Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Starhawk's RNC post 7: Dancing with Delegates
Emergency Note: Yesterday, Tuesday, two of our cluster were arrested before the start of the March for Our Lives organized by the Poor People’s Movement. Riyanna and Jason were standing at the edge of the park where the rally was happening when they were attacked by police. Witnesses reported to us that Jason was tasered while he was lying on the ground, not resisting, and was refused medical aid. Somehow, later, he managed to get a call through to us on his cell phone, to report that the two taser barbs were still in his hip and the police were refusing to take them out. His phone remained on while we could hear what sounds like the cops beating him up. In a later call, he reported that he has a black eye and multiple abrasions on his head and torso, but is basically okay, and that the taser barbs have been removed. We also heard from Riyanna who is also okay. I just talked to her, and she sounds fine and strong and worried about other prisoners who are being denied needed medication. Arraignments and release are now going very slowly, and she could be held as long as 36 hours, or more. . A good person to call today would be the St. Paul mayor, Chris Coleman, 651-266-8510 demand that he end the targeting of protestors, the abuse of prisoners, and the confiscation of property.
Our PermiBus has been officially ‘released’, but its owners are being told there are 23 violations against it and they are not being allowed to drive it away. They have not received copies of any of the violations except for one: ‘no proof of insurance’. In reality, Stan Wilson has proof of insurance on the bus but was never allowed to produce it. The authorities claim that all searches and seizures over the last week have been done legally, with warrants and judicial review. But the bus was seized illegally with no charges and searched illegally, without a warrant and without the presence of the owners. This is a violation of the Bill of Rights. For the PermiBus, call the Mayor Rybek of Minneapolis,
(612) 673-2100 (His office)
Complaints to Mayor Rybek can be directed by email to email@example.com.
Thanks to all who have made calls—they’ve been very effective If you can’t get through—that’s probably because so many of us are calling!
This account will also be up on my website, as are my stories from the first few days: www.starhawk.org
And don’t worry—after this week I won’t be posting so often!
Dancing with Delegates
Monday, September 1:
We find ourselves on a wide street that leads into the enclosure where delegates are being allowed into the convention. I look over the river, which winds below us, and when I look up, Lisa and Juniper are in the street, holding back a bus with their hands. The bus driver is inside, looking down at them, and the rest of us run out and join them, until a line of police comes over and, in a fairly gentle manner, pushes us away.
We regroup on the sidewalk, and realize that we have found one of the key sites where delegates are being admitted. Another bus pulls out, and we run out in front of it, forming a spiral which the police again push back.
Across the street, we see a group of delegates walking in on foot. We rush over, and form a line, interfering with their progress and attempting to talk to them. They are attempting to push through us, and one gent in a business suit begins pushing, shoving and shouting at us until the police jump in, push us back and let them through.
…Now there are several hundred of us, Funk the War has joined us with their sound system. We swarm into the street and become a dance party that blocks buses from coming in. We dance our way back up to the enclosure by the convention center.
Groups of delegates are coming through but they’ve got to make their way through hordes of expressive youth and a barrier of rumbling bass. I see one flying wedge of riot cops push a group of delegates through the crowd, These are new cops, much harder edged and more angry than the first ones we encountered.
The swarm still fills the street, and the busses can’t get through. A line of riot cops forms up and begins pushing us back with batons, chanting “Move! Back! Move! Back!”
I’ve gone into the state I think of as the Zone of Deadly Calm—alert, aware, grounded just like I train everyone to do, but strangely emotionless. A lot of truly frightening things are happening all around me, but I’m not feeling fear. That can be a good thing or a bad thing—fear, like pain, is useful information. I’ve done stupid things, in this state, as well as brave ones. But I’ve been through a lot of these actions, and I’ve been in Palestine, supporting nonviolent resistance to the occupation, where we were standing in front of tanks and reasoning with soldiers who shoot real bullets, and the tension never eases up. I understand more now about what exposure to violence does to a person. Yeats has a poem, “The Easter Rising”, I found myself reading over and over after my first tour in the West Bank. It has a line in it that stuck in my head like a mantra:
Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.Down the way, at the point where the bridge comes into the street, I see a line of cops on horseback forming up. They move into the swarm and begin pushing us onto the sidewalk with the horses.
We fall back, staying as close to the horses as we can, talking to the cops on their backs. “Don’t do this to your horse,” Andy is saying over and over again.
More delegates arrive, and the horses block us. Then a way opens up and we take the street again, pushing forward to the entrance, a small gate in the barricades. The horses are trotting after us and shoulder us aside, then they fall back to regroup and we move forward. Our cluster brings out balls of yarn and we begin tossing them back and forth, weaving a web. Lisa keeps tying it onto the fence, blocking the entrance, and a cop with a knife keeps cutting it.
The web is a soft deterrent to the horses—but it also could easily entangle us. At a certain point, we let it drop. The horse cops have called for reinforcements, and there are more of them now. Suddenly they charge into us, pushing us back into the curb in a panicky crush. Elizabeth yells out—her foot has been caught under a hoof. I am squeezed between the horses and the crowd, and I stumble. But strong hands lift me onto the curb, up to safety. I turn and see David Solnit, an old friend from back home in San Francisco. My rescuer! I thank him and he just grins.
