Article and photos by Brenda Norrell
DENVER -- When I went to the Democratic National Convention, to cover the political prisoners rally and march, I didn't realize I would witness the police provocation and arrests of a new wave of political prisoners during the week. The peoples' crime was to be peace activists, or merely to be present in the streets during the convention. Lucky for me, I couldn't afford to make it to the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. No doubt I would have been arrested with the other media in the streets, photographing unprovoked police brutality.
At the political prisoners rally in Denver, members of the American Indian Movement, Black Panthers and Mexican American rights movements, made a bold statement that the oppression, torture and surveillance of the US government here and abroad has not silenced their voices.
Dressed in orange jumpsuits and hoods, another group brought the spirit of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the reality of US torture, kidnapping and murder of detainees, to the streets of Denver.
At the Republican convention, police were even more out of control than in Denver, arresting and jailing more than 800 people, including journalists and medics. Today, Democracy Now! announced that charges were dropped against host Amy Goodman, among the journalists arrested at the Republican convention.
The St. Paul City Attorney’s office announced Friday it will not prosecute Goodman and her fellow staff, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman also issued a statement Friday that "the city will decline to prosecute misdemeanor charges for presence at an unlawful assembly for journalists arrested during the Republican National Convention."
The announcement came two weeks after the conclusion of the Republican National Convention where over 40 journalists were arrested.
Goodman said, “It’s good that these false charges have finally been dropped, but we never should have been arrested to begin with. These violent and unlawful arrests disrupted our work and had a chilling effect on the reporting of dissent. Freedom of the press is also about the public’s right to know what is happening on their streets." Goodman pressed for a full investigation of law enforcement activities.
Goodman was arrested while asking police to release Kouddous and Salazar who had been violently arrested while reporting on street demonstrations. After being handcuffed and pushed to the ground, Goodman reiterated that she was was a credentialed reporter. Secret Service then ripped the credential from around her neck, according to Democracy Now!
During demonstrations on the first day of the convention police used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and force against protesters and journalists. Several dozen demonstrators were arrested, as was a photographer for the Associated Press. The YouTube video of Goodman’s arrest was viewed over 830,000 times.
Along with the journalists, medics were arrested and jailed at the RNC, including the Portland Street Medics who served during both conventions, working days and nights to serve the people. Meanwhile, back in Denver, the political prisoners march and rally did not disappoint. As the people marched from the civic center to the federal courthouse through downtown, the crowd grew by hundreds. Their voices rose up through the high rises. The police on the scene at the courthouse, from Aurora, Colorado, pulled their weapons on the people. This was followed by a legal observer yelling at the officers to put their weapons away. Eventually the police did.
One after another, in front of the federal courthouse, the people told how people of color in this country -- black, American Indian and Chicano -- are targeted by police and repeatedly are the victims of manufactured evidence.
Further, people of color are given longer prison sentences than whites in this country, a fact verified by statistics of the ACLU. In American Indian bordertowns, being targeted by police is called "DWI: Driving While Indian." Those speeches can be heard at http://www.earthcycles.net/, including Ben Carnes, Choctaw, reading a statement written by Leonard Peltier. The voice of Mumia Abu Jamal was heard from Death Row.
In this age of electronic surveillance, out of control police and Nazi-style prisons for profit based on incarcerating migrants and other people of color, the people took to the streets and let their voices be heard. In this way, the cold, iron doors were opened for truth and freedom.
The Recreate '68's "Freedom March and Rally for Human Rights and Political Prisoners," speakers were: Pamela Africa of MOVE Organization; Ben Carnes for the Leonard Peltier Defense; Rosa Clemente, US Vice Presidential Candidate for the Green Party; Kathleen Cleaver of The Panther Nine from San Francisco; King Downing, National Coordinator of the ACLU's Campaign Against Racial Profiling; Jenny Esquiveo, spokesperson for Eric McDavid, political prisoner; Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., Prisoners of Conscience Committee and Mumia Abu Jamal, current political prisoner recorded from Death Row. They were joined by Cha Cha Jimenez, founder of the Young Lords, Puerto Rican Resistance Prisoners; Ricardo Romero, National Coordinator for the Mexican Liberation Organization; Natsu Saito, author, activist, and human rights scholar, Guantanamo Inmates and a spokesperson for the Cuban Five.
In this era of George Bush, secret renditions and Abu Ghraib, the spirit of resistance lives.