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Interview with a DNC to RNC marcher

The DNC to RNC march was an event in which activists walked from Boston at the end of the Democratic Convention to NYC for the Republican Convention, sowing community-centered dissent along the way. i just heard a great interview on A-Noise radio with Simon Sanchez (sp?), a community organizer from Austin, TX, who was one of the participants. i typed up some notes as i listened, to share with indymedia readers. It is paraphrased on the fly, so is not a word-for-word transcript, but i believe i've gotten the facts right and stayed true to the spirit of his words.
photo of some DNC2RNC marchers, by Brian A. Pace
photo of some DNC2RNC marchers, by Brian A. Pace
Sanchez: The march was in opposition to both parties. It was more of a "for" march instead of "anti". For peace, for justice and for dignity. We weren't saying, "don't vote", but don't just vote. Work in communities. Do community gardening, youth advocacy.

... We drew connections between the different occupations of countries around the world [whether militarily or economically] and communities of color here through gentrification, police abuse, etc.

A-Noise interviewer: Yesterday's actions [the Poor People's March and the Still We Rise march] were predominantly people of color, while Sunday's big march in NYC was predominantly white. Yesterday's marches got a lot more police harrassment than Sunday's even though they were smaller. Did that happen on the DNC to RNC march, or, what was the racial make-up?

Sanchez: Predominantly white. 8-10 people of color were along at any given point. But the nature of the march raised a lot of scrutiny. Seeds of Peace, the kitchen that was cooking for us, was raided by the FBI, Secret Service -- like six different agencies -- in Boston as soon as they arrived, and they took their propane tanks that they were going to be cooking with.

i was along to do video and ended up doing police liaisoning. In Walpole, Massachusetts, there were Confederate flags, nazis, bikers. The people with the shaved heads were all hanging out with the cops and laughing at us and stuff. We got pretty sketched. While there, we did an action at the prison -- some street theater. Walpole Prison is a very bad place. When we got there, police asked us to turn off our video cameraas, but we refused. We told them we needed them on to protect our legal rights.

A-Noise interviewer: How many people were on march?

Sanchez: about 80 people, with some coming and going. stayed in chruches, shcools, parks, most of the communities were middle class, upper middle class, so we felt like we were building a base behind us. thousands of people supporting them made it harder for nyc police to crack down on them.

A-Noise interviewer: How did you negotiate?

Sanchez: We didn't take no for an answer. It helped that we did it in teams, including a video camera, a legal person, and a communications person. We were up front with police and approached them actively, telling them what we were doing.

In the Bronx, the cops didn't know we were coming, so we were waving down police cars to let them know what was happening. At first they didn't want to talk to us, until they figured out we were Protesters. Negotiations got heavy at that point, but we got what we wanted.

In indigenous resistance movements, negotiation is about tit-for-tat, not about giving stuff up. i.e., we will be on the sidewalk up to this point, but you have to do keep your distance. Okay, we won't carry sticks, but you can't carry sticks either.

A-Noise interviewer: How did the police respond to this style of negotiation?

Sanchez: We had the advantage with a month of good propaganda behind us in all these communities. All we would've had to do is contact the churches, etc., from along the way. The FBI would sweep in and warn people that we were trouble-makers, but we would come in and garden and work on their projects, and they would see it wasn't true. Even the media couldn't misrepresent us because we got along with everyone so well.

A-Noise interviewer: What about the march made it so well recieved?

Sanchez: The fact that we were walking 258 miles was impressive. People were struck by that and wanted to give us water, food, housing. The media presented us as "cuddly" so that helped.

A-Noise interviewer: You mentioned "deployments" you'd do. What's an example?

Sanchez: When we arrived in Providence, Rhode Island -- which is one of the most corrupt cities in the country, with like four mayors who have resigned for crimes -- we found a rough neighborhood where the gentrification was really bad. We helped with a community garden, and volunteered for a youth advocacy project that's run by people of color for people of color.

A-Noise interviewer: What was the worst moment of the march?

Sanchez: There's two forms of provocation: Personal infiltration and ideological provocation. There was provocation on the march that was destabilizing in a COINTLPRO way. 48 hours before reaching The City, there was a "mutiny" and it was clear that we had been messed with. We smoothed that whole situation out, but it was scary.

As police liaison, I was chosen to spokes [be a spokesperson] for the march. On the morning of the 26th, on the last section, i realized i was responsible for 80 people's lives because we were going to march unpermitted, masked, breaking the law. But as we went along, the marchers were more and more confident that we were unstoppable as they saw how well our strong stance worked with the police.

A-Noise interviewer: At the Poor People's Rally at the United Nations Building yesterday, we asked if they had a permit, and a woman said, "Yes, the U.S. Constitution". I think it's important to keep that in mind.

Sanchez: Yes. In the bronx, they told us we didn't have a permit, and we said we had a 250 mile permit and they couldn't stop us from marching the last 8 miles, and they agreed.

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For more info, go to dnc2rnc.org