Tuesday, September 2, 2008

To Borrow A Title: What's The Matter With Minnesota?

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied against the Iraq War at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul yesterday, and all but a tiny handful of them were peaceful. I had cable news on all day and never saw anything about the protests on any network.

Instead, what the bloviators talked about was some pregnant teenager, which is neither their business nor mine. Protesting the Republican Party's war-mongering and lethal corruption for the past eight years – a record that made it impolitick for George W. Bush to attend the convention of the party he still technically leads – was unworthy of public comment.

A few at the rally were accused of breaking windows or throwing bottles but 284 arrests were made. Press accounts state that in many instances police acted overly aggressively – read unconstitutionally – by tear-gassing and arresting protesters who were peaceful.

Over the past week, police seized printed materials and protest plans from some of the organizers and arrested a handful, charging them with conspiracy to commit civil disorder, an illegal act of prior restraint that the US Supreme Court has said repeatedly government cannot do. Anyone remember United States v. New York Times, Washington Post, et al, the Pentagon Papers case? The same principle applies here. Hell, cops could have arrested Martin Luther King on that charge every day of the week he was alive.

The arrest and manhandling of radio and television journalist Amy Goodman and two of her staff proves something is very wrong with the police in St. Paul. Amy and her staff were there as legitimate, credentialed journalists. They were not throwing anything, they were not breaking windows, they were not doing anything other than their job. I've known Amy and her Democracy Now! journalists for a decade and they are honest, committed people. If they say they were wrongly treated, they were.

Maybe it happened because Democracy Now! is one of the few news and public affairs programs delivering real news, not the pap that passes as reporting in so-called mainstream media. In our Bushwellian State, Amy and her staff were arrested for committing News. Ever since Bush and his gang came to power, there has been a concerted attempt to destroy the 1st Amendment right to press freedom and peaceful assembly.

I hope St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is ready to open the city’s coffers to most of those arrested yesterday and in the week leading up to the convention, as lawsuits are filed and settled. Coleman and his police chief, neither of whom apparently have read the Constitution, apparently forgot that it cost New York City more than $2-million to settle suits brought by people arrested illegally during the 2004 Republican convention; it is likely to cost St. Paul taxpayers as much.

Ever since 2003, I’ve been ashamed to tell people I am an American after Iraq was invaded based on 935 lies; now, for the first time, I am ashamed to tell people I grew up in the Twin Cities.

What's the matter with Minnesota?