[From Brendan Dunn -- Aug. 26, 2008, 6:20 a.m.]
Four Northwest activists who have been involved with PMR and SDS at one point or another and groups and community organizing projects too numerous to list were arrested yesterday at the DNC demonstrations in Denver. They are Wally Cuddeford, Lillia Lassiter, Jeff Berryhill, and Mary Sackley (from Portland). They were each charged with several offenses, including loitering, interfering with police, etc. The bail is $530 each and we already have a few hundred.
If they are not bailed out, they will remain in the Denver jail until September 2nd or 3rd.
Please, please call Kelly Beckham if you can help out in any way. We need money. 360 561 6568
And please forward this to the OMJP list and PMR list (my new email is not on them yet) and post widely. We have very little internet access out here.
[From kteeo -- Aug. 26, 2008, 8:23 a.m.]
As Brendan wrote earlier, NW activists are in jail in Denver. Currently the count is up to 5... they need money for bond!
Kelly (doing jail support in Denver) is giving me her account information so that I can transfer money into her account so that they can acsess money that we raise here in Denver. If you have the ability to contribute to their bond fund please call me, kteeo, at (716)479-2360.
[From Patti Imani -- Aug. 26, 2008, 8:28 p.m.]
Just talked with Kelly, bail has been paid for Jeff and Shyam, they should be out tonight. They pretty much have the bail money together for both Wally and Lillia as well, so they should be out by tomorrow. All pled not guilty at arraignments today.
POLICE PEPPER-SPRAY PROTESTERS; 100 ARRESTED
By Dan Friedman
August 26, 2008
Denver police arrested about 100 protesters Monday night during a clash that occurred as delegates gathered a mile away to hear Michelle Obama speak.
Around 7:15 p.m., police in riot gear used pepper spray on an estimated crowd of 300 in Civic Center Park. Authorities said protesters refused to disperse and rushed a police line. Many protesters then moved about a block onto 15th Street, where some, including a group that linked arms and sat down, were arrested after being surrounded by police.
The incident, which followed a largely quiet day, was the most violent so far between police and protesters demonstrating at the Democratic National Convention. It raised tension ahead of an anti-war march Thursday that is expected to be the week's largest demonstration.
A small group of protesters and police clashed again this morning near the Colorado Civic Center.
Police charged those arrested Monday with breaking city laws against obstructing streets or public passageways, interfering with police and disobeying lawful orders. Most were processed and released by midday.
The sides differed over how events transpired. The Denver Police Department said in a statement that many protesters carried "rocks and other items that could be used to threaten public safety. In order to protect the public when the crowd surged forward, two officers deployed their pepper spray and one officer used a pepper ball device."
Protesters and civil liberties advocates said police used excessive force. Glenn Spagnuolo, a spokesman for Recreate 68, an umbrella group coordinating protest activities this week, said police, concerned because some protesters wore bandannas over their faces, provoked the events by entering the park to break up a lawful assembly.
Spagnuolo and Mark Silverstein, legal director of the Colorado American Civil Liberties Union, said they were not aware of protesters holding rocks or other weapons.
Silverstein said the use of pepper spray "was unnecessary and unprovoked," and questioned if police could claim individual probable cause against those who were arrested. He said those arrested were denied access to volunteer attorneys.
"Some people spent as long as 12 hours in custody without access to attorneys, despite the fact that there were attorneys ready and willing to meet with them," Silverstein said.
Denver Police did not immediately respond to questions about attorney access.
LAWYERS ARGUE MONDAY ARRESTS WERE ILLEGAL
By Tom McGhee and Kieran Nicholson
August 26, 2008
[PHOTO CAPTION: Denver police shoot pepper spray at a group gathered in downtown Denver Monday night. Police say they ordered the group to disperse before firing the spray.]
A member of a legal group advising protesters on their rights argued that Monday's arrest of about 90 people at Civic Center Park was illegal.
