Forward to next post: Pay attention to the little man behind the curtain
Below, a guest post from longtime Twin Cities resident Elise Matthesen, regarding recent violence there.
Who are these people?
Seriously, who are these people? I mean the person breaking that store window and the person or persons who smashed the windows of that police car: who are they? Are they protestors? Are they idiots just pretending to be anarchists, but whose actual agenda is to get their rocks off on breaking things? (I’ve seen one blog post describing how most of the self-described anarchists in the breakaway group yelled at the window-breaker to stop, and asked what the hell the vandals were doing; the observer said that some of the anarchists then went and cleaned up the trash in the street from the dumpster* somebody pushed over.) Are they agents provocateurs, sent in undercover to do something bad and give authorities a reason to gas everybody else?
I’ve been on a business trip since August 20, and have been watching the stories of what’s happening in my home cities from afar, and it’s making me crazy. On the one hand, raids where the people conducting them allegedly don’t show the warrant and won’t identify themselves are completely out of line, and it’s not like the outfit conducting them has been a model of probity and right action lately. On the other hand, if what the affidavit and request-for-warrant says is to be believed, some folks have been practicing some pretty alarming things, including allegedly setting off a practice incendiary device this spring not all that far from my neighborhood. On the other other hand, people from my church were at the protests, and they are shocked and appalled at how the law enforcement personnel are being used, and are forwarding various letters and accounts of it around. On the other other other hand, I’m not there, and I don’t know firsthand what happened, and awful things are going down, and it’s making me crazy.
And somebody I care about is there, working in a building a block away from where that window-smashing photo was taken, and he’s really disquieted—both by the idiots who broke stuff and gave law enforcement the excuse to use tear gas and pepper spray and concussion grenades and who-knows-what-all, and by the overwhelming riot squad and other enforcement presence on the streets of St. Paul and the Mississippi River, which is apparently being patrolled by a Coast Guard vessel with what looks like twin 50-caliber machine guns. (No confirmation on the exact nature of the alleged armaments, so maybe somebody could get a picture and identify that for sure, please? And weren’t the Canadians complaining about armed Coast Guard vessels drilling on the Great Lakes recently?) I’m not real thrilled by the idea of that boat with guns. Or by seeing a photo of his usual smoking porch, full of riot cops.
While I’m mulling all these things over, a report comes in via the comment thread in the Making Light post about the RNC that one of the posters knows the protester in the this story who was tasered while lying down. The poster says this person is nonviolent, is committed to non-violent protest. The tasered guy, who according to his friend has been beaten pretty badly, manages to get word out, while in custody, saying that contrary to reports, medical attention is not being given to injured protesters in custody, and that transgender and queer protesters are being harrassed and that the holding situation is not sufficient to guarantee their safety. My stomach turns over.
And through all of this, I weigh the comments various people I know and care about and trust. I hear from one friend with a brother in the Sheriff’s Department, which conducted the raids before the convention (and is, according to some bloggers, reportedly still holding a number of protestors from those raids without adequately informing either them or the outside world as to the charges and the protesters’ physical condition), and he talks about how protest is one thing, but smashing stuff and threatening people is another. And, you know, I can’t argue with that, but…something’s wrong with the whole picture here.
I cannot help but remember some people I knew in college, one of whom turned out to be an informant and provocateur who infiltrated antiwar and other related groups. I thought of it again, sharply, when I read this LiveJournal post about a past event. I look at that photograph, where the “protesters” being detained and the officers ostensibly arresting them have matching footwear, and I read that no charges were pressed against the “protesters,” even though they were the ones committing acts of vandalism, and I cannot help but think “provocateurs.” Which brings me to the question I started with: Who are these people?
Seriously. We have a lot of people who can look at photos and figure this stuff out. Supposedly the pro-surveillance folks are doing it to us. Let’s put our heads together and figure out who really broke stuff at the demonstration, and then let’s find out if they’re really regular protesters, idiots with a taste for vandalism and no political savvy, or provocateurs. Let’s find out if they even get charged.
Let’s find out who these people are.
(*) From photo #53 in the Minnesota Public Radio photostream.