Beijing and Denver: Separated at birth?
Our American press has made much of China's suppression of protesters (translation: people with a different point of view or opinion on government policies) with little or no mention of what happened to protesters in Denver at the Democratic National Convention.
There are some disturbing similarities. Both Beijing and Denver had “Free Speech Zones,” where if your opinion or point of view differs from the mainstream culture or the government's, you have a “special place” to voice that viewpoint or opinion, a place that is out of sight of the people you most want to deliver your opinion or point of view to - and most other people's as well – especially the media. (Not that the Associated Press would consider this even remotely newsworthy or more important than the latest on whether or not Madonna and current spouse or separating).
As you may recall, “Free Speech Zones” were brought to us by the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. Come to think of it, there are some eerie similarities between Beijing and the 2004 RNC; wholesale arrests of anyone on the street followed by detention in sub-human conditions. But I digress.
Anyway, Denver got ready for the DNC by building huge razor wire trimmed pens (as in “cattle pens”) to “detain” protesters and by setting up the FSZ's well away from the convention site. Much like Beijing.
Many of the protesters at the DNC were calling for “peace now” and justice. Many of the protesters in Beijing were asking for the same things.
And there was not one word from the party of “Change You Can Believe In” about how this is not what America stands for.
The Denver protesters were not held as long as the Beijing protesters. And the Beijing protesters were held in deplorable conditions. Our law enforcement officials can't get away with that kind of treatment – yet.
On Monday, heavily armed police in SWAT gear began making random sweeps through Civic Center Park, harassing people sitting in the grass by poking them with nightsticks and telling them to get up and leave.
Glenn Spagnuolo, one of the main organizers of the political action group Recreate68, complained several times to the protester's police liaison, and the police would stop the harassment, just to start it again a few minutes later. He said that happened four or five times.
Spagnolo said some of the kids in the park became annoyed and formed a circle and started chanting, "No Justice, No Peace" and put bandannas on their faces. That got the police worked up, and they came charging in, pumping pepper spray and pepper bullets into the crowd without warning.
The police chased the crowd through the park towards 15th and Cleveland, where there was another line of police waiting to surround the people running from the police who were spraying them to prevent them from leaving. The police surrounded the crowd, which included frightened and crying children, and began pushing them back and crushing the crowd together. Spagnolo said they were detained for well over an hour.
In the opinion of Mr. Spagnolo, with their heavy-handed tactics and lack of warning to the crowds, the police clearly were trying to provoke violence from the crowd. Up until this incident, there had been over two days of peaceful protests.
Instead of trying to identify and arrest the troublemakers without endangering others, the police chose to react by firing pepper bullets, pepper spray and tear gas into groups of innocent bystanders without warning and rounding up crowds of innocent people and detaining them for over an hour.
According to Spagnuolo, the police had been stopping and searching the cars of Recreate68 and Unconventional Action activists near their convergence center north of downtown. Another report on www.colorado.indymedia.org states that five members of the Solidarity Radical Library and Revolutionary Center from Lawrence, Kan., were arrested Monday in Denver without reason.
Other activists reported heavy intimidation and harassment by roving gangs of heavily-armed law enforcement officers in the Civic Center Park “Festival of Democracy” and elsewhere in Denver. That's quite a festival alright!
Earlier this week, Cindy Sheehan, a well-known antiwar activist who is running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi returned to her hotel room to find a man trying to bug her telephone. You can read about that at obambi.wordpress.com.