Anarchists Prepare to Crash 2008 GOP Convention

By Evan Moore | July 7, 2008 | 8:33pm EDT

( - Self-described anarchists and "anti-authoritarians" are planning to "shut down" the Republican National Convention, which will take place in St. Paul, Minn., on Sept. 1-4.

Mindful of the upcoming protests, the city's police force said it will quintuple its numbers to deter possible aggressive action by the activists.

Last month, the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) reported that over the past year, protest planning for the GOP event had grown at a "considerable pace" since the SDS endorsed disrupting the proceedings at its 2007 national convention.

At that time, the SDS adopted a three-step plan to disrupt the first day of the convention.

First, protesters plan to blockade the Xcel Energy Center, which will host the Republican convention. Second, they plan to disrupt delegates' transportation to the center. And finally, protesters plan to block the five bridges linking St. Paul to the neighboring city of Minneapolis.

"Across the country, groups have been talking -- and talking seriously -- about shutting down the RNC via one of the largest direct-action protests in years," the Grand Rapids SDS declared.

The Grand Rapids chapter did not return requests for comment by press time, and the group's umbrella organization, the "RNC Welcoming Committee, Crash the Convention!" does not respond to "on the spot" media-interviews as a matter of policy.

However, on the coalition's Web site, the Welcoming Committee notes that it is protesting the RNC because it's coming here," and adds, "Oh, and because as a political party which controls an enormous portion of state power, the Republicans are responsible for an enormous amount of the horror and devastation currently experienced by the world and its peoples."

The "broader purpose" for protesting is "to continue to build a culture of liberation, where all people can be free," the Web site says. "Most people are appalled with what the government is doing, but their dissent stops with voting for the other guy, or with cynical disengagement from the political system. Our resistance is justified, and we want our resistance to be constructive and creative."

The "RNC Welcoming Committee, Crash the Convention!" also voices opposition to the Democratic National Convention, saying, "We resist the politics of representation and support a vision of life where we run our own affairs, directly and without political parties.""

However, indications are that the SDS is not as far along in organizing its plan as it claims. The Grand Rapids chapter admits that a "significant victory at the RNC would giv[e] our movement a much-needed influx of new energy, tactics, and experiences."

The Welcoming Committee also is asking for a variety of tools to support its efforts, including money, buses and bicycles for transportation, storage space, food, housing, and telecommunication equipment.

In an interview with Cybercast News Service , Tom Walsh, the public information officer for the St. Paul Police Department, said he had "no idea" how many people are expected to protest at the Republican National Convention, but he said the department was planning on making "zero arrests, at this point."

Walsh noted that the city was not expecting protests like those that disrupted the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle, but was preparing for more subdued protests like those of the 2004 party conventions in Boston and New York.

However, Walsh said "the entire site is the responsibility of the St. Paul Police Department" and, therefore, police officers would be deployed both within the Xcel Center and throughout the area.

"People who are currently working in investigative positions and detective positions are going to be in uniform and working this event," Walsh said. "The total St. Paul Police Department is about 600 police officers. And around 3,000 officers are going to be required [for security at the event], so we're going to be getting assistance from a great number of other agencies."

The police department has purchased 234 tasers for use by patrol officers. Walsh said the order was not made in response to convention-related security threats from protest groups, but rather a request by officers on patrol who view them as effective tools of law enforcement.

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