…wherein Jake looks for fellow bloggers, attends Still We Rise, and does not receive a phone call
I started this day off looking for The Tank. A number of the popular lefty bloggers had apparently set up shop there for the course of the RNC. I was a bit trepidacious. What was this place? A bar? A café? A private residence? The address for the place was close to where I was staying, so I decided I should at least check it out. And maybe I could make use of the space too, lacking much internet connectivity at my friend’s apartment.
Turns out The Tank is some kind of small performance art space. A woman greeted me warmly at the door and asked how she could help me. I wasn’t sure. It looked like a cross between a barren coffeehouse and a barren campaign headquarters. There was a card table for some sort of liberal democrat group to my left, and a counter with donuts and coffee to my right, and something I couldn’t see yet around the corner to my left.
When talking to strangers, I generally work on the assumption that they have no idea what I’m talking about, and try to be as broad and simplistic as I can, until I get signs that my words aren’t coming out like gibberish. I’m not sure why I do this, I guess part of a “better safe than sorry/assume the worst, hope for the best” sort of thing. So instead of saying “I’m a blogger and I was hoping I could join up with some of the other bloggers you’ve got here,” I said something like “I heard that there are some people here reporting on the convention over the internet,” in a tentative manner.
“Oh yeah, we’ve got a few,” she said airly, waving around the corner. I peeked around, and there was a small area with some folding tables and plastic chairs. I think I recognized Kos from a photograph, sitting on a couch. No one else seemed to be around. I mentally shrugged and figured I’d seen all I needed to of The Tank.
In retrospect, I do regret coming to the convention as Axis of Justice reporter instead of Jake the blogger. As it was, I had to write somewhat dry and detached reports once a day for my paying job, and try to get those done, edited and uploaded with some… let’s say “limitations”, operating out of a friend’s crowded apartment. If I’d come independently, I could’ve written comfortable, fun material in an environment suited for that, befriended some big name bloggers, and maybe been on Janeane Garafalo’s radio show, which apparently broadcast from The Tank during the course of the convention.
Oh well. At least this way I didn’t have to pay for my own airfare.
This day two marches were scheduled. One of them had a permit and the other didn’t, and I got confused which was which. One of the two protests was the “March for Our Lives,” organized largely by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. It’s an organization run and organized by poor and homeless Americans who argue that poverty itself is a violation of human rights. And, since the United States has a responsibility to its people to guarantee those rights, the government should do something about these problems. The March was scheduled to meet at the United Nations building.
I went instead to the “Still We Rise” march, another protest focusing on issues important to the poor: poverty, housing, homelessness, education, immigration, health care, and AIDS. And, although it was not explicitly said very often, they were also fighting the underlying racism that often causes or magnifies those problems.
The sad part of this march was that it originally had the support of rap mogul Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network organization. But at the last minute, HSAN pulled out, citing concerns about “security” and timing of “the MTV Video Music Awards in Miami”. I believe when I first heard about this, my response was “Russell Simmons is a punk-ass bitch.”
Took the subway down to Union Square, which ended up being the starting point for like half of the rallies for the entire convention. Being a Californian, subways are odd to me. Sure, I used them a lot when I lived in Philly, and LA has its own limited subway, but we Californians are so used to long, spread out cities and having to drive fair distances to get anywhere. During this visit to NYC, the main subway dynamic was this: the subway stations were stiflingly, oppressively hot, yet the subway cars themselves were air-conditioned. Every time you waited for a train, you had to wonder if you were going to last until the train arrived, with its life-giving refrigeration, or if you were you going to pass out and die before it got there.
My first view of the protest, before the march began, was a performance by Billionaires for Bush. They are an activist group who’s members dress up in fancy clothes and pretend to be a members of a super-wealthy protest group, who want everything that the left does not: more tax cuts for the rich, huge cuts to social programs, and more war (for more profiteering). At this protest, the Billionaires were arguing that US businesses needed to cut more American jobs and send them overseas, so that the rich could make even larger profits.
