Repression from the Convention to the Election... and Beyond

A “National Special Security Event”

This was originally written during the political conventions before Obama had become president. We publish this as a reminder of the true unity of all capitalist factions when it comes to crushing any expression of protest. Here in the US the two ruling parties have finally held their elections. It might do well to reflect on what occurred at the Democratic and Republican national conventions as it showed the common nature of both capitalist parties and the true relationship of workers to the regime of capital.

On occasion of the two parties’ political conventions during an election year, the political base of these ruling parties becomes glaringly evident. The votes of actual people matter little, when it is the votes of the media in the hall and the dollars of the donors that do the real voting. First there was the nauseating display of backslapping at the Democratic National Convention in Denver after Obama’s choice of Senator Biden. In a patronizing way, US politics, which never discusses the working class at all, began talking about how the choice of Senator Biden as Obama’s Vice-Presidential running mate would help win over the “white working class”. As if the conservative reactionary centrist pro-war Biden had any sort of connection to the proletariat. The elections function as a means of coercing the working class, the main body of the voting public, into participating in an epic act of capitalist political theater. The very fact that a “white working class” had become a topic of dominant media discourse indicates a great deal of discomfort among ruling circles here in regards to their own ability to widely mobilize the working class behind the capitalist program. Usually the politicians and the capitalist media allow themselves to speak only of the amorphous “middle class”.

Workers themselves can vote for whoever they want, but in the end it is the press, the financiers and the Pentagon whose votes really count. This political spectacle is not a sign of the strength of American capitalism but a result of a profound weakness. The apparatus has generated its own paranoia to the point where it is spying on vegans at potluck dinners supposedly to track down terrorists.

At both convention protests, it should be noted that police seized items of protesters property that in both cases they said were used to store urine or feces to attack police with; evincing a strange fecal obsession with bowel movements that those outside the security apparatus simply cannot comprehend. But the paranoia and political repression didn’t stop with the police looking for feces. Highlights of the Minneapolis protest included the arrest of a 78-year-old pacifist nun, who presumably was one of the dangerous anarchists about which the local law enforcement were regularly scaring people in their press conferences throughout the convention. At the Denver convention the protest also included the beating and arrest of an eighty-year-old man.

Protests at both the Democratic and Republican conventions attracted similar numbers of people. From around 8,000 at the first DNC protest to around 10,000 at the first RNC protest according to official figures. The smaller numbers for the Denver DNC protest may reflect the ability of the Democrats to better exploit popular anger at the present time. The two parties are able to absorb multiple constituencies, from the Dominionist/Calvinist/Pentacostal theocrats in the GOP to the Social Democrats of America list in the Democratic Party. All those who cannot be absorbed into the two parties they attempt to ignore and or destroy.

The brain dead propaganda of the capitalist media found it almost impossible to cover the protest at the DNC in Denver but found the same protests at the RNC in Minneapolis to be worthy of media attention. Likewise, both protests were led by people, ranging variously from self-described anarchists to Iraq Veterans Against the War, to Code Pink (a middle class women’s pacifist outfit), and chapters of the new “Students for a Democratic Society”, chapters of the IWW, and supported by a list of dozens of other activist groups from around the country.

The protest, despite the reformism, the American flags and the chants about democracy, was an explicitly anti-war protest in both cases, but the media, now allied to their new messiah Obama refused to acknowledge that those protesting the Democratic National Convention were in fact opposing the war. The media outlets willfully pretended that they didn’t understand what the protest was about. The same protests in Minneapolis against the Republican National Convention were found worthy of coverage on CNN, while the pictures on CNN of the convention inside the hall looked as if the Republican Party was attending its own wake. Why? The capitalists and their media had chosen a new master and all that remained was to convince enough people that they support the DP candidate in order to make the election look like a popular mandate of the “citizens” of the US republic.

Only writers in magazines like The Nation, that Trotsky once so aptly referred to as a “reptile breed”, can pretend that the media is somehow in love with McCain. So, arbitrary attention was paid to the second convention protest that would not have been paid if the capitalists in the media hadn’t decided that their “vote”, their capital, was going with Obama.

Security measures at these conventions are outrageous. The sense of selfimportance that these capitalists must carry around with them to justify the presence of armies of cops, Secret Service agents and the National Guard in such numbers, borders on extreme delusional arrogance. U-shaped bicycle locks are considered weapons by the police. Standing on the sidewalk is an “act of violence”. Kicking a smoke bomb, fired by the police, back at the police is an act of violence. Wearing helmets of any kind, be they football, baseball, construction, or motorcycle helmets is also considered an act of violence against the authorities. The police in both Denver and Minneapolis were under the direct thumb of the Secret Service agents who have no enforceable legal responsibility to even identify themselves with badges or identification of any kind.

