RNC AFTERMATH - Continued Struggle - Part I
St. Paul, Minneapolis
Interview with Alex from Portland
K - Ready to do an interview right now?
A - I am out in the streets of Minneapolis -- putting up flyers of images of riot police with the caption above their heads "They Tortured People" underneath the riot police -- it says "The McCain Atrocities, St. Paul". Yes, I'm ready.
K - Is there anything that you want to say first?
A - We [Glass Bead Collective] are currently working under pretty extreme duress really, police have been raiding work spaces, media spaces and the convergence center, they were doing that a week before the McCain Conventions. Afterward they've been doing that as well. We had a work space that someone graciously let us use, a businessman type person, in downtown St. Paul. The police have put up all these security cameras specifically for the convention, over sixty of them - sixty basically riot cameras. So those cameras are now permanent installations above the walkways of St. Paul. We believe that we were tracked by those cameras because there was no one on the streets for blocks. We were just about to key into our workspace, where we're doing our journalism work, and really intense police sped up onto us, and you could tell they were about to get really violent, and, pulled us away from the doorway, questioned us for hours, put me directly in the back of a cop car, and we were saying so little to them that they were getting really frustrated. Like, I was just saying that I was an artist, here doing artwork, I could tell the cop wanted to knock my teeth in basically and he said, "You're lying, you're lying." I said, "No, we're not lying." That's basically all I was going to say to them.
K - What day did that happen?
A - This is like four days after the convention, maybe even five days after the convention [09/11/2008 from 2am to 5am], so this is well after the convention. We've been hearing that they have still been stalking houses and visiting people. Some of the intense charges that they're levying against people are -- one charge that's almost is like 1930's style charges, one is "Criminal Syndicalism". And these are for community style organizer people, and these are really nice kids and older people that have been doing this all of their lives. A lot of people had never seen anything like this. I was actually kind of used to it. But the cops were just blasting people that were doing nothing, and arresting people in-mass, and using torture tactics in the jails like bags over the heads of kids and choking and sexual humiliation kind of crap. So that's why I made this flyer that says "They Tortured People". We're also finding out other stuff that may have happened in the jails.
A - But, in our instance where our workspace was breeched, the police stated that they had to go inside because they knew that we were sleeping there, and that it's not a residential zoned area, kind of stuff they were just making up I think, to get us. So they went inside, they went into the space, but they had to call the guy that was hosting us first, and this is all at like three in the morning. Breeched our space and what they found was banks of computers digitizing hundreds of hours of police misconduct and police atrocities on the streets of St. Paul and I had been making art projects which were -- I took a bunch of still images of police beating people on the streets and made posters of police blown up on a photo copy machine, and they were on the walls, the posters had things like, "Rows of Riot Police" and "Not Good" underneath, or the other one, "They tortured People Here, The McCain Atrocities." It's very important that this is all connected to McCain, especially the torture thing.
A - And so when the police came back out, and I'm in the back of this squad car for like hours, this one cop who saw the images said, "Well we saw your posters, I guess we'll be seeing them again." and then asked me, "Why do you hate us?" which I wasn't in the position to say anything because, it seemed like they were about to be really violent with us. They kept calling us anarchists, like we're an "anarchist threat", but we told them that we're journalists, and that kind of freaked them out. And there was this really strange moment -- at that moment -- when he saw my posters and I think the cops that were harassing us at this moment, were in my pictures, in the riot gear and in the posters. After asking why I hate them and "hate" is a strong word and I choose to use the word "resist" them. But it was a strange moment where it became -- we were the hunted, being hunted by police with their new security camera systems and all their guns and ammunition and violence, to where they were being hunted by us with our truth and our posters and all the evidence we had against them -- rolling through those computers that they saw. Very interesting moment, and an important moment.
K - They didn't' confiscate anything?
A - They didn't know what to do at that point. They did say, "We know who you are, we know what you're doing". At first it seemed like, they said, "We had reports of someone staggering", but there was no one around, so I know that it was their security camera system tracking us, and then they said that they've seen us on Youtube, the people that I was working with. I'm just saying that I'm an artist, so they assumed for themselves that I made the posters. And I am putting those posters out right now, and handing them out as fast as I can. They did take our editor for the night, so we did loose one night of journalism work -- put him in the drunk-tank for questioning, and I don't think they questioned him, they just took all his traveling money. So the next day we had our lawyers come in and took all of our stuff out, which was two hours later basically, pulled all of our stuff out and we are now in the sanctuary of a church, which is the church where the first Freedom Rider buses left from, during the Civil Rights era struggles during the 50s and the 60s. Which makes us very proud and we are constantly interviewing people who are shocked and we are making a feature length film basically of the McCain Atrocities, of common everyday people being arrested, not the anarchists that they're trying to label everyone, or the "protestor type". These are just regular people that are supposedly Americans.
