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 Pagan: Republican National Convention—Convergence Center Raided

The NewsBy Starhawk

It’s Friday night. Our Pagan Cluster is sitting on the bluff of the Mississippi having our first real meeting, when Lisa gets a call. The cops are raiding the Convergence Center, where we’re organizing meetings and trainings for the protests against the Republican National Convention. It’s not a role play, the caller says. It’s real.

Instantly, we jump up and hurry back the six or eight blocks to the old theater we are using for meetings, trainings and social gatherings. I ‘ve spent the last two days doing magical activism trainings, teaching people how to stay calm and grounded in emergency situations and when things get chaotic. Now it’s time to put the training into practice. Aaron, a tall, red-headed young man who could be one of my nephews strides along beside me. “Are you grounded?” I ask him. He nods, and runs ahead.

Nobody can keep up with Lisa, who speeds ahead like an arrow, walking, not running, but still covering the ground quickly. Andy and I trail behind. We’re often street buddies, because we’re both big, slow, and supremely calm and stubborn, willing to wade into almost any situation and become the immovable object.

We’re stopped by a line of cops just before we reach the building. They refuse to let us through, or to move their van which is blocking Scarecrow’s car. There’s an investigation underway, they say, and won’t say more. ...



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Brush, our dear friend, is inside, having gone to a jail solidarity meeting, ironically enough. So are two very young people who had just joined our cluster that night. I try calling Brush’s cell phone, but get no reply.

We wait. That’s what you do when the cops have guns trained on kids inside a building. You wait, and witness, and make phone calls, and try to think of useful things to do.

We call lawyers. We call politicians. We try to call media. We call friends who might know politicians and media.

Through the kitchen door, we cansee young kids sitting on the floor, handcuffed. We walk across the street, back, made more phone calls. An ambulance is parked in front, and the paramedics head into the building, leaving a gurney ready. Susu, from her car around the corner, reports that the cops have been grabbing pedestrians from the street, forcing them down to the ground, handcuffing them.

Song, one of the local organizers, calls her City Council member. She wants to call the Mayor, Chris Coleman, who has promised that St. Paul will be as welcoming to protestors as to delegates, but no one has his home number.

What I have forgotten to tell people at the training is how much of an action is just this: tense, boring waiting, with a knot of anxiety in your stomach and your feet starting to hurt. Song talks to a helpful neighbor, who’s come over to find out what’s happening. He knows where the mayor lives, says it’s just a few blocks away, and draws us a map.

We decide to go and call on the Mayor, who could call off the cops. About five of us troop down there, through the soft night and a neighborhood of comfortable homes and wide lawns on the bluffs above the Mississippi. The Mayor’s house is a comfortable Dutch Colonial, and lights were on inside. We decide that just a few of us will go to the door, so as not to look intimidating. Song is a round, soft-bodied middle-aged woman with a sweet face. Ellen is a tiny brunette with a gap-toothed smile, and Lisa, formidable organizer though she is, looks slight and unthreatening. The rest of us hang back. Someone opens the door. Our friends have a conversation with the mayors’ wife, who is not pleased to be visited by constituents late at night, and who tells us we should call the office. The Mayor, she says, is asleep, and she will not wake him up.

We think a mayor who was doing his job would get up and go see what’s going on. Nonetheless, we head back to the convergence space.

A protestor has been released from the building. A small crowd has gathered across the street, and Fox News has arrived. They interview Song, who does her first ever Fox media spot. She tells them the truth—that people were in there watching movies—a documentary about Meridel Le Seuer. Meridel would be proud, and I’m glad she is with us in some form.

One by one, protestor’s trickle out. Now we get more pieces of the story. The cops burst in, with no warning. They pulled drew their guns on everyone—including a five year old child who was there with his mother, forced everyone down on the floor. It was terrifying.

They had a warrant, apparently, from the county, not the city, to search for ‘bomb making materials.’ They were searching everyone in the building, then one by one releasing them as they found nothing.

They continue to find nothing, as we wait through long hours. Meanwhile, more and more media arrives. These cops are not as creative as the DC cops during our first mobilization there against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Those cops confiscated the lunchtime soup—which included onions and chili powder, claiming they were materials for home made pepper spray.

We wait until the last person gets out. He’s a twenty year old who the cops have accused of stealing his own backpack—but apparently they relented.

