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Commentary :: Organizing
WWP candidates condemn RNC/police repression
02 Sep 2004
Workers World Party and its candidates--John Parker for president, Teresa Gutierrez for vice president, and LeiLani Dowell for Congress--condemn the atmosphere of police repression and terror that has characterized New York City before and during the Republican National Convention. We demand amnesty for all those arrested in the protests.

And we salute the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and others from across the country who have come out into the streets to demonstrate against war criminal Bush despite the threats and overwhelming show of force. In their heroic defiance, these workers, oppressed people and progressives have brought new life to the popular slogan: The streets belong to the people!

Over 450 activists were arrested Aug. 27-29 alone. Their numbers continued to climb on Aug. 30, the opening day of the convention. And on Aug. 31, designated a day of massive civil disobedience, over 900 more were jailed. Their ranks include anti-war, anti-racist, environmental, women's rights, AIDS and many other activists from the diverse communities united against the RNC.

The New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild held an emergency news conference Aug. 30 to expose the mistreatment of these political detainees. Some had been jailed up to 34 hours before being released on desk appearance tickets, while others were held 20 hours before being released with no charges. The New York Police Department kept many in a dangerous facility--an old warehouse on the Hudson River pier. Police turned away lawyers seeking access to their clients and refused to provide medicines to prisoners, the NLG charged.

The administration of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had planned to spend at least $76 million in taxpayer money on convention "security" for Bush and the Republican Party delegates. Whose interests do Bloomberg and the NYPD represent in this effort? Certainly not New Yorkers', who overwhelmingly opposed hosting the RNC and 80 percent of whom support the protesters, according to a recent poll.

No, it is all on behalf of Wall Street and the giant banks, Big Oil and military-industrial companies. Whatever dissatisfaction some segments of Corporate America may harbor over Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq, they remain united in opposing any independent, mass action by the people--even if the majority of those demonstrating still believe they have no other choice than to vote for the "lesser evil" pro-war candidate, Sen. John Kerry.

The Bush administration, Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly waged a campaign of demonization against the protesters in the days and weeks before the convention, with the corporate media's complicity. Bush's Department of Homeland Security issued a "terror alert" based on years-old information to justify police excesses. Bloomberg and Kelly denied permits to protest groups, including United for Peace and Justice, organizers of the massive Aug. 29 anti-war march, for a planned closing rally in Central Park. Local tabloids and TV stations went all-out to make people afraid of the protesters.

None of it worked. But we must continue to fight for the right to protest. The RNC is only the latest battle in the ongoing, bipartisan criminalization of protesters, immigrants, youths, people of color and the poor.

Police-state tactics aren't exclusive to New York and the Republicans. Boston also spent millions of dollars on repression during the Democratic National Convention in July. Officials and the media used similar scare tactics there. Protesters were told they would be banished to a "protest pit" surrounded by high fences far from the convention site. By building militant labor-community solidarity and filing a strong lawsuit, Boston ANSWER and the Boston Coalition to Protest the DNC were able to win the right to march on the Fleet Center.

The current wave of attacks on the right to protest began long before Sept. 11, 2001. It started with President Bill Clinton and his 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. In concert with new repressive laws at the federal level, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani cracked down on protesters' rights and unleashed a wave of racist police brutality. In Texas, Gov. George W. Bush sped up death row executions to unprecedented levels.

Beginning with the 1999 Seattle protest against the World Trade Organization, every major manifestation of protest has been met with military-style police tactics and scapegoating of demonstrators.

Repression at the RNC is also part and parcel of the "three strikes" laws in California and other states that target youths of color and other poor workers--those whom the profit makers most fear will be radicalized in the years to come. It is of a piece with the Patriot Act, which especially targets Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and other immigrants.

We are committed to the fight against Bush, against the bloody occupation of Iraq, and against the war on working people at home--including the attacks on our right to protest. Regardless of who is elected in November, this is a struggle that must continue.
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