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I've been thinking off and on, for a week or so now, of one of my personal heroes in all of American history, Joe Hill, assassinated former spokesman for the Industrial Workers of the World, author of one of my favorite songs, "The Preacher and the Slave." But it wasn't for his filk songs that I was remembering him, but for another of his tactics aimed at bringing fairness to workers, standing up for rights that the courts didn't recognize: shutting down the jails. See, the right to strike wasn't recognized under US or state law at the time, and periodically, some police chief would set out to arrest all of the strikers picketing in front of their employer. Whenever that happened to an IWW union, their response was swift. Word would go out to every IWW local, and everybody who could do so would swarm whatever that town was, and take up the picketers' places. And get arrested, of course. But every local sheriff or police chief who tried this found out he had two problems. First of all, the IWW had more members who were at leisure to be arrested than any small-town jail had room to hold. Second, in the first wave of IWW arrests, the strikers would simply set up classes inside their jail cells, teaching the other prisoners their rights and recruiting them, too, into the IWW. It was in no small part because of guys like them that the US government eventually granted the right to strike; if nothing else, strikers are less dangerous on the picket line than they are when they're packing, and radicalizing, the jails.

See, I have no interest in much of anything that's being televised from inside the Democratic National Convention this week. I absent-mindedly tuned to MSNBC at my usual time to watch Countdown, briefly forgetting what day it was, and ended up accidentally catching the beginning of Nancy Pelosi's speech. Listening to the woman who personally shepherded George Bush's war spending bills through Congress when she could have stopped them, the woman who (in deep violation of her oath of office) personally guaranteed George Bush that no high crime or misdemeanor he or anybody else in his administration committed would result in the penalty the Constitution prescribes no matter how good the evidence? Listening to her brag about the "achievements" of her 2006 Democratic Congress, and then watching her get visibly more and more cross as she didn't get the applause she thought she would get for her own achievements, when she realized that the only words she could say that would get any but the most tepid applause were "Barack Obama"? It turned my stomach so fast I had to turn the TV off, pronto. Nor do I particularly care what Michelle Obama has to say, I'm not voting for her. Nor do I particularly want to hear speeches from either Clinton, who I assume will spend every second they're given defending their "third way" (Republican) brand of politics. Nor is an opportunity to listen to Joe Biden, as much as I admire him, all that hard to come by; it's more rare when he's not speaking. I'll tune in for Barack Obama's acceptance speech, of course, but I expect to be not a little bored by it, too. The televised parts of political conventions are dull, dull, dull, and I join those who call for the networks to stop covering them live in years when the nomination is locked up before the convention, and relegate them to CSPAN where they belong, all but the acceptance speeches.

No, only one aspect of the news coverage of the Democratic National Convention has caught even the tiniest speck of my interest, and that's the story, being covered nationally (so far as I can tell only) by RawStory.com, of the Denver police's anti-riot preparations: Stephen C. Webster's August 15th "News crew crashes Denver's DNC 'concentration camp'" (with accompanying public letter from the Denver ACLU), and Nick Juliano's August 25th "As convention begins, no protesters in 'Freedom Cage.'"

What, you thought that George Bush was the only politician whose security detail thinks that he should never have to see any protesters?

I'm too young to remember 1968 all that well, only fragmentary memories of watching riots on TV and (after years of riots) not really being able to tell what riot was being covered, of watching my dad scream insults at Dan Rather. But I know enough history to know what was really going on. Pro-Vietnam-War Democratic President Lyndon Johnson had figured out that his identification with the Vietnam War was going to cost the Democrats the 1968 election, so he withdrew himself from the nomination -- but only after waiting so long that all of the anti-war Democrats had been soundly defeated. Instead, he hand-picked his successor, Hubert Humphrey, after first extracting a promise that Humphrey would make no pledges to end the war. Anti-war candidate Gene McCarthy tried to contest the nomination at the convention, but going into the convention, anti-war Democrats could see that they were going to lose. In a desperate attempt to persuade Johnson's (now Humphrey's) delegates to defect to McCarthy, they tried to stage a gigantic protest outside the convention. Chicago police and the Illinois National Guard tried to stop them ... violently, with clubs, tear gas, and jeeps with barb-wire "cattle catchers" on the front. And as they did, protesters pointed at the TV news crews covering the police riot and chanted, quite accurately, "the whole world is watching!" Not that it did any good; the DNC went ahead and nominated pro-war Humphrey, the Republicans nominated anti-war Nixon, and you know the rest.