A - "Journalist" sounds a lot like Anarchist now, everything is different, they're going after journalists now hardcore, they're going after medics hardcore, and they're making gauntlets for people to run through, where they're just gassing and blasting and hitting people with batons, and using these shock grenades that were actually cutting people open because there were throwing them at head level into packed crowds of old ladies and young kids -- super, super intense, this particular episode. A lot like Seattle except without the numbers, there weren't really that many people at tops, there were two to five thousand people, where Seattle was 40,000 people, 50,000 people. So it was very harsh, but there was the same amount of aggressive violence from the police, so it was very concentrated.
K - How many police were there?
A - At least three thousand. At least. Blocks and blocks and blocks. I saw walls of police three rows thick with camouflage on. Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, I believe this is what they were calling themselves. Supposedly they're supper corrupt and have been dealing with cases where they have been caught raping people in there cells kind of stuff, really, really corrupt police scene here. All militarized to the hilt. I saw scenes where there was a sixty yard area of police three deep with shields against a crowd of maybe two hundred people wearing shorts and baseball hats, trying to go to a concert in the park, and then just tear-gassing and blasting everybody. Very interesting -- definitely combat-journalism in the streets of Amerika.
K - Do you know anything more about people being stalked now, or people that are being visited now, in the aftermath of all this?
Well, I'm telling you my experience, because it is now a week after when they breached our place, and we have been hearing of people's spaces still being watched. Apparently there were agents within all the meetings over the last year, I don't have specifics, but this stuff is still going on for sure. We're basically working day and night trying to put together this documentary and put it out within the next two weeks, so that it can be digested before the elections, for people to see. We put out our first three-minute piece and it got grabbed by everyone, everyone's been seeing it. And we've been doing interviews with sweet nice people that like, just got gassed. This one girl ended up being put on Fox News in a favorable light as "the pacifist", it showed her just getting beaten by cops, and interviewed her -- to see Fox News interview regular people and being super kind and showing intensely brutal actions of the police -- was basically shocking to me. I'm sure it has been pulled down at this point, but that did happen. We did an interview with her too.
K - In the piece that I saw [Laura Flander's website] that got released by you guys, in the press release it said that your video proved that at least twenty percent of the people arrested were innocent.
A - I'm sure it was much more than that. I would say seventy to eighty-five, it's basically one hundred percent innocent - actually - is what it is. It's actually one hundred percent innocent. I mean, they were giving permits for marches that would go until nine o'clock at night, and then turn on the crowd and say, "The permit is over in twenty minutes", that kind of thing.
K - They were shutting things down before nine o'clock?
A - Oh yea! And they'd say things like, "Ladies and gentlemen, you're all under arrest" -- just people sitting in a park. So twenty percent, I don't know where that comes from, because it's like, yelling at a cop that is beating you is not a crime.
K - You guys feel pretty safe right now, do you feel like you are still being monitored?
A - Oh yea, absolutely. But I feel so proud that it doesn't matter what they do to us at this point. Our minds are clear, out hearts are pure, and our actions are just. We have back-up footage of everything already out. There are already people out working. We're going above ground, as much as possible. If they raid this church it would just look bad for them. We would actually embrace raids at this point. Although we are very weary of certain people. So what can you do? We're doing the work as fast as we can.
K - What's the name of this church?
A - Walker Church. I was going to not say that but -- just cause it is location.
K - What are the church people like, were they involved in the protests?
A - I don't know. We are in the office of Communities Against Police Brutality, which is just wonderful. Perfect.
K - Is there someone I could contact to talk to about other forms of harassment going on right now?
A - Let's just say, Cold Snap Legal Collective. I really don't know. We're just so busy getting things together.
K - Anything you want to say about what you're doing right now?
A - We're doing the most important work that could possibly be done at this time, in America -- about America. And it's for the world, for the good of the world -- to do this work. Our actions are just -- no action is done in vane either. Even the smallest active resistance ends up being huge. Our numbers may seem few but our actions are numerous.
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion