In the streets of St. Paul

YouTube footage shows a young woman pepper-sprayed in the face for trying to hand a flower to a riot cop at the RNC. Why hasn’t the mainstream media covered this?

We are a group of activists from Kent. We were in St. Paul, Minn., for the Republican National Convention to show our disapproval of the agenda of world domination. We joined with the RNC Welcoming Committee to take direct action against the Republican machine.

None of us expected the level of repression we confronted when we got into the city. Police raided the Welcoming Committee’s convergence space before we arrived. Police cars circled the space throughout the week, photographing bystanders. The cops violated the First Amendment right to assemble. The right to assemble, organize, and to act for social change based on the demands of one’s own situation and time, is not just a constitutional right but a fundamental human right.

When the convention started, we took to the streets. The cops responded by employing “less-than-lethal” weapons such as Tasers, pepper spray, concussion grenades and rubber bullets. They also carried highly lethal automatic rifles, which were not fired, and used large snowplow-like blades affixed to massive dump trucks to corral protesters. Riot cops, bike cops and National Guard troops coordinated to trap us and brutalize us.

Three of us were pepper-sprayed numerous times, the last time during detention by police. Two of us were arrested and the third was left on a sidewalk, eyes and skin still burning. The person who was left on the sidewalk was later rescued by a friendly passerby, and we regrouped.

We sat outside the jail in solidarity with those inside. Cops in riot gear, who seemed to be on edge, lined up on the other side of the street and feigned blitzing us multiple times. Other protesters had been beaten while in custody. Police repression still hangs heavy on us.

The level of violence and intimidation the police and military goon squads used against protesters was wholly unwarranted.

We condemn the actions of the St. Paul police in their use of excessive force. From inserting infiltrators into activist groups around the country, to the brutality in the streets, to the back-room beatings inside the jail – they were wrong.

Unfortunately, the police repression may be a sign of things to come. Some members of the RNC Welcoming Committee were charged with conspiracy to terrorism. Terrorism.

Terrorism is becoming simply a word the U. S. government uses to stigmatize people with whom it disagrees. Meanwhile, its prisons are filled disproportionately with minorities. The U. S. has the world’s largest prison population, hands down. It refuses to help millions of people driven from homes foreclosed upon by a financial system set up by and for the super rich. The Gulf Coast is still devastated from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Through it all, the brutal, wasteful war in Iraq and Afghanistan continues without end.

The police and the military are the terrorists. There is an occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems the U. S. government is in danger of becoming an occupation force in North America as well. The U. S. government cannot defeat the efforts to protest the RNC by throwing around a simple word. We are a powerful movement striving for a more just world.

Our group unconditionally supports everyone who organized and resisted the Republican agenda in the streets of St. Paul without exception. Bravery shone through the bandannas and goggles we used to protect ourselves from chemical weapons. We stood up to the state, and we were met fiercely. Risking arrest, brutality and torture, we didn’t back down. We are strong, though we have seen and endured horrible situations. Many people in this country desire change. We must organize and struggle together if we are to make this change.

Our freedom to resist is the source of our hope.

On behalf of the Kent State Anti-War

Committee, we are Caitlin Wise, Jennifer Pierce, Lisa Mirkovich, Noah Learned and Allen Hines.