Police said the protesters refused orders to disburse and that some carried rocks and other potential weapons as they surged toward the 16th Street Mall, though there was no indication that weapons charges had been filed against any of the protesters.
In a Tuesday briefing of the Denver City Council and Mayor John Hickenlooper, Police Chief Gerry Whitman said the incident began when as many as 600 protesters began heading toward the Denver City and County Building at about 7 p.m.
From the Denver Newspaper Agency building overlooking Civic Center the number of protesters appeared to be far fewer than that, though they were trailed by dozens of onlookers and supporters carrying cameras.
Dan Spalding, a member of the People's Law Project, was at 15th Street and Court Place Monday night when the clash with police was underway.
"This is a classic illegal mass arrest," Spalding said. "It was indiscriminate. It was arbitrary, they let a handful leave."
Spalding said he heard no order for dispersal and police did not use a bullhorn to make such an order heard.
And even if police had ordered the crowd to disperse, people had nowhere to go, Spalding said.
"There was no possible way to disperse. It was physically impossible."
Several protesters got through the police line and others were later released, but about 100 were arrested. "Maybe some were guilty of the heinous crime of marching on the street," Spalding said.
Plain clothes police officers have been shouldering their way through crowds in Civic Center with the intent of "harassing activists," Spalding said.
Plain clothes officers, with no visible identification, are also taking photographs of demonstrators, Spalding said. "It has a chilling effect" on freedom of assembly and free speech, Spalding said.
The People's Law Project wants an investigation to determine who was in charge of police on 15 Street who gave the order for the mass arrests.
"We want a thorough investigation and a guarantee this never happens again," Spalding said. "We want people to be held accountable."
The protest group Unconventional Denver, which had promised to disrupt activities tied to the Democratic National Convention, was involved in the melee, police said.
"We are making our best effort to balance free expression with the need for public safety," said Sue Cobb, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's office.
"It is hard to avoid arresting people who are bound and determined to get arrested."
Police Det. John White said that riot police, acting on the suspicion that the group wanted to get into downtown hotels, decided to pin the protesters in Civic Center. When the group tried to leave the park anyway, police used pepper spray to force protesters out of the park and then blocked them before they could reach the 16th Street Mall.
Cobb said the group was in the park and began to surge toward a police line. Officers pushed them back and some of the protesters ran toward the state Capitol but quickly turned north to go to the pedestrian mall.
"That's when they started the process of arrests," Cobb said.
Police surrounded the protesters along 15th Street between Court Street and Cleveland Place and then moved up reinforcements, including at least two armored vehicles.
Most are charged with obstructing streets or public passageways, interference and disobedience to a lawful order.
Those arrested were processed through the temporary processing facility at 3833 Steele St.
About 20 people have been released after appearing in court this morning and entering guilty pleas, Spalding said. Most paid a fine of $141.
Those who made bond were released. The rest were taken to the city jail, where they are being held, according to Norma Mock, spokeswoman for convention's Joint Information Center.
Most protestors were held on either failure to obey a police order, interference with police, or blocking a public roadway, Spalding said. All are Denver municipal charges.
Spalding said his group is offering assistance, but it is not representing any of the people arrested.
DEMOCRATS CONVENE IN DENVER AMID POLICE STATE SECURITY AND A SEA OF CORPORATE CASH
By Bill Van Auken
World Socialist Web Site
August 26, 2008
Nothing could more graphically expose the political fraud of the “change you can believe in” mantra promoted by the Democrats and their presidential candidate Barack Obama than the reactionary atmosphere surrounding the party’s national convention, which kicked off Monday in Denver, Colorado.
The more than 4,000 Democratic delegates -- covered by an army of some 15,000 members of the press -- are convening in what amounts to a political bubble surrounded by security measures consistent with those of a police state. The convention itself, not to mention the lavish parties being thrown for the delegates -- many of them elected officials -- is being paid for largely by major corporations looking to buy political influence.
