People from all across the country met on the Republican National Convention’s opening night — and not just inside Xcel Energy Center.
The 2008 National Truth Commission heard testimony at a September 1 hearing held at Christ Lutheran Church in St. Paul, located a few blocks away from the convention site. Many testified, accusing the U.S. government of human rights violations in health care and housing.
“People are suffering and people are in pain,” declared Ajamu Baraka of the U.S. Human Rights Network. “We have a system and a government that does not recognize the fundamental humanity of people who are poor and working class.”
“The [federal] government can spend millions on a war but can’t take care of its people,” said Carol Sawall-Smith of Chicago.
Too many corporations violate human rights because they refuse to contribute more in health premiums for their employees, said Ethel Long-Scott of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project of Oakland, California. Charging both Republican and Democratic officials for not doing more and saying that the two political parties “have bloody hands,” Long-Scott added, “We deserve to live better.”
“I do not want to depend on others,” admitted 50-year-old Annette Toney from Cleveland, Ohio, explaining that her meager earnings can’t pay for the health care she needs.
Ann Patterson, a Minneapolis nurse, said her husband recently lost his job. “We’ve used our credit cards, savings, and our children’s savings,” said the mother of five, including two with ongoing health concerns. “We are not able to make it. It is stressful.”
Rev. Gregory Lockett of Tampa, Florida, disclosed that oftentimes he has been “dishonest” to get needed medications for his heart disease “because if I told [officials] the truth, they would tell me to go someplace else.”
Bruce Dawson of Philadelphia emotionally related the story of his brother who was diagnosed with a tumor the size of a small ball, which eventually grew to basketball-like proportions. “It took him over a year to get health care because he didn’t have any insurance,” said Dawson, who added that his sibling recently died from cancer.
“We need a healthcare reform with values that is going to treat everyone with a life of dignity that we all deserve,” said Heather McLaughlin, a community worker with the Women’s Economic Agenda Project.
Donte Davis said that he and his two children live in a crowded, one-bedroom apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. “They don’t understand any of this,” said Davis of his children’s reaction to their present living conditions.
Pleaded Willie “J.R.” Fleming of Chicago, “I am human. I deserve human rights. If you won’t do it for me, [then] do it for my  children.”
Surmised Minnesota Tenants Union’s Peter Brown, a Truth Commission member,
“Based on the testimony that we heard, it is a clear challenge of politicians of all parties to step up.”
“I am excited that the Truth Commission met,” said Green Party vice-presidential candidate Rose Clement.
An estimated 2,000 marched from St. Paul’s Mears Park to the State Capitol lawn September 2 in the “March for Our Lives,” sponsored by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.
It was probably one of the most peaceful events compared to several others marred by clashes between police and marchers. “There seems to be an overemphasis on a military presence, and it was shocking,” said Baraka.
Police, protesters clash on final day
Police regiments were dressed from head to toe in riot gear, looking less like peace officers and more like commandos as they blocked off bridges to stop demonstrators from going into downtown St. Paul September 4.
“We are just wondering if what we are watching is a police state,” said a 30-year-old man from St. Paul as he and others stood near the John Ireland Boulevard bridge over Interstate 94.
“I decided to come out here to see what is going on,” said St. Paul City Council Member Melvin Carter III, who also was a Democratic National Convention delegate. Asked if this clash between police and protesters occurred in Denver, he said, “I didn’t see any of this type of stuff, but that doesn’t necessary mean that there wasn’t [similar situations]. We were inside the convention center the whole time.”
The protesters later moved through to the Marion Street bridge where they and police clashed — nearly 100 persons were arrested according to police reports.
A 27-year-old Minneapolis mother of two, who works across the street from the convention site, was an unwilling spectator. “I’ve been [here] since 3:30 trying to get across the street. I was supposed to have been at work at five pm,” said the woman, who did not want her name published.
“From Sunday to Thursday, it has been crazy,” she continued. Even though employees were given limited access badges, police officers wouldn’t let her get to work without being stopped. “Somebody from the CNN Grill [where she works] would have to come get me.”
Because of the convention, “I had to walk from Rice Street and University all the way back over here to get to work every day. It [took] me at least 30 minutes. Then, when I [get] off at one in the morning, the police are so rude they won’t even let you through the gates. They make you go all the way around, walk over the sky bridge and then to the corner.”
Once at work, the patrons, most of whom were convention folk, bothered her as well. “It feels like you [were] in the KKK meeting with all the White people. They [were] rude as hell to you,” the woman said, recalling an incident involving a Black male coworker.
“This White lady who was part of the Republican Party picked up her food and was going to throw it in the trash. There was a thing of chili on the table, and she told [the coworker], ‘You can eat that if you want to [because] nobody touched it.’ My co-worker was so mad — ‘I am not a dog and this ain’t slavery days. I don’t need your scraps,’ he told her.”
The stranded worker said she was glad the convention and everything else surrounding it was about over. “I got food to buy and bills to pay. They are messing with my money.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or read his blog: www.ww wchallman.blogspot.com.