At RNC, Media Put a Happy Face on Suppression of Speech

WKYC-RNC

Originally published at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting.

News media could either be our ally or our enemy—we wanted them as an ally,” Laurie Pritchett said in a 1985 interview about his strategy as police chief in Albany, Georgia, during Martin Luther King, Jr.’s desegregation efforts in 1962.

Pritchett famously ordered his officers to enforce the city’s segregation laws nonviolently and arrest as few protesters as possible. He knew that if he had acted as other police departments had—like Bull Connor’s dogs and firehoses in Birmingham (1963) and Jim Clark’s Bloody Sunday in Selma (1965)—news media would show the country how brutally oppressive police were, inspiring greater public support for King’s cause. In short, he beat nonviolent protesters at their own game by exploiting the media.

At the Republican National Convention this past week, none of the fears about a violent disaster bore fruit. Journalists and private citizens who worried about Ohio’s open-carry gun policy and the recent increase in public tension between cops and protesters were relieved that the week passed without a single gunshot fired or tear gas canister thrown. Like Pritchett’s officers in Albany, police in Cleveland—whose department was found to have practiced a pattern of excessive force and civil rights violations in a Justice Department investigation—exercised restraint compared to how police have handled protests in Ferguson (military trucks, sound canons, tear gas, rubber bullets) and Baton Rouge (hundreds of arrests).

Just as Pritchett expected in 1962, media jumped to praise law enforcement. “Credit where it’s due: The police nailed it,” Vox staffer German Lopez (7/22/16) wrote. In a list that reads like a police officer’s handbook, he offered three detailed explanations for why the police “nailed it”:

Read the rest here.

Police Keep Blocking Access to Cleveland’s Public Square Using “T-Formation”

(See my Perisocope video of the police action here.)

For the past hour and a half, police have gradually pushed demonstrators and other members of the public out of the center of Public Square in Cleveland, the site of 2016’s Republican National Convention.

A local ABC reporter told (about 4:30 in the Periscope video) her TV audience that police used a “T-Formation,” though it was difficult to make out the T-shape from any side of the park.

Earlier, several different groups were demonstrating, including the Industrial Workers of the World, young people chanting “Black Lives Matter,” and a few Jesus proselytizers.

At the beginning of the police action, an officer informed me as I was leaving the square that I wouldn’t be be able to return. By the time I began heading back to the center, police had cleared the area.


One officer explained to me (about 8:30 in the Periscope video) the reason for the spatial restriction: “We had some issues before. Just, uh, keep everybody safe.”

Minutes later, police began to loosen their formation, letting people back into the center again.

As I began drafting this post, a line of bicycle officers rushed back into the center to reclose the square. There were at least three officers at the center with riot gear: plastic face mask, helmet and military-style backpack.

As of publication (about 6:05 p.m.), several of the bicycle officers rushed out heading east on Superior Avenue. A line of white-uniformed officers have entered the center of the square.

Several passersby have said, “good luck, guys” to the line of officers.

I will update this post as necessary.

Prophets of Rage Take Over Streets of Cleveland on Day One of Republican National Convention

Day one of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, began with an eerie hush. The streets were empty for much of the morning as a few drivers and walkers (including Wolf Blitzer) alike tried to figure their way around the 10-foot tall fence – plastered with “No Drone Zone” signs courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration – that surrounded the Quicken Loans Arena (“The Q”) and its neighboring buildings, dividing the city in half. The cloudy sky threatened rain.

By noon on the day whose theme was “Make America Safe Again,” crowds gathered for pro- and anti-Trump rallies, vendors set up shop to sell Trump t-shirts and hats, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations held a small press conference.

While corporate media reported from inside The Q and focused on demonstrations in downtown Cleveland, a little-covered rally hit the streets of Cleveland’s east side. Organize! Ohio’s End Poverty Now rally at a vacant lot on East 45th Street between St. Claire and Superior Avenues featured activists and performers from Cleveland and across the country. New York’s notorious Revolutionary Community Party flooded the crowd.

Breaking with the morning’s eerie hush and the clouds’ abandoned threat, Prophets of Rage – a supergroup featuring Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine (who hijacked the 2000 Democratic National Convention), Chuck D of Public Enemy, and B-Real of Cypress Hill – roared onstage. “Thank you for coming out today with your joy and your militancy. As soon as this next song is over, we Prophets of Rage, and you, are going to march for the End Poverty Now march, on that street right over there… We’re going to let those motherfuckers at the RNC know that we’ve had enough of their bullshit,” Morello told the sizeable crowd.