The media has focused the bulk of its attention on the convention’s first day on speculating as to whether lingering “bitterness” on the part of Obama’s principal rival for the nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton, and her supporters will detract from the unity message that is meant to predominate. Most of this coverage is cast entirely in terms of personal frictions and identity politics, without a hint of any substantive political issues involved.
This is in keeping with the general tenor of the convention itself, which is packaged as a $60 million, four-day infomercial, with no question of a debate over policy breaking out on the floor of Denver’s Pepsi Center, where the delegates are assembled. The media, with very few exceptions, functions as an uncritical conduit for this process, accepting its narrow parameters as given.
It has been more than three decades since such a convention was an arena for any form of political debate, and where the outcome was not preordained. The ritualistic character of these events is a function of the widening gulf separating the official politics of the U.S. two-party system -- controlled lock, stock and barrel by the banks, corporations, and a narrow financial élite -- from the vast mass of the American people.
A stark illustration of this same divide is to be found in the extraordinary security measures that have been put into place in Denver. The Democratic Party, the ostensible political opposition to the Bush administration, is meeting under what amounts to a state of siege, justified in the name of the “war on terror” and the assumed need to exert iron-fisted control over any expression of political dissent in the streets.
The actual scale of protest in Denver is decidedly limited. On Sunday, barely 1,200 people participated in an antiwar demonstration led by Ron Kovic, the paralyzed Vietnam War veteran and author of the book Born on the Fourth of July, and Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. The leaderships of the major antiwar protest groups are part of the effort to divert anger against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into support for a political party that has funded and will continue both U.S. interventions.
Nonetheless, demonstrators have been confronted with overwhelming police force. The ranks of Denver’s police have been doubled by the influx of cops from throughout the surrounding area.
As Denver’s Rocky Mountain News reported, “Hundreds of heavily armed officers, some clad in riot gear or hanging off SUVs, are saturating Denver’s streets in unprecedented numbers, quickly isolating any hint of trouble that could tarnish the city’s reputation under the limelight of the Democratic National Convention.
“The officers -- on foot, horseback, bicycles, and motorcycles -- are armed with black batons and pepperball guns that resemble assault rifles. And they were quick to move Sunday when hundreds of rowdy protesters took to the streets of downtown.”
Police have distributed pamphlets to would-be protesters warning them that they will be subject to arrest if they refuse orders to disperse, even if they have broken no laws. To deal with potential mass arrests, the city has opened a temporary detention center -- a warehouse divided into chain-link cells. Critics of the security crackdown have dubbed the site “Gitmo on the Platte,” after Denver’s South Platte River.
The authorities have also attempted to restrict protesters to a so-called “free speech zone,” the Orwellian term they have given to an isolated patch of a parking lot ringed by two layers of black steel security fencing, giving it the appearance of a detention camp.
The force of 1,500 officers brought in from 52 police agencies in nearby areas does not include a huge federal contingent that has been mobilized for the event.
The Department of Homeland Security has declared the conventions of both the Democratic and Republican parties -- the latter to be held next week in St. Paul, Minnesota -- ”National Special Security Events.” This designation places the department and the Secret Service in charge of overall security and brings in an array of national police, military, and intelligence agencies.
Some $50 million in federal funding has been allotted for security measures at each of the conventions. In Denver, a portion of this money has gone to equip police with body armor and shields as well as to purchase an armored vehicle.
Federal and local police agents have established a secret headquarters, dubbed the Multi-Agency Command Center, or MACC, from which they are monitoring every movement in the city via hundreds of security cameras that are trained on the convention center, protest sites, and the entire surrounding area.
In a chilling indication that the police surveillance is far wider and more intrusive than has been reported by the media, protest leader Cindy Sheehan reported returning to her Denver hotel room Monday to find a man in her room using a screwdriver on the telephone.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has been brought in to inspect vehicles in the city, while agents of the Transportation Security Administration are being deployed to screen those entering the convention center.
