Monday, September 8, 2008

Tyranny on Display at the Republican Convention

The choice of Sarah Palin wasn't the big story of last weeks GOP convention. Nor was the story John McCain's acceptance speech of the Republican Party's nomination for President. The real story - one that went nearly unreported in the corporate media - was the rise of a kind of police state that incorporated the full breadth of the Patriot Act’s provisions to stifle dissent - not capture "terrorists".

If you haven't heard about the stories of armed police raids of protesters homes (BEFORE THE PROTEST), the pepper spraying of innocent bystanders, the intimidation and abuse of journalists, and the mass arrests of American citizens - without charges or the right to Habeus Corpus - simply for utilizing their constitutional right of free speech, then let me help fill you in on some ominous signs that came out of St. Paul.

Before I get to the outstanding article by former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, let me first let Glenn Greenwald of paint a picture of what was really happening in Minnesota:

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly. Posted below is the video of the scene, including various interviews, which convey a very clear sense of what is actually going on here.

So now that you have a little of the backdrop for Hedges article, let's remember how the Patriot Act fits into all this. Those that opposed the Act certainly did so in part because it was clear that it was much more about silencing domestic opposition as it was about capturing "real terrorists". Last week in St. Paul confirmed this fear, as the Act, and all it's Constitution stomping provisions, were on display, be it the monitoring of citizen's phone conversations, e-mails, meetings and political opinions to the shutting down of anti-war groups and locking up innocents as terrorists without the right to Habeus Corpus.

There should no longer be any doubt as to the destructive power of the Patriot Act and the threat it poses to each and every Americans civil liberties.

Chris Hedges Reports:

St. Paul is a window into our future. It is a future where, as one protester told me by phone, "people have been pepper-gassed, thrown on the ground by police who had drawn their weapons, had their documents seized and their tattoos photographed before being taken away to jail." It is a future where illegal house raids are carried out. It is a future where vans containing heavily armed paramilitary units circle and film protesters. It is a future where, as the protester said, "people have been pulled from cars because their license plates were on a database and handcuffed, thrown in the back of a squad car and then watched as their vehicles were ransacked and their personal possessions from computers to literature seized." It is a future where constitutional rights mean nothing and where lawful dissent is branded a form of terrorism.


St. Paul was not ultimately about selecting a presidential candidate. It was about the power of the corporate state to carry out pre-emptive searches, seizures and arrests. It was about squads of police in high-tech riot gear, many with drawn semiautomatic weapons, bursting into houses. It was about seized computers, journals and political literature. It was about shutting down independent journalism, even at gunpoint. It was about charging protesters with "conspiracy to commit riot," a rarely used statute that criminalizes legal dissent. It was about 500 people held in open-air detention centers. It was about the rising Orwellian state that has hollowed out the insides of America, cast away all that was good and vital, and donned its skin to shackle us all.

Click here to read more.

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