And now it’s morning. I wake up to the news that cops have been raiding houses where activists are staying, bursting in with the same bogus warrant and arresting people, including a four year old child. They’ve arrested people at the Food Not Bombs house—a group dedicated to feeding protestors and the homeless. They’ve arrested others, presumably just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Poor Peoples’ Campaign, which had set up camp at Harriet Island, a park in the middle of the Mississippi, has also been harassed, its participants ordered to disperse and its organizers arrested.

Let me be perfectly clear here—all of us here are planning nonviolent protests against an administration which is responsible for immense violence, bombs that have destroyed whole countries, and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

This is the America that eight years of the Bush administration have brought us, a place where dissent is no longer tolerated, where pre-emptive strikes have become the strategy of choice for those who hold power, where any group can be accused of ‘bombmaking’ or ‘terrorism’ on no evidence whatsoever in order to deter dissent.

Please stand with us. Because it could be your home they are raiding, next.

Call the Mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Tell them you are outraged by these attacks on dissent. Urge them to let Poor People encamp and to let dissent be heard.

FLOOD THE MAYORS' OFFICES ASAP
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman
651-266-8510
Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak
(612) 673-2100
(612) 673-3000 outside Minneapolis

************

Copyright (c) 200_ by Starhawk. All rights reserved. This copyright protects Starhawk's right to future publication of her work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate this essay (forward it, reprint it, translate it, post it, or reproduce it) for nonprofit uses. Please do not change any part of it without permission. Please keep this notice with it. Readers are invited to visit the web site: www.starhawk.org

************

[posted 01 September 2008]





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"Republican National Convention—Convergence Center Raided" | Login/Create an Account | 6 comments | Search Discussion
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Re: Republican National Convention—Convergence Center Raided (Score: 1)
by Blue1moon on Tuesday, September 02 @ 12:39:27 EDT
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update:

Also call the Ramsey County Sheriff:
Sheriff - Bob Fletcher 651-266-9300 and demand the immediate release of the Permibus.

Our whole cluster is safe—one person was arrested but is out of jail. My account begins below and will continue later today when I get a bit of time to write, love Starhawk

A Spiral Dance in the Streets

Monday morning: we gather up with the cluster at the beginning of the march. We meet early, on a quiet space near the Korean War Memorial at the Capital, where ghost soldiers hover around us, reminding us why we are there to protest war.

We had planned to march as a cluster and then, after, join the blockades in the streets that would attempt to disrupt the beginning of the convention. But all plans have changed, as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast. The Republicans have condensed their convention, cancelled Bush and Cheney’s planned speeches, and moved the timing to earlier in the day. We have moved up our timing as well, in order to intercept the delegates.

Why do we want to interrupt their convention? For me, the answer is simply this: Bush, Cheney and by extension the party that supports them have violated their public trust. They lied to bring us into a war that has cost thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. And no one has held them accountable. The Democrats refused to even consider impeachment, although both of them have committed grave offenses. The Democrats have continued funding the war even while speaking against it. The political process has not brought reckoning for the lives they have destroyed and the resources they have squandered. So we will, directly, by putting our own bodies in the way of their immediate ends and goals.

Our cluster is deeply committed to nonviolence. We see nonviolent direct action as a powerful form of magic, of consciousness change. When we commit to nonviolence, we say, “Violence stops with me. I might receive it, but I won’t pass it on. I won’t inflict it, or resort to it to make my point.” When we commit to direct action, we say that we won’t wait for someone else to redress a wrong for us—we will do it ourselves in some way, if only by interposing our bodies into its operations and interfering with its ends.

But we’re also aware that not everyone who will be in the streets shares our philosophy or our goals. The police, and the Republicans, certainly have no commitment to nonviolence. So we are very tightly organized. We each have a buddy. We have scouts who can roam around and bring us back information. We have a medic and a person who will compile any needed information for the legal team. We have a flag to follow, for those willing to enter situations of more danger, and another flag for those who want to stay more safe. Those who do not want to risk either arrest or the other consequences of action will stay with the march.

We circle up, sing, put protective circles around us, bless each other. Then a small group heads off for the march, and about twenty of us head into the streets.

