People Push Back as 2012 Democratic National Convention Considers Minneapolis
Minneapolis is one of four cities in the running for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, just one cycle after the metro-wide suspension of civil liberties that accompanied the Republicans' national party in 2008. This time around, local organizers are mobilizing in an effort to sabotage the bid before a decision is even made.
Last Sunday, 20-25 people rallied outside the Minnesota Twins game downtown before heading to the Metrodome, the city's preferred DNC site. On Thursday, organizers from the 2008 Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War staged a press conference at the dome to announce that they'll host a major anti-war protest if the DNC chooses Minneapolis. Speaking to the selection committee, Meredith Aby of the Anti-War Committee warned, "We're ready. If you choose us, we're good to go." | noDNC.org | MPR: Officials visit MPLS, met by protest
The other cities in the running for the Democrats' convention are Charlotte, Cleveland and Saint Louis. The Republicans, who traditionally make their selection first, have already chosen Tampa Bay as their site. There, resistance organizing is already underway.
The Democrats are anticipated to make their selection sometime this fall.
Sunday's protest and Thursday's announcement downtown coincided with the DNC selection committee's visit to Minneapolis this week. The DNC is chaired by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.
At the press conference, Sarah Martin of Women Against Military Madness told reporters, "The war in Afghanistan has become an unpopular war. It will be vastly more unpopular in two years. So if the DNC comes to Minneapolis, they will be faced with massive opposition to the war - and we have the know-how, and the experience, to organize this opposition to call for the troops out now."
Aby of the Anti-War Committee noted, "For the 2008 Republican National Convention, we organized an impressive coalition of anti-war, economic rights, student, immigrant rights and labor groups to protest the war in Iraq, and these forces are ready to come together again to give a loud and clear message of opposition to the Democratic support for the war in Afghanistan."
She continued, "We recognize that the Twin Cities and Minnesota are very supportive of the Democratic Party in general, and that Obama has a good chance of winning Minnesota in the 2012 presidential election. However, the country and Minnesota in particular are not in favor of the Democratic Party's and Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Thousands of progressive people from around the country will come to a well-organized antiwar protest during the Convention if the DNC is held here in Minneapolis."
The 2008 RNC resulted in 818 arrests, including over 400 on and around the Marion Street bridge during John McCain's acceptance speech, ending a "No Peace for the Warmakers" action organized by the Anti-War Committee. On that day, the city of St. Paul essentially ordered workers to evacuate downtown in mid-afternoon. Several other mass arrests occurred in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, with police saying the lost control of downtown for a number of hours on September 1. Pre-emptive raids, widespread use of so-called less lethal weapons, and well-documented attacks on bystanders, journalists and protesters all served to stir anti-police sentiment and galvanize resistance. (See http://rnc08report.org.)
The chaos close to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul occurred during what was supposed to be a tightly-controlled event - not like the "Open Convention" held by Democrats in Denver that year at which over 80,000 people watched Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field.
The vast majority of RNC arrestees later had their charges dropped, or defeated them in court. Many filed civil suits, overwhelming the St. Paul City Attorney's office for weeks. The city, predicting the suits in advance, took out a $10 million insurance policy; presumably, Minneapolis would do the same for the DNC.
Two men entrapped by FBI agents during the 2008 RNC, David McKay of Texas and Matt DePalma of Michigan, are still in prison. The case of the RNC 8, the anarchist organizers who have continued to remain active in Minneapolis, is still ongoing; they're set to go to trial October 25.
Corporate media have often cited a $170 million economic boost due to the RNC - but most of that money went to corporate chains, such as hotels and airlines, many not based in the Twin Cities. Small businesses, particularly those in and around downtown St. Paul, widely reported sharp losses in revenue over the week. (See all stories tagged "RNC Aftermath.")
Nonetheless, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and city officials are acting publicly as if none of that ever happened--or they just don't care. They're presenting the Metrodome as their preferred convention site, saying its location, isolated from the rest of downtown, makes security and transportation hurdles easier to clear. It's true that it would be easier to seal off the Dome from public access than it was to isolate the Xcel Energy Center from dissent in 2008, or than it would be to cordon off blocks around the Minneapolis Convention Center, Target Center or the new Target Field. (Those venues are also to be considered in Minneapolis' bid.)
But the Metrodome also has its drawbacks. It's long been derided as unsuitable for its primary purpose, sporting events, making a four-day political party there seem less than pleasant. And its only remaining major tenant, the Minnesota Vikings, is lobbying for funding for a new stadium to replace the dome. If the request is approved, the convention would have to find a different location on short notice.
Rybak has cited his city's experience in playing de facto co-host to the 2008 RNC as a selling point. The city of Minneapolis may well have experience suppressing dissent, such as when Rybak and police commanders ordered the mass arrest of Target Center concertgoers on September 3, 2008. But this week's events show that if the Democrats select Minneapolis, they may well have to deal with residents pissed off at a convention they didn't ask for invading their city for the second time in four years. Police may have seen what tactics "worked" and what didn't two years ago, but so did everyone else - and protest organizers are getting prepared should the DNC come.
Said antiwar organizer Martin, "If the DNC comes to town we will hold them accountable for this war's horrific waste of lives and money. As of today, Minneapolis taxpayers have paid $450 million dollars for the war in Afghanistan - just in Afghanistan. This could have funded healthcare for 109,000 low income people for a year, or scholarships for a year for 39,000 university students, or salaries for one year for 7,000 elementary teachers."
"Our protest will be principled," added Meredith Aby. "It's not going to be a teabagger event. It will not have racist attacks on the President, we will not incorrectly use terms like socialist and fascist, but we will also not be silent. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan need us to raise our voices to the Democratic National Convention."
But, most organizers feel, this time around the Twin Cities deserves a break.