March organizers failed to protect message

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I was at the March on the Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul that took place Monday Sept 1 and was overwhelmed by the passion, the excitement, the vibrancy of the peaceful participants. I was particularly pleased to see the interaction between marchers: Somali immigrants protesting against the US-supported Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, and Palestinian marchers denouncing the occupation of Palestine and Iraq mingled with socialists, environmentalists, and with pro-immigrant Latino activists.

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Tens of thousands of young people, families, senior citizens, children in strollers, marched peacefully through downtown St. Paul and confronted the Republicans. However, this accomplishment was largely obscured by the actions of a few self-proclaimed “anarchists” that most likely had no idea of what Bakunin stood for, or how Buenaventura Durruti successfully fought fascism in the true spirit of anarchism.

I have participated in large protest marches in Latin America, and seen them in Europe, and the organizers of these events were determined not to let unruly elements take over the message or use the peaceful march as cover for independent action. Control of the message is a must, and the Minnesota organizers failed at this.

The organizers of Monday’s march and also of the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign allowed the anarchists and others to hijack the message, turning off many potential supporters. I have been reading the RNC Welcoming Committee web page for months, where they clearly indicated that they wanted to engage in violent confrontation. Nobody can claim that the anarchists’ violence was unexpected, but still the organizers allowed them to join the marches.

A far more effective approach would have been to eject the anarchists from the marches or, if this was not practical, then the organizers should have condemned the anarchists’ behavior and supported the police actions afterwards. Yes, supported the police. This would have been the politically smart course to take. Could you imagine the positive feedback of having the march organizers stand side by side with the chief of police at a joint press conference praising the peaceful marches and denouncing the mindless actions of a few?

Being angry and violent and acting without thinking is counterproductive. Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela taught us that civil disobedience and even direct action may indeed be useful tools in the fight against oppression, be it from the Republicans, or from anti-Muslim bigots or from supporters of Zionism, but these are only tools, to be used as needed and when convenient, and not the objective themselves. We are wasting time focusing on the cops and the rest of the repressive system now in place; we must instead use the media to focus on the message: that we reject the McCain-Palin policies of hate and prejudice against Muslims, against immigrants and against peace.

En la lucha,
Francisco J. Gonzalez

Francisco J. Gonzalez is originally from Puerto Rico, an attorney by profession with experience on pro-immigrant causes. He currently resides in Cottage Grove.