Ahead of us Funk the War, a group of several hundred young people who roam the streets with portable sound machines--direct action by dancing and sheer exuberance. We want to stay a bit away from them—love the kids, hate the sound system, which makes it impossible for us to drum or sing or do the things we do to raise power. Following on their tail, we find ourselves on the edge of a mass of people trapped in an intersection, with riot cops closing in behind. We see an escape route, but we also see an open space in front of the line, and decide to run in and begin a spiral dance. We’re singing “Rising, rising, the earth is rising, turning, turning, the tide is turning” and spiraling in front of the bemused cops, weaving in and out with some of the kids joining us and a hundred cameras clicking away, and when I look up, the riot cops have moved off. Just like magic.

It’s the first victory of many—but now the tension between living life and writing about it has reached crisis point, and I’ve got to go off and play with the grownups today at the Peace Island Conference. So this account will resume later.

www.starhawk.org



Re: Republican National Convention—Convergence Center Raided (Score: 1)
by Blue1moon on Tuesday, September 02 @ 21:22:29 EDT
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Hey friends, again, thanks for all the calls you’ve been making about our bus, progress is being made, slowly. But I just got word that a young man who was scouting for us yesterday was riding his bike when a police officer tackled him and knocked him off his bike. The stepped on his chest, and he spent the night coughing up blood. When he was seen this morning by a jail medical officer, he was told ‘that was normal’. Please call and demand that he get medical treatment. He’s also reported being harrassed by the jail guards for his perceived sexual orientation—he’s a soft, sweet spiritual youth who came to our magical activism day camp—apparently they think he is gay. By the way he was charged with ‘assault on an officer’. His name is Elliot Hughes—ask that he receive medical treatment and that the harrassment stop. What’s most important is that they know he is not alone and has support.

Thanks, Starhawk

Complaint Number for the jail: 651-266-8989

This post has been sent to you from Starhawk@lists.riseup.net.




Re: Republican National Convention—Convergence Center Raided (Score: 1)
by Blue1moon on Tuesday, September 02 @ 21:25:27 EDT
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URGENT MAGICAL SUPPORT IMMEDIATELY

Beloveds,
we need your help urgently. JASON (SCARECROW) has been extensively tasered & is being denied medical attention. Jason & Ryanna were both snatched from the pagan cluster at the beginning of the Poor People’s March. PLEASE immediately try to connect with Jason — for tasers, we need to ground out that electricity and move it away — electricity is a form of energy, and we CAN ground this down into the core & move it out of him. Please, you witches know what to do; now let’s connect with Jason and help him move this energy. Riyanna needs your loving magic too, and we’re working on getting them both out NOW. Starhawk is in the streets with the Pagan Cluster, and we are safely back at the space.

deborah, elizabeth, & Megan Coyote

forward widely




Re: Republican National Convention—Convergence Center Raided (Score: 1)
by Blue1moon on Thursday, September 04 @ 09:31:02 EDT
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Hey friends, here’s some quick updates on the various legal issues, including our bus, our friends in jail, and more.

Thanks for all your calls and emails—they have been tremendously effective, as you’ll see below!

My full accounts of the actions can be found at www.starhawk.org.

UPDATE: First, the good news: Elliot Hughes, who was badly beaten, tasered and maced in jail, is out now, with all charges dropped. He’s with our Pagan Cluster, getting lots of healing, good food and a bath, and this morning will go to a hospital for a CT scan as he has head injuries. His spirit is amazingly strong, and it’s really good to have him back and see him smiling and laughing.

Riyanna is also out of jail, with all charges dropped, and back with us. She’s unharmed and doing well.

Jason Scarecrow is still in jail, still as far as we know has not received medical treatment for his wounds, including a gash in his foot and remaining bits of copper from the taser in his hip, but sounds in good spirits and we hope to see him get out today. He was tasered seven times by the police in the street when he was not resisting their unprovoked arrest, and beaten up badly for no evident reason.

Over a hundred activists were released uncharged throughout the night. Police were driving them far away from the jail and their waiting supporters and dropping them off in lonely places with no phone access.

