By all accounts day one of the RNC, though scaled way back and void of political rhetoric, went off without serious incident. Of the 15,000 some-odd estimated protesters in attendance (i’ve seen estimates as high as 20k and low as 10k so I’m saying 15k) the county’s final tally on arrests and charges for the days was:
– 284 total arrests
– 130 felony charges
– 51 gross misdemeanors
– 103 misdemeanors.
I question that total being as there are reports of some people being detained without charges (still) and people being released shortly after arrest. Even if this number is incorrect by a significant margin it hardly represents a large percentage of those in attendance. That aside, the day wasn’t totally without significant incident.
The major news networks painted a fairly low-key picture of the goings on but those of us privy to local independant media outlets saw something very different; liberal use of pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and even one report of flashbangs (someone even said ‘concussion grenades’, which I’m VERY skeptical of). Independant [neutral, non-aggressive] media and legal representatives have been arrested for merely being near the crowds, crowds of people gathered in parks being surrounded and searched, even walking down the street was apparently enough to warrant a search by whatever agency happened to pass you by.
It’s easy to read this stuff and get outraged, especially as a local. The find the described level of force just as upsetting as hearing about people vandalizing empty vehicles for kicks. As an example, just right now I got these messages across twitter:
coldsnaplegal: 120 riot cops at Ripple Effect concert at the State Capitol
coldsnaplegal: Riot cops at Ripple Effect have rubber bullets, gas canisters, and concussion grenades ready.
For reference, Coldsnap Legal Collective is a local, autonomous group of legal professionals whom “work in solidarity with other groups or individuals in order to EDUCATE, EMPOWER, and SUPPORT the radical community by sharing knowledge, raising awareness, and developing a network of legal support and solidarity.” A legal group for activists, more or less.
The Ripple Effect festival (decent band lineup, btw) has a permit to be there. The music, maybe aside from Anti-Flag, is pretty up-tempo kinda summer festival music…and Will Steger is speaking! It’s not a riot scenario unless by riot they mean a fairly chill crowd that might easily be mistaken for modern-day hippies.
I’ve been keeping my skept-o-meter pretty high the last two days. I’ve no reason to believe that these folks on the street are lying or just making things up (far from it) but I think the level of urgency can easily get misinterpreted or manipulated. Cops will say everything is just fine in order to keep the general public happy and some protesters will claim rights violations and brutality in order to make a case or rile up some support. Neither is right or wrong, per-se, it’s a matter of perspective.
Anyway, the point of this post was to provide outlets for people to find this information, so I’ll shut up. I’ve no doubt both sides are guilty of things to some extent but try to keep a little skeptical when reading some of this stuff.
- Twin Cities Indymedia – “Breaking news from the streets” TCIM is basically an open format news site. People call in news or send it online. They have a Twitter feed as well but the Coldsnap Legal feed is a bit more active.
- Coldsnap Legal – Yet again, as mentioned above. Very active Twitter feed. These folks are likely the only reason people on the street get ANY legal representation, so big ups to them.
- Tin Can Comms – Something of a grassroots communications collective for people on the street. They have over a dozen Twitter feeds set up (depending on which part of the city you want info on). Very well organized and a pretty clever use of Twitter I think.
- The Uptake – Mostly useful for video in my opinion, some of it live(-ish) from the scene. This is where a lot of the stuff on YouTube seems to be originating.
All of these use local addresses A LOT, so if you’re inclined to follow them, I’d recommend keeping a map of downtown St. Paul handy. It is kind of interesting to see where the activity is scattered across town and how it relates to the Xcel and other landmarks.
There’s likely more out there but these are what I’ve been monitoring. As of right now it looks like the Rebulicants are getting some events scheduled for the rest of the week. If that’s the case I will be downtown observing what I can and talking to anyone willing.