But to avoid the public relations nightmare that "Czechago '68" was to the Chicago PD, and the kind of negative publicity that it also generated for the Democrats inside the convention center, every city to host a major political event since 1968 has determined to see to it that it never, ever happens again. Not by cooperating with the protesters who are seeking to exercise their Constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech, but by gaming the "content-neutral time, place, and manner" restrictions that the courts have generally allowed to make sure that nobody who even might be thinking of protesting gets anywhere near the event. Read the articles above, and you can see the state of the art in such "preparations." All protest is banned in Denver except for one fenced-in parking lot that's over two blocks away from the convention, not visible from it and not passed by anybody heading to any of its entrances. Having learned from New York's disastrous 2004 Republican National Convention, Denver cops have been told to merely ticket, chase off, and release any small demonstrations, but any demonstrator who refuses to be chased off, or anybody part of (or caught on the edges of) a larger demonstration goes to "little Gitmo," an improvised "detention center" of 15' by 15' chain-link cages to be processed. As the Denver ACLU pointed out, using the city of Denver's own math as to how fast detainees could be processed, if they end up arresting as many people as were arrested in NYC '04, people would be trapped in those pens for up to 36 hours.

Where's Joe Hill when we need him?


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 26th, 2008 09:43 am (UTC)
Not to mention Mr. Calanchini, who tried to check into the same hotel Pelosi was in, carrying two perfectly legal cased, unloaded hunting rifles which he had just picked up from his gunsmith. He was falsely arrested on totally bogus charges and grilled for several hours by the Schuetz-Staffeln. He had a coupla pistols, too, but they were also perfectly legal, being unloaded and in his luggage. He does not pay attention to politics and doesn't watch TV, apparently. And the Fuddites don't think the Dems are after their guns, too?

All the best, rnk35.
Aug. 26th, 2008 10:19 am (UTC)
We'll see how innocent he is, upon further investigation. That's a heck of a lot of guns to be carrying into a hotel.
(no subject) - reannon - Aug. 26th, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mari_who - Aug. 26th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - reannon - Aug. 26th, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dd_b - Aug. 26th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 26th, 2008 12:56 pm (UTC)
Denver prepared as if they have the Republican convention of 2004, which of course had more than 1,800 arrests, most of them for spitting on the sidewalk, and New York ended up paying fines for its draconian tactics. New York also held people for days on minor offenses, effectively ending their protests, while Denver appears to have a system in place so that won't happen. But so far, it seems it's not happening.

Here's the L.A. Times story. Fox News, hilariously, spent twenty fugging inches on the supposed "rift" in the party and had one line at the bottom about anti-war protesters and their Monday march.

Also, could the protesters have picked another name besides "Recreate 68"? Because that name sure-hell implied that they WANTED a riot. It almost makes me want to poke into their finances - what would the Republicans want more than a bloody mess at the DNC convention? Seriously, they were chanting "Hey cops, what do you say, how many people you gonna shoot today?" and still didn't get a riot.

I loved watching the Fox News reporter get told "Fuck Fox News! Fuck Fox News!" as he complains, "I guess they don't believe in free speech." What a whiner. I could go into a whole dissertation on how that line pisses me off, but I'll just let that go for now.

While they have cops in riot gear everywhere, I'm seeing pictures and vids of protesters and so far it seems about, oh, twelve people have actually been arrested. EDIT: And four of those apparently are not protesters, but were arrested with weapons and stated intent to assassinate Obama during his acceptance speech.

