RNC protesters agree to a diversity of tactics

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“Come join a discussion of past experiences, concerns and plans for how to make the RNC demonstrations powerful,” read an email in my inbox. My interest was immediately piqued.

The RNC Welcoming Committee, whose goal is to “Crash the Convention,” hosted the gathering. The RNC-WC describes itself as an “anarchist and anti-authoritarian organizing body” created to protest the Republican National Convention (RNC), which will be held in St. Paul in September.

The RNC will be held from Monday, September 1 through, September 4, 2008 at the Xcel Energy Center hosting about 45,000 guests from all over the country. The RiverCenter Convention Center will host 15,000 members of different international media outlets. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development highlights here the economic impacts to the city and its residents during these four days.

In tightly packed room, more than 70 mostly anti-war and civil rights activists shared their past protesting experiences. The informal meeting was called to create a space for different protesting groups to work together in what was referred to as “diversity of tactics.”

Simply put, “diversity of tactics” means that activists will respect each others’ methods of protesting, allowing each other time and space in which to conduct their protests. Many cited the World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle as a successful protest from which lessons on mass mobilization should be drawn. Others spoke of their experience as anti-war activists during the Vietnam War.

Perhaps it was a fear of the unknown in a large meeting that made it impossible for participants to discuss the different tactics that would be used to protest the RNC. Or maybe it was the stories of the past and present told by some in the room: undercover police dressed as young activists, FBI investigators who were already “snooping” on activists, arrests made of non-violent protestors, among many others.

High energy, however, was evident as group shared a common goal—“let the Republican Party know that the American people are against the war in Iraq.”

The RNC-WC has agreed on four principles for effective protests: solidarity based on respect for a diversity of