UPDATE ON THE BUS:

The City Attorney’s office in Minneapolis has now said that seizing the bus was “a regrettable misusnderstanding”. The bus will be released today, and while the Wilsons will still have to have it towed from the lot beause of some clauses in the city’s insurance policies, they are free to drive it, do workshops and trainings from it, and stay in the state of Minnesota as long as they like. One of the National Lawyers’ Guild lawyers is a former truck driver and has offered to help them fix the mechanical issues with the bus that were found in the inspections. So the PermiBus may soon be on the road again. Thanks so much for all the support, and thanks to all of you who have donated money. Any funds left after they pay for towing, impound, and repairs will go to help pay for gas and food for the crew as they carry on their journey of teaching and training the skills we need for survival and change. Oh yeah—and for starting a lawsuit that will help deter the authorities from doing this sort of thing again.

See their blogs and journals at permibus.livejournal.com.

Information on Earth Activist Trainings can be found at www.earthactivisttraining.org.

BAD NEWS:

Eight members of the RNC Welcoming Committee have been charged with criminal conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism, under the Minnesota version of the Patriot Act. The Welcoming Committee organized the food, logistics, housing, and meeting spaces for protestors coming to the Twin Cities. No actual acts of violence were committed or alleged to be committed by any of them. No weapons or physical evidence of any conspiracy were found. The entire case against them is built on the testimony of three paid informants who infiltrated meetings. Such testimony has been proven, over and over again, to be notoriously unreliable—as the informants have a vested interest in fabricating plots and plans that can justify their pay and a disproportionate police response, which we have seen.

This is exactly what we’ve always feared the various anti-terrorist laws would be used for: not to stop another September 11, but to target dissent.

I’ll have more information later on this—a press conference is scheduled for this morning. But let’s just be clear—when people can be charged with ‘conspiracy’ for things they have not actually done, we are all at risk. Almost all the protestors arrested in this last week were charged with ‘conspiracy’: ‘conspiracy to riot’, Riyanna was charged with ‘conspiracy to use poisonous substances’ (???) although no evidence of any poisonous substances were found anywhere on or around her. (Those charges were dropped.) When we can be arrested, tasered, beaten, have our property seized and illegally searched on no evidence that we’ve actually done something but only on suspicion that we might have thought about or spoken about the possibility of doing something or be somehow associated with a group that someone else thinks might be thinking of doing something—whoa, no one is safe.

Thanks again, everyone, for standing so strongly with us through all of this! Starhawk




Re: Republican National Convention—Convergence Center Raided (Score: 1)
by Blue1moon on Thursday, September 04 @ 09:48:12 EDT
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ACLU Calls For Investigation Into Raids And Mass Arrests At RNC (9/2/2008)

Police Misconduct A Threat To Free Speech

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MINNEAPOLIS - Amid charges of police misconduct during the Republican National Convention in Minnesota, the American Civil LibertiesUnion called for accountability for any unconstitutional actions there.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

"Conducting mass arrests and raiding meeting places of innocent Americans exercising their constitutional right to express political dissent are antithetical to the fundamental values of our democracy. Free speech has to be safeguarded during the Republican National Convention, as the workings of our democracy in the streets are as important as those in convention halls. Allegations of police misconduct must be investigated thoroughly and free speech must be safeguarded for the remainder of the convention."

Teams of civil and criminal defense attorneys recruited and coordinated by the ACLU of Minnesota filed five lawsuits seeking to protect free speech and due process in the lead-up to the convention. Attorneys assembled by the ACLU are currently in the jails offering limited representation to hundreds of people who were swept up in mass arrests in the Twin Cities.




Re: Republican National Convention—Convergence Center Raided (Score: 1)
by Blue1moon on Saturday, September 06 @ 17:41:19 EDT
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RNC9: The Last March

By Starhawk


Thursday, September 4: Thie is the final night of the convention, the night that John McCaine is scheduled to speak. There’s also an antiwar march scheduled to begin on the steps of the Capitol—an unpermitted march. We make our way there through a city that has become an occupied zone. There are rumors that police are blocking the bridges, that the whole city will be under curfew from 5 pm on.

We gather up our cluster—only about ten of us. The Capitol is surrounded by clumps of riot cops and the tension is throbbing as speakers on the stage rile up the crowd. Jason and Riyanna are fresh out of jail, and not eager to go back, so they will stay on a safe edge and not put themselves into danger. At least, not if Lisa has anything to say about it—she’s snapping at them like a mother dog correcting her pups. She, of course, will snap equally hard at anyone who suggests that she ought to stay out of danger. Juniper and I together can sometimes corral her enough to let us watch her back—but not always. Andy and I have been remarking about how, even though our tactic of choice is to wade into danger and stolidly obstruct it, nothing seems to happen to us. This has held true for both of us, separately and together, in situations much more dangerous than this one. Is it something we do? Will naming it jinx it? How far can we trust it?