Wait until the Republican Convention. 1968 happened because then, the Democrats were the war hawks. This year, the fireworks will be in St. Paul. The ACLU advisory seems to be basically saying, "Remember, Denver: Don't be New York." So far, they don't seem to be biting the Big Apple.

Edited at 2008-08-26 01:00 pm (UTC)
Aug. 26th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
...what would the Republicans want more than a bloody mess at the DNC convention?

A flood, in the case of Focus on the Family...

I loved watching the Fox News reporter get told "Fuck Fox News! Fuck Fox News!"

...for that matter, it seems like the prayer guys don't have very good aim.
Aug. 26th, 2008 01:17 pm (UTC)
If I may... From Anarchy Comics #2, Steve Stiles gives us the history of the Wobblies/IWW.
Page 1...2...3...4...5

Edited at 2008-08-26 01:18 pm (UTC)
Aug. 26th, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC)
Tempted to say that where working men are out on strike, Joe Hill is at their side. (Joe Hill is at their side.)

But really, I don't know.
Aug. 26th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC)
Land of the Free.
Aug. 26th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he
"I never died," says he
Aug. 26th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
Joe Hill's tactic might not work as well these days. There are more jails, more ability to transport prisoners, and more ability to isolate them in the jails.
Aug. 27th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
But if Joe Hill were with us today, he would come up with a new, creative, appropriate modern version of the tactic that would work -- until it doesn't, and then he would come up with something new again. Today's liberals seem still stuck on no-longer-effective 60s tactics that they can't seem to move beyond.
Aug. 26th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
I first heard of Joe Hill, and the technique you mention, from the late Utah Phillips' work with Ani DiFranco.

What can we do, Brad? How can we stop this? "Protest" and "free speech zones" go against my American soul.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 26th, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
Every so often I hear some idiot talking up the poll result that has Congress less popular than Bush, and they never like hearing the other result of that poll- that Congress is less popular than Bush specifically because they refuse to do anything about him.
Aug. 26th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
Both these conventions have become non-events. Nothing is really decided there and the huge rallies outside the conventions are a thing of the past.

Just 8 more days and 2 more reasons not to watch TV.
Aug. 26th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
dd, that was apparently the case. He's a travelling oil-drilling tool salesman, and had saved up to go on a shooting trip to Africa. He had his Denver gunsmith mount scopes upon, tune up etc., his rifles. As for the pistols, anybody who has one pistol needs another, if not for back-up, then for consequences of, God forbid, actual defensive use. If you shoot somebody for even the most virtuous of reasons and are not charged, the cops always seize the piece. Sometimes you get it back.

He did say that he was going to Africa to shoot, among other species, warthogs and baboons. Maybe that made the politicians nervous.

All the best, rnk35
Aug. 26th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
Once he's been caught, he can say any damned thing he wants; I'm not taking his word for it. There have been enough liberals shot by right-wingers recently that when a guy walks into the same hotel as the Speaker of the House (and other Democratic delegates, presumably) carrying four guns, nobody in their right mind would take his word for anything until it's been checked out.
a travelling oil-drilling tool salesman!?! - nebris - Aug. 27th, 2008 12:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 26th, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
To ask the silly question, at what point in our history did the Constitutional right to free speech become abridged or trumped by the interest of presenting a unified and smooth-running city unmarred by protest or dissent in any form?
Aug. 26th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
Civil liberties only embolden the enemy!
Aug. 27th, 2008 12:09 am (UTC)
Denver Police Have Already Arrested About 100 Protesters
Aug. 27th, 2008 01:07 am (UTC)
Ahh, Brad, he _has_ been checked out. The SS interviewed him for a couple of hours and cut him loose, saying that he was not a threat.

The Denver PD is just covering their asses now, I believe. There was a five-page discussion about this over at www.thehighroad.org which ended up being shut down by a moderator because of all the yelling back and forth; mostly between cop-sucker absolutists like that relation of yours, and liberty-absolutists who said that the presence of large concentrations of politicians in a town is no reason for the citizens to disarm themselves.

I belong to the latter group, but am getting to be somewhat of a scaredy-cat in my old age
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