Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Hand Account of Protests; "Riots"

This afternoon I received an email from Carleton Professor and my former astronomy professor Joel Weisberg, who participated in the protests yesterday and was arrested on Sunday.

He provided a note, statement and useful links. I am reproducing the relevant parts here:

You have probably heard of many counter-RNC activities in the last few days. I was one of nine people doing peaceful civil disobedience arrested Sunday. Yesterday (Monday) I took part in a peaceful march with tens of thousand of participants. There were many college-age people (many from Mac - I was sorry Carleton was not yet in session).

Yesterday afternoon there was a police riot with many people your age targeted principally for being . . . your age. Hundreds were arrested. I decided to send you my pick of some of the best alternative media vidoes and accounts, plus my statement of Sunday's activities. By the way Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and two of her producers were arrested, roughed up, and later released for . . . well you watch below.

By the way if you are in the Cities or coming soon, there are still lots of cultural activities. Michael Franti and others will be performing today (Tues) at the Capitol, for example. If you are interested, I can send you a schedule.

Here is his statement about his arrest:

On Sunday, August 31, I participated in the solemn march to honor and remember the Iraqi war dead (soldiers and civilians alike ). Eight other people and I chose to commit civil disobedience by crossing a security fence. Among them were David Harris of Red Wing Vets for Peace, prime organizer of the march, Steve Clemens of St. Martin's Community, Sister Betty McKenzie, Jeanne Hynes, and Mary Vaughan, all of the Twin Cities, two members of the Voices for Creative Nonviolence group that walked from Chicago to St. Paul for the RNC protests, and a student from North Carolina.

Speaking for myself alone, I chose to risk arrest to protest the continuation of a war that has led to immense suffering and death, started on the basis of lies, and continued despite large majorities in Iraq stating that they wish the occupying forces to leave and large majorities in the U.S. wishing also for a speedy end. I have contacted my elected representatives numerous times to call for speedy withdrawal, to no avail, so I decided to escalate my commitment to this process
by risking arrest.

We were immediately surrounded by riot police and eventually arrested,
handcuffed, and booked for trespassing. We were released several hours later and were told that we will hear later about a court date.

Although the riot police refused to talk with us, all subsequent officers were
professional and respectful, and we were able to engage them in dialog.

It was a powerful and good experience, principally because I finally placed my body on the line for what I believe in.

Some great links he provided:

A blog where the writer (a medic) encounters a young woman after she was repeatedly sprayed for trying to hand a flower to the police: "RNC Day One: The girl with glitter on her shoulders"
the original video of a young woman being repeatedly sprayed for trying to hand a flower to the police:"Police Pepperspray Flower Girl"

A blog where the writer (a medic) encounters her *after* she was sprayed: "RNC Day One: The girl with glitter on her shoulders"

Amazing cell phone video/audio from young journalists witnessing and barely avoiding sprays, rubber bullets, arrests yesterday (monday) afternoon across the river from harriet island concert. "UpTake Team Surrounded By Police"

three young men pursued by the police, one whose head is smashed, for refusing consent to have their backpacks searched. Blog entry from Andy Driscoll:

Another statement about the "riots":
I just wanted everybody to hear a first hand account for the Shephard St./Wabasha "riots" The black block left the capitol after the peace rally to go to Harriet Island to watch the show. Myself and some other friends joined them since we were going there as well. Walking from the Capitol on John Ireland, turning onto Kellogg there were about 40-50 riot cops around the corner denying us access to Wabasha. I actually went up to a couple of them trying to get information on a alternative route. No body was from St. Paul let alone Minnesota. My friends and I decided to walk around the block and eventually got to Shephard St. Once there, they would not let anybody across the road to get up on the bridge to get over the island.

There were also Coast Guard in the river with guns attached to the boats pointing at the the people. We tried to cross the road to get up on the bridge. Riot cops would not let us pass. We walked up a little further (past Wabasha) and the black block caught up. They tried to cross the street (on a green light) and the riot cops opened up with tear gas first, smoke bombs second and then they broke out the rubber bullets. We got away, but may people did not. There were many people that were there that weren't even in the black block (sorority types) as well as residents out for a daily jog or bike ride by the river. A protest boat got in between the coast guard and the protesters.

After running from the cops, we went to Harriet Island to tell as many media as possible as well as all of the people watching. We were about to leave, when the coast guard boarded the boat.

I want to be very clear, there was no chanting, signs, or anything else that would be "threatening" going on other than a bunch of people dressed in black (their normal everyday clothing). Most of these people were between 15-25 years old and just wanted to see the concerts at the park.

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