Workers World correspondents, Minneapolis, Minn., and Olympia, Wash.
Workers World, Feb. 23, 2008
Plans are already underway for protest demonstrations this summer when the two major capitalist parties have their nominating conventions. Two recent conferences in different cities showed the broad range of issues various groups intend to raise when both the Republicans and Democrats meet.
Notable is the fact that unions and organizations of the poor met together with anti-war and anti-imperialist groups, indicating the connections being drawn between the growing economic woes of the working class and the immense outlay of funds by the capitalist government for imperialist aggression abroad.
Republican National Convention
The Republican National Convention (RNC) will be held on Sept. 1-4 in St. Paul, Minn. On Feb. 9-10, in St. Paul’s twin city of Minneapolis, the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War met with more than 60 other organizations to plan events protesting the Republican agenda.
The coalition consists of local anti-war and solidarity organizations, unions and social justice groups. Three national anti-war coalitions were also represented at the conference: Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC), the ANSWER Coalition and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ).
Other organizations present included the International Action Center; Freedom Road Socialist Organization; Latinos Against the War; Fight Imperialism-Stand Together; Students for a Democratic Society; New Jersey Solidarity-Activists for the Liberation of Palestine; the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera; Teamsters Local 743 and AFSCME Local 3800.
A press conference for local and national media included speakers from the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, TONC, UFPJ, ANSWER and the Arab American Action Network.
Phyllis Walker, Marie Braun and Jess Sundin opened the conference with an inspiring welcome from the local coalition. Two panels laid out the many reasons for marching on the RNC.
In the first panel Muath Asamarai, a local Iraqi American; Leslie Cagan of UFPJ; Sara Flounders of TONC and the IAC; John Beacham for the ANSWER Coalition; Carlos Montes of Latinos Against the War; and Angel Buechner from the Welfare Rights Committee spoke on why their organizations and coalitions are mobilizing for the march.
The second panel consisted of representatives from other endorsing organizations, including Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743; Kosta Harlan, a member of Students for a Democratic Society; Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network; Tyneisha Bowens, a leader of Fight Imperialism-Stand Together; George Martin of Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice; and Barry Reisch of Veterans for Peace.
These organizations emphasized the importance of opposing the imperialist agendas of both the Republicans and the Democrats.
The diversity of the issues addressed by the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War was reflected in the diversity of the attending organizations and activists. Immigrant rights, Palestine solidarity, Latin American solidarity, welfare rights, labor and low-income struggles were some of the issues included on the agenda and in the planning of the march and other events to counter the RNC.
This respect for diversity was also reflected in the local coalition’s open position on various tactics and safe spaces for those not participating in militant actions.
On the second day of the conference, the participants met in plenaries to discuss the program for a major demonstration on Sept. 1 and coordination and communication leading up to the event. Tours were held of the area around the Xcel Center where the RNC will take place in September.
For more information, visit marchonrnc.org or protestrnc2008.org.
Conference on RNC and DNC in Olympia
On the same weekend as the Minneapolis conference, youth and students met in Olympia, Wash., to discuss preparations to counter both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. About 100 people attended, mostly students from Seattle and surrounding areas, with others from Minneapolis and the states of Colorado, Oregon and California. The National Lawyers Guild and a few educators were there to listen, observe and offer advice when asked.
Protest organizers from Minneapolis and from Denver, where the DNC will be held on Aug. 24-28, gave presentations on the preparations that had been made, problems encountered and the significance of the respective conventions.
For the DNC, two activists who are part of the Recreate 68 Alliance spoke. Glenn Spagnuolo of the All Nations Alliance and Larry Hales of the youth group Fight Imperialism-Stand Together (FIST) presented to the audience in the late evening for an hour and a half. Spagnuolo explained that R68 was formed in January last year by local Denver activists from the Latin@, African-American, Native and white communities, representing such different issues as racism, imperialism, anti-war, anti-globalization, for immigrant rights and Indigenous rights. They agreed to work together to create a week of political solidarity in resistance and protest.
The idea of Recreate 68 is being used to move communities forward by looking back at a time of great resistance to war and racism.
Spagnuolo made reference to the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and its Ten-Point Program, where the party provided security, free breakfasts for children programs and education in many communities.
He also spoke of the government’s brutal attacks in response to the party’s activism, the anti-war positions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, the mass movements against oppression headed by organizations such as the American Indian Movement, the Young Lords, the Gay Liberation Front and many other groups.
Racism, imperialist war, poverty—all the things that come with capitalism—are still with us, Spagnuolo explained, and though Cointelpro is not around in name, the government has other forms of surveillance and of targeting activists, such as the massive Homeland Security apparatus.
Larry Hales of FIST spoke about the numerous cases of police brutality in the Denver area, such as the case of Loree McCormick-Rice and her then-12-year-old daughter Cassidy McCormick, who were both beaten by an Aurora, Colo., cop. He spoke of the occupation of the oppressed communities by police and the role of police in capitalist society.
Hales asked the students to be mindful of the communities and the people whom they are claiming to represent. The residents of communities of color are faced with police terror all the time, not just during marches and rallies. Police brutality is a daily reality for many working and oppressed people.
He told them that they must be sensitive to the needs of the people and be aware of history that is being made today. For instance, Hales said, a white woman and a Black man are running for president. Though they both represent the interests of the imperialist U.S. ruling class and their agenda would be to appease the ruling elite, there are many oppressed people who see the fact that they are running and that one or the other may likely win the general election as a milestone.
People will be out in the streets for many reasons, and activists have to keep focused on the issues while at the same time being aware that some people are looking at these candidates as a victory for women and Black people. It will take time for them to see what the development really means, as the next president goes about her or his business running the U.S. imperialist colossus.
A whole week of activities, rallies and marches is planned for the DNC by Recreate 68. To find out about them, visit recreate68.org.
Tyneisha Bowens, who attended the Minneapolis conference, and Gloria Verdieu and Larry Hales, who attended the Olympia conference, contributed to this article.