The military has also been deployed in Denver for the convention. In addition to the activation of over 1,000 National Guard troops, elements of the U.S. Coast Guard have been placed in charge of intelligence operations in designated areas, while the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Northern Command, based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, are also participating. The Pentagon refused to supply any details on the precise role of these commands, but some of the media reported that they were providing the convention with “air cover.”
THE CONVENTION'S BUSINESS: BRIBERY AND INFLUENCE-PEDDLING
Behind these rings of steel and phalanxes of police, the real business of the convention is being conducted in a series of activities and events that amount to organized and officially sanctioned bribery and influence-peddling.
Speaking last Saturday in Springfield, Illinois, in his announcement of Delaware Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate, Obama claimed that his campaign was based on “a simple belief: that the American people were better than their government in Washington -- a government that has fallen prey to special interests and policies that have left working people behind.”
Yet in Denver this week, he is presiding over a convention that is being paid for by these same special interests, with the clear understanding that their money will secure favors from Democratic politicians and, potentially, a Democratic administration headed by Obama himself.
While posturing as the party of “the people,” the Democrats have auctioned off access to U.S. corporations, selling aptly named “presidential sponsor” packages for a million dollars each. The money buys companies private access to Obama’s advisors, tickets to exclusive parties attended by Democratic elected officials, and luxury skybox seats to hear Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday in Denver’s Mile High Stadium.
The party had billed the stadium event as a sign of its openness and desire to include the people in its deliberations. But the auctioning off of skyboxes to the highest corporate bidders clearly expresses the Democrats’ real role as an essential prop of social inequality and the rule of big business.
An array of major corporations has sponsored parties, dinners, and other events, using loopholes in new ethics rules touted by Obama and the Democrats, to stage lavish events for and contribute amply to Democratic politicians. While the rules limit individual donations to candidates to $2,300, and bar direct contributions from corporations and unions, their provisions do not extend to the party conventions.
AT&T, which has refused to disclose how much it has given to the convention, held such an event Sunday night from which it barred the media, calling the police against a few reporters who attempted to interview those attending. The bash was given for the Democratic Leadership Council.
AT&T was one of the principal beneficiaries of legislation passed by Congress last month -- with Obama voting in favor -- which vastly expanded government domestic surveillance powers while granting blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications firms that collaborated in the Bush administration’s illegal domestic spying program.
Another telecom, Qwest Communications, has donated $6 million to the convention -- the largest known contribution.
As the Los Angeles Times pointed out Monday, “The largest donors frequently have some of the largest business issues pending before state and federal agencies at the time lawmakers ask them to donate.”
Qwest has a case pending before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would grant it regulatory relief. The newspaper reported that a member of the convention’s fundraising committee, Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, also sits on the congressional committee that oversees the FCC and wrote a letter to the agency on the company’s behalf.
Other major corporate convention donors with issues before Congress that have significant implications for their bottom line include Comcast Corp., Xcel Energy Inc., UnitedHealth Inc., Eli Lilly and other big pharmaceutical firms, and Kraft Foods.
One major donor worth noting is Lockheed Martin, the huge military contractor. “Lockheed Martin strongly supports our nation’s political process and candidates that support in general national defense, homeland security, high technology, and educational initiatives,” a company spokesman said of the convention funding. Clearly, it is confident that the U.S. war machine will provide it with profitable conditions under an Obama presidency.
Among the events scheduled at the convention is a poker night for delegates at Coors Field, sponsored by a business alliance that is lobbying Congress not to place restrictions on Internet gambling.
Even the government-backed mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had been slated to host events and contribute to the convention’s cost, until the idea was scrapped out of fear that it would trigger outrage because of the recent government move to bail out the firms.
Behind the media glitz and meticulously staged spectacle, the Denver convention’s reality of corruption, elitism, and repression is the real face of the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign.
No less than the Republicans and their candidate John McCain, the Democrats defend the interests of the corporate and financial ruling elite. The thoroughly anti-democratic two-party system excludes any expression of the genuine interests of working people.