Elizabeth, it turns out, is not hurt, just grazed. But we all regroup on the sidewalk, where all along a vendor has been selling hot dogs. Seeds of Peace arrives with sandwiches and carrots, and we grab a bite of lunch.
A young woman in a motorized wheelchair rolls up near our group. She’s speaking to me, but her voice is so soft I have to lean over to hear her. Her head is large and her limbs are shrunken and twisted, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to her if the police bring out chemical weapons. I put my head next to hers, and she says, “I’m sorry that this is the image you’re getting of our town. It’s really a very nice place to live.”
She seems very brave, alone in her wheelchair, so vulnerable, but with undaunted curiosity. I thank her for coming out, and she rolls away.
A young man sitting on the wall looks up at me. “Pagan cluster, you rock!” he says. “You guys were holding back horses with your bare hands!”
I smile at him. That’s the true reason I’m still willing to put myself out here on the streets, at an age when I probably should know better. Nonviolence isn’t something that can just be preached. It must be practiced. Show, don’t tell. It’s hard to persuade people of its power—because it goes against all of our deepest instincts and the assumptions we’ve internalized from our violent culture: that power comes from the weapon, from physical strength and the willingness to use it to hurt and destroy, that force works. No sane person wants to stand against horses and clubs and more lethal weapons with only our soft bodies and hands. Yet when we do, a different sort of power arises.
Elsewhere in the city windows have been broken. I don’t have patience for long, philosophical discussions about what constitutes violence or nonviolence, or whether inanimate objects have feelings. I don’t agree with those tactics, because, for me, what gets shattered are webs of relationships—the trust and support given to us by the ordinary people of this city where I have friends and relatives and long-standing ties. It’s those relationships we need to truly transform this country. Small groups of isolated activists, however passionate and ideologically pure, aren’t going to do it alone. We need to honor the courage and win the trust of all those people who are never going to see broken windows as anything but vandalism, but who struggle every day against huge forces just to hold their lives together as the system crumbles around us all. And to do that, I believe we have to embody the kind of power we want as a base for our lives: the power of compassion, creativity and love.
Lunch is over. The temper of the cops is worsening with the day, and as more and more demonstrators appear in the streets, they get rougher. A bus moves down the street, and we surge forward to block it. The police form a line and begin driving us back, pretty roughly. We’re forming up our cluster on the sidewalk when the police jump on a protestor and pull him down. A young man is standing nearby, writing down the legal information, and suddenly the cops lunge for him. He’s alert, and runs beyond their reach. They grab Aaron, who is standing holding our flag. They rip the flag out of his hands, throw him down on the ground, and kneel on him. I run forward trying to get to him, but I’m blocked by a cop and his motorcycle and I can only watch as they kneel on his back and jerk his hands up to be cuffed. One of his hands is bleeding.
They’ve got him surrounded, and we can’t get to him. We can only call out, “Aaron, Aaron we love you! We’ve got your back!”
Then the police push us out, further down the road. Their mood is getting uglier. They’re spraying pepper spray, from big canisters, shooting it out before them into the crowd. The mood of the crowd is starting to get angrier, too. Behind us now are not horses but lines of riot cops in gas masks—a bad sign.
We’re moving away when we catch the acrid scent of tear gas on the wind behind us. I have asthma, and though its very mild I feel an obligation to myself to at least try to stay out of tear gas, when I can. So we move faster.
We’re rounding a corner of a building when a cop goes berserk. He lunges at soft-spoken Deborah, whacks her on the arm with his nightstick and knocks her to the ground. Elizabeth runs back and grabs her away as Andy and I move toward the cops and slow them down, talking to them calmly. “We’re leaving,” I say. “We’re doing what you’re telling us to do.”
Deborah is bruised, but okay. We’re moving back up the streets, away from the convention center. We sit down on a lawn to regroup and rest for a moment.
A young man in black, with a Nikon camera, comes running into our group, with two cops on bikes behind us. He rushes through us—they drive into us but can’t get through. He looks around like a cornered rabbit, sees us caught in the melee and turns back, his hands up.
“I’m giving myself up!” he calls to them. He could have gotten away, but I believe that he makes his choice because he feared the cops pursuing him were hurting us. He’s shaking, trying not to cry. “I was only taking pictures. I’m only seventeen. I live here!”
The cops frisk him and search him while we get his name and his mothers’ phone number. We try to get his camera, to keep it safe, but the police won’t release it. “We’ve got your back! We love you. Stay strong!” we call to him. The police lead him away, and Lisa phones his mother.
It’s been a long, tense day and hard to assess its success. But I believe I’ve met my goal—to hold the Republicans accountable in the streets, since the Democrats and the media and the institutions of conventional politics have failed to do it elsewhere. And tomorrow is another day.
Below are all of the DemiOrator posts containing Starhawk's reports from the 2008 Republican National Convention:
Starhawk's RNC post 1: On the Bad Side of Town
Starhawk's RNC post 2: Raid on the Convergence Center
Starhawk's RNC post 3: New Moon Ritual
Starhawk's RNC post 4: Police Seize Permibus
Starhawk's RNC post 5: A Spiral Dance in the Streets
Starhawk's RNC post 6: Emergency Calls Requested
Starhawk's RNC post 7: Dancing with Delegates
Starhawk's RNC post 8: Peace Island and Poor Peoples’ March
Starhawk's RNC post 9: Updates on Thurs, 4 Sept 2008
General Info about Starhawk's RNC Posts