying to get across... the higher ups in the police state want fellow Americans arguing about whether the cops or the protestors were worse, instead of thinking about the messages the protestors were trying to send to the public.
[Note: This shirt isn't so much about individual cops as it is about the police state more widely and the mentality that many cops have. I am well aware that some cops join up because they want to protect people, but probably just as many join up for less savory reasons like wanting to tell other people what to do, wanting to be able to kick people's asses with impunity and wanting to prevent people they politically disagree with from being free to live and express themselves how they like. Many cops don't want to be used as thugs that attack protestors, but that's not a good excuse for what they did in St. Paul. If they don't like doing that, then they should refuse or quit the force.
But some cops do really get off on jacking people. Watch this video (below) of a cop shooting rubber bullets at a lawyer for no good reason during a protest in Miami in 2003. Then at the end you see and hear the police chief congratulating the cop for doing so and you hear all the other cops present cheering him on for having done so.]
Here is the coup de gras...
This (above) footage from the Uptake clearly shows the entire episode that my video partially captured from up on a bridge, but it shows it from ground level, where you clearly hear the concussion grenades and see them shake everything around them including the people standing near where they explode. It shows the same gassing sequence my video has but from within the clouds of gas... just watch it and see unmistakeably for yourself the violence and totalitarian nature of the police presence at the RNC.
You have to wonder how difficult it would be for these same police who shoot into the crowd with "less lethal" weapons to do so with full-on lethal ammunition (such as the many episodes during the Vietnam War where police and national guard murdered protestors at Jackson State and Kent State Universities, and other times in US History).
Actually in the Uptake video you see a cop with an AR-15, which is a machine gun. I saw cops with these while on the ground during the protests myself. What may I ask do they need machine guns for? From the looks and feel of the way that these police unleash terror on the protestors and journalists alike, it seems as if these guys would have no qualms being part of paramilitary death squads in Colombia or being in the SS in Nazi Germany. Their performance is clearly intended to terrorize.]
Are we on the brink of living in a total police state? If you reply smugly that I'm crazy for even asking that, then I ask you why have the police continually become more militarized and mobilized against US citizens? If you respond with a Pentagon PR line about this new age in the war on terror... then I ask you why has the gun been turned inward on the American people, the people the war on terror is supposed to protect?
Ok, one last video clip for now. This very clearly shows peaceful protestors attacked viciously by police.
January 5th, 2009 - Update!
Yep. I knew there were agents provocateurs operating at the RNC in 2008. Agents provocateurs are government agents that either commit acts while dressed like activists or encourage or entrap others to do so. Just read the New York Times article titled "Activist Unmasks Himself as Federal Informant in G.O.P. Convention Case," and other articles on the Minnesota Independent and on Democracy Now! and you'll see in the light of day that the government is ruthless in its dealings with activists both by violently injuring them and then ironically painting the activists as violent in the media, and by entrapping them, etc.
Activists are often portrayed as paranoid and delusional, and this just proves that while they may be pararanoid sometimes that there is a good reason for that. This FBI action was certainly not a delusion, just another example for the history books that will probably be ignored by the glossy text book version that is spoon fed to most Americans.
Remember the Hay Market Square event that spawned May Day over a hundred years ago? Most Americans don't know about it at all. It wasn't an activist that threw the bomb then. I'll guarantee it. But it sure worked for the government's propaganda against labor.