Vehicles called “mobile command centers” crawled through the streets manned by the Office of Homeland Security and overseen by the Secret Service to monitor the protests.

As far back as last May (1), it came out that the FBI was soliciting help from University of Minnesota students to infiltrate the Republican National Convention welcoming committee and spy on their plans to protest the convention.

This was followed up by the arrests and preventative detentions of protest organizers.

It is perfectly legal to detain a person for “thirty six hours” not including the weekends, thus allowing police to detain you for up to five days without charges if, for example, you are arrested towards the end of the workweek. The items that were seized from the “convergence center” that was serving as a protest headquarters, were all household items. Empty bottles and rags were found so the police screamed to the media that the protesters were planning to make Molotov cocktails. Likewise, reports of knives and other household items were claimed to be weapons by the cops. The warrant itself was a warrant based on suspicion and not on any classic legal idea of “criminal intent”.

This was the modus operandi of the police through the entire convention period. In essence, it was a fishing expedition for the cops to detain the organizers. The arrests allowed the police to then shut down and completely board up the Convergence Center.

Over the following Labor Day weekend and into the week, the police continued invading the homes of organizers and searching them with guns drawn. Minneapolis police began by attacking an officially permitted march before it even began, by firing concussion grenades at them, creating panic and then chasing people through the streets. This was called a riot. Stories of elderly convention goers being attacked by violent anarchists were circulated. I-Witness Video, which collects video evidence of police brutality at protests, was the subject of an attempted police raid of their temporary Minneapolis offices. There, the police outrageously claimed “anarchists” were holding people hostage. A few incidents of windows being smashed occurred, perhaps at the encouragement of the police. It was being said often that the police weren’t wearing any badges. Police departments get around this requirement by having the badge number printed on the backs of their riot helmets where they won’t be seen. Lies were spread among the police that cops were actually killed during the first WTO protests in Seattle in order to deliberately make the bosses’ dogs angry. Around 21 people in Minneapolis were charged with felonies in relation to planning the protests. Total arrests during the Republican convention were well over 400, with over 100 felony arrests in all. Eight of the organizers are charged with “conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism”, a charge that carries a seven-and-a-half year sentence. County prosecutors as of writing this, declined to prosecute at least 44 felony cases, further underlining the fraudulent and repressive nature of these arrests. (2) The protests have been attacked by the police repeatedly, not in response to any actual violence but because even holding a march is a criminal activity in an area deemed officially by the security apparatus as the site of a “National Special Security Event”. Local officials almost all of whom, in Denver and Minneapolis, are Democratic Party politicians actively assisted with this repression. For the local bourgeoisie, the conventions also represent a means to bring capital into their cities, so absolute cooperation with the Secret Service and federal authorities is assured.

The double layered fencing of the free speech zone areas of legal protest are now commonly referred to as “freedom cages”. The repression is an expression of fear on the part of capitalism, where the denizens of the two-party state spout their limousine populism to assuage their own fear and absorb or crush all expressions of discontent. The fact that these protests have not gone away scares them and above all, they did not want a repeat of what happened in Seattle at the WTO protests.

By the time the debates came, both candidates were in firm agreement on the need for sacrifices on the part of workers.

Namely, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, infrastructure spending will all have to be severely cut back. Obama was credited even with swaying several Democratic Senators behind the $700 billion dollar bailout. The bailout contains $150 billion in tax breaks making the entire package cost $850 billion dollars. This is indeed the proverbial golden parachute. All the bad debt will be taken out of workers hides while the capitalists blame workers for living beyond their means and demand that they make sacrifices. Brad Sherman, House Rep. from California in a fit of hyperbole even spoke of “martial law” being declared if the bill was not passed. During the debates both candidates adopted threatening posture and rhetoric aimed at: Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and Venezuela. Obama called for a draft, euphemistically termed in political circles as “national service”.

In reaction to workers’ passivity and silence the most vile, arrogant and smug attitudes towards workers have been allowed to go unchallenged and have become commonplace. This can be seen reflected back in the attitudes of the middle layers of society, the professions, academia and the popular media, for whom workers are either considered stupid, threatening, pitiful, or nonexistent at best. The two dominant parties in the US, like ruling parties everywhere, are identical as they always turn out to be after the election is done. While the political theater of the capitalists continues unabated, to the elections and beyond, the message to workers is to get back into your “freedom cage”.


(1) Snyders, Matt. “Moles Wanted”. Citipages. May 21, 2008.

(2) Farnham, T. W. Wall Street Journal. September 4, 2008, pg. A6.