Prophets ended their set with “Killing in the Name,” one of RATM’s most famous songs, which, as Morello reminded everyone, has been used to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. “This is our revenge. We’re now going to use this song to torture those sons of bitches at the RNC with your help,” he yelled.

Moments later many of the audience members joined Organize! Ohio on the march toward downtown. After heading south on E. 45th, it turned westbound onto Payne Avenue until E. 22nd where police blocked passage. The march ultimately reached downtown via Chester Avenue. As promised, Prophets of Rage marched with the crowd. A massive bicycle army of cops dressed up like Christian Bale’s Batman followed closely behind. (See my coverage of the march on Periscope here.)

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The rally and march were intentionally planned for the 50th anniversary of the Hough riots in which four black Cleveland residents were shot and killed by police and another 275 were arrested. “We insisted that we this not [sic] along the formal route, but on the East Side – to make that connection and show how little things have actually gotten worse,” one of the march’s organizers told cleveland.com. Cleveland’s east side has for decades suffered from police brutality, most famously for the 22-minute car chase in 2012 in which 13 officers fired 137 shots, killing both Malissa Williams and Timothy Russel. The decision to march in this part of town demonstrated how little corporate media cares about how the policies of the people it usually reports on actually afflict people on the ground.

As the march dissolved downtown, Prophets of Rage regrouped to play an impromptu “concert” at Public Square. While DJ Lord played the studio versions of a few RATM, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill songs, Chuck D and B-Real sang through megaphones and Tom Morello air-guitared.

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“Inside the RNC, a thinly veiled racism, sexism and imperialism is being put forward as their platform. Out here, human rights, respect for the planet and resistance to oppression is what we sing about,” Morello said.

All photos and videos taken by me.

To the Protesting Colorado Students: Keep It Up

Source: Matthew Staver/The New York Times

Source: Matthew Staver/The New York Times

For the past few weeks, hundreds of high school students in Denver suburbs have been protesting a proposal for an anti-protest curriculum. The new conservative school board majority in the Jefferson County school district has created a curriculum-review committee to “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.” According to the proposal, “materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”

If students had spent years learning this curriculum – one that discourages civil disorder – they probably would not be protesting. And that’s exactly what the school board wants. Though not advertised, the long-term goal of the proposed curriculum is to squash dissent. After years of being brainwashed about “respect for authority” and the “positive aspects” of our history, students would turn into fear-mongering robots of conservative patriotism and empty black holes for any critical thinking. Essentially, they would be the same people who are on the majority of the school board now, fearful of any “social strife” in America today.

Even the teachers are supporting the students. According to the Denver Post, 52 of 65 teachers at one school called in sick for Monday’s classes. A few weeks ago, two high schools had to close because of teacher absence. In response, the school district superintendent has threatened to bring disciplinary action against the protesting teachers. In this case, the teachers aren’t demanding higher salaries or better benefits or collective bargaining rights; they are protesting in solidarity with the students – which shows just how appalling the proposed curriculum is.

Not surprisingly, the new school board has won the praise of American for Prosperity-Colorado, the local organization affiliated with the national group run by Charles and David Koch. The Koch brothers, who have inherited their father’s oil and gas fortune, are known for opposing government regulation and defending economic freedom. It’s quite fitting that their local affiliate would support and push for an academic curriculum that promotes the “benefits of the free enterprise system” and discourages civil disobedience – a common tactic of anti-oil climate change activists.

History is not about learning the “positive aspects.” We study history to better understand why things are they way they are today. If your country was founded on and continues to thrive on what bell hooks calls imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, then you probably shouldn’t focus on the “positive aspects.” And if you don’t think that our country was founded on imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, then I suggest you study our history more closely. It is not the responsibility of the oppressed to educate their oppressors.

What else was this country founded on? Revolution. Protest. Civil disobedience. A lack of respect for authority. Some history scholars like Gerald Horne even think that the Revolutionary War was actually a counter-revolution by conservative colonists to protect and expand slavery. It seems that the only type of dissent that the all-white Jefferson County school board supports is the type that mainly benefits white people. They want to put down all other dissent, using a history curriculum that lauds the achievements of white people and minimizes the struggle of the oppressed.

So, to the protesting students, keep it up. You are embodying everything you’ve learned about history. You are making your history teachers proud. Maybe you’ll make it into a history textbook someday – as long as it’s not written by someone like the people on your school board. You are the real “patriots.” And I just vomited because I used the word “patriots.

Source: Brennan Linsley/Associated Press

Source: Brennan Linsley/Associated Press