Category Archives: Protests

1948 DNC Protest

Convention Lite without any Bite

New Orleans     I actually know a lot about the national political conventions, both Republican and Democratic.  ACORN was well represented every four years from the 1978 Memphis midterm under President Carter to 1980 in New York and Detroit, Dallas with the Republicans and Ronald Reagan in 1984, and on and on.  Except for 1980, we were there in one way or another for decades, but I should add, on the outside.

We always pretty much ignored the “official protest area,” usually a cordoned off area at good distance from the convention and its delegates, surrounded by barricades, and the police that manned them.  We picked out targets where we could have our people seen and their voices heard.  Sometimes we caught them in their hotels.   After hours studying the public schedule and analyzing the logistics and meeting places, sometimes we “met” them at those meetings.

The Democratic Convention that just ended was scripted of course, but they all are.  More than that it was “produced,” as one report mentioned, as if it were a Hollywood movie.  The talking heads of politicians and other big whoops were front and center, but more than the delegates were left out of the pandemic convention.  The people weren’t just left out on the streets, where we had always been.  They were left out completely.

There was no room for protests, for or against.  The cameras and microphones were tightly held and pointed in only one direction.  There was no way they could wander to find the voices that demand – and need – to be heard. The Republican Convention is coming.  It will be more of the same.  The usual quadrennial, especially Trump’s, might have seen huge protests not only about police and Black lives, but also from the vast army of the unemployed and maybe even from those demanding health and safety for their themselves and their families.  This might have been the gathering of the tribes, something bigger than what Zoom can handle.

A bit over a year ago I was working with a group in Milwaukee in one of the lowest income minority communities in the city.  Then I sat with leaders and organizers for hours talking about strategy and tactics to force attention that would trigger jobs and resources into the area.  The convention was a huge opportunity and an economic driver that might have made a difference.  That was then.  This is now.

More even than the loss of so much opportunity, this antiseptic affair, so perfectly designed to elevate Joe Biden’s campaign, has plenty of heart and good wishes, but without a way to hear the voices of people on the street and feel the immediacy of their anger, it seems to have lost much of its soul.


The Federal Invasion of Portland, Oregon

Pearl River     Portland, Oregon is a long way from the rest of the country, squeezed between Seattle and California, the lower Cascades and the Pacific Ocean.  Every once in a great while it sneaks into the nation’s consciousness as the home of “Portlandia” hipsters, coffee houses, and microbreweries and as a landing pad for the young and restless looking for a place to root.  To many in the rest of America, Portland is as much caricature as city, but suddenly, surprisingly Portland must have become the kind of obsession for President Trump that Hillary Clinton once was.  How else can we understand what now seems an unprecedented, unwarranted federally militarized invasion of the city?

The excuse for putting what has been confirmed to be literally thousands of militarized forces from the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Protective Service into the city is the fact that some folks in Portland have had the temerity to protest for fifty consecutive days in Portland over the death of George Floyd and a host of issues with the local police and city.  Somehow this had escaped me until I was driving yesterday and out of range of WAMF, our New Orleans noncommercial station, and stumbled on the dial to an NPR interview with Ken Cuccinelli, which was one of the most frightening things I have ever heard anywhere from anybody.  To hear him tell it, Portland had descended into hellish anarchy, and the mass mobilization of forces was ostensibly justified to protect federal property like the court house.

The New York Times reports that the continued protests involve a hardcore of 250 or so people who are now being met by supposedly non-lethal tactics, severe enough to fracture the skull of one semi-protestor bystander.  Unmarked vans driven by camouflaged feds without identification are picking up protestors off the street and taking them to random locations, supposedly for questioning.  Cuccinelli complains that the local police and authorities have refused to use some of these tactics, just as he claims that this more than 10-1 ratio of federal police, or whatever we call them, is necessary.  No ID, he claims is to prevent doxing.  For the life of me this sounds like the gestapo of a new fascism has hit the streets of Portland.

The Oregon Attorney General has sued and asked the DHS inspector general to investigate unauthorized arrests on city streets.  The Mayor says this is “an attack on democracy.”  The two US Senators have demanded an investigation.  This is the federal government imposing itself over the will of local and state authorities.  Reporters and others are arguing that this is nothing but a photo-op for the president on his phony-baloney antifa crusade.

Why the heck is this Cuccinelli stirring this pot?  Turns out he has a fake title as senior deputy director of DHS and the Immigration Service, because he couldn’t get confirmed by the U. S. Senate.  A federal judge ruled that he was appointed illegally.  He’s a former AG in Virginia who lost in a race for governor.  While there he led the fights against immigration, abortion, and homosexuality.  This is no freedom fighter or protector of any American rights.  This is a zealot with access to a type of police in a time when funding for the police and their military tactics is part of the issue.  This is a human gasoline bomb thrown on a raging fire of anger.

We’ve crossed a line in Portland.  It needs to be redrawn or our country is gone.