I also think that the billionaires should have fake journalists on leashes, while the journalists scamper around like monkeys.
I snapped a picture of these guys, who I saw working in small groups throughout the convention:
I looked it up. TARU is Technical Assistance Response Unit. They “provide investigative technical equipment and tactical support to all bureaus within the department.” Which seemed to mean “spy on, take pictures of, and film activists”. I didn’t like em.
I was glad that many young people seemed to have played major parts in organizing their own contingents for this march, and that the organizers had made an effort to get rid of some old, overused activist chants. Let’s face it, the “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” and “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Blah blah blah has got to go!” style chants really blow. At least some activists realize that the popular cadences and styles of hip-hop and punk have more appeal to the crowds.
Here’re some photos:
An unnamed group of anarchist drummers and dancers in pink and black, who would sporadically pepper their performance with the chant “No Kerry, No Bush, Give Us a Choice, Give Us a Choice!”
Yes, this is the anarchist threat that the police and NY Daily News warned us about. And you can’t blame them. If one of those flags or drumsticks had gotten out of control, someone could have been poked in the eye.
After marching some blocks, we were stopped and held by cops. I was never close enough to the front to know what happened, but it seemed like we were there for a real long time. Just as I started to worry about mass arrests and whatnot, the march began to move again. Here was what had been holding us up:
I ran into my friend Garrick, who some of you may remember as the fellow who was posting reports from Palestine to the LMB site a year or two ago. He now works for the LA Coalition to End Hunger & Homelessness, focusing on Section 8 programs for affordable housing, I think. We chatted a bit about the protests and the mood in the streets. We laughingly decided that if there was one message that the protesters wanted to get out to the Republicans, it was “We hate you! We fucking hate you!” And while we meant that as a joke, there’s some truth to it. People are fucking angry at being screwed over, patronized, condescended and lied to by the conservatives in power. It seems that there is simply no point to trying to talk to or work with these elites, because they have no interest in your or in compromise. All you can do with these people is fight them.
All this time I was waiting for a phone call. My bosses had been given three hours of airtime on KROCK radio, where they would be playing political music and talking politics. Michael Moore would be joining them, and they said they’d call me for a live report from the protests.
That never ended up happening. I was a little irritated about that.
The march led to a rally very close to Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention itself.
A number of speakers talked about the march’s issues, but I noticed that the crowd steadily dwindled in size as time went on. I think this is a sign that political activists like to do something rather than listen to someone talk at them.
Saw a couple of familiar right-wing crazy signs.
Saw two very similar signs at an anti-war protest in LA back in the spring:
It really is odd. These nuts come around to many public events, including protests, and seem to focus on the message that you should stop all attempts to better the world, or have a good time, or anything. Just worship Jesus and go to heaven and shut up.
My highlight of the rally was the surprise appearance of the mighty Chuck D. He talked about how so many people want props for doing the right thing. “You never deserve props for doing the right thing. That’s just what you’re supposed to be doing!” So no one at the protest should feel like they should be congratulated. And he also referred to the old Public Enemy song, “Don’t Believe the Hype,” saying “this time around, if you don’t watch the hype, the hype’s gonna kick your ass.”
I stayed at the protest a lot longer than I’d intended, waiting for that phone call. When their radio show ended, I walked back home (at least the show had a decent playlist).
Grabbed some quick dinner at a restaurant at Port Authority bus terminal that night, and saw six soldiers in military fatigues. With machine guns. M-16s, I think. Nothing says safety like firepower.
And ended the night by seeing the new movie “Hero.” Couldn’t help but notice the irony: the movie’s about a man trying to take down an empire, yet the trailers before the movie included biopics about plutocrat Howard Hughes and conqueror Alexander the Great.
For more photos, click here.
Jake vs. the RNC: Day Four]]>