A few people in our group are having a moment of panic. Nothing’s happened, yet, but all our intuition tells us that something could, at any moment. They decide to go back, and be our support if something does.

I’m feeling the fear, but it’s a little bit outside of me. I’m trying to drop down below it, to the calm place where I can get information, or at least, a clear hunch. Is this going to go really badly? If so, do I want to be out of it, or in it, to try and make it less bad?

There are two great instincts that war in the human breast; not sex and death, as Freud maintained, but these: the urge to stay safe, and the urge to get into the action or at least, see what’s going on.

For the moment, the second urge is dominant in all of us who remain. The march starts off, and we join it. But we’re extra alert. We’re looking for the exits and the escape routes, positioning ourselves always so there is somewhere to go.

The march heads up the street alongside the Capitol lawn, and then tries to turn across one of the bridges leading into downtown. The police move in, and block us.

There’s a tense crowd of people on the bridge and filling the intersection. Around us are police in full riot gear and gas masks. There’s also a group of bike cops, looking slightly underdressed in shorts and gas masks. They’ve brought in the Minnesota specials—a line of snowplows across the bridge. On them are perched black-masked cops in heavy leathers holding thick-muzzled rifles that shoot rubber bullets.

The energy is unfocused. Nobody knows quit what to do. It could all fall apart, in a moment, with the cops attacking the crowd, or it could remain a standoff for a long time. I am softly drumming, not quite sure what to do, when a young, African American woman with long curls and a ring in her lip comes up and says, “Do you know how to sing, ‘Aint’ Gonna Study War No More?”

I shift the beat, we begin singing, and soon gather a small chorus that forms around us. A tiny, round, young black woman in spectacles steps in front. She has a large voice, and she takes over as lead singer. The chorus grows and a space opens up in the center of the intersection, that is soon filled with riders on bikes, circling around and around, counterclockwise. A young man turns a cartwheel. A clown on stilts appears, out of nowhere, and joins the ride. Suddenly, it’s a circus in the street. The mood shifts and becomes almost festive.

My own mood has shifted, too. I’ve been practicing a more Buddhist-style meditation lately, just watching my breath in odd moments and being present to what’s happening. I’m doing that now, breathing and drumming with the bikes and the song and the riot cops, and for no rational reason whatsoever I feel a surge of pure joy.

Two of the cyclists are punk kids covered with patches and graphics that I’ve seen at spokescouncil. One of them is named Maggot, and I’ve seen him sitting with his head down, mumbling his comments which always make sense. Now he’s on a bike, his head up, smiling.

The young woman in front of me turns and taps my elbow. “Let’s sing, ‘We Shall Overcome’”, she says.

I drum and the others join hands and sing.

“We shall overcome, we shall overcome,

We shall over come, someday…”

There’s some piece of magic at work here. The circling bikes remind me of our dragon-clad cyclists from the ritual that began this week. Now, after all the pain and the ugliness, the tension and the snatch squads and the media lies, after all the arguments and conversations about violence and nonviolence and tactics and accountability, after the splits between Obama and Hillary and the fruitless arguments about which is more crucial, gender or race, it seems deeply and oddly wonderful to be asked by two young black women to sing the old Civil Rights songs of the sixties here in the face of the riot cops. As if something is truly welling up from the earth, some spirit that knows and values rage but persists in remembering the power in acting out of love.

It’s a spell. For just one moment, in one place, we sing in spite of our fear, and the violence abates.

“Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.”

It’s been a hard week. We’ve seen the full machinery of the violence of the state called out to quell any semblance of dissent. I’ve seen friends arrested, beaten, shoved, nearly trampled by horses, tasered, pepper sprayed, beaten and literally tortured in jail. We’ve seen organizers targeted for ‘terrorism’ and media lies paint a totally warped picture of what has happened here. They’ve tried to make us feel powerless and afraid, and at times, they’ve succeeded.

But we’re here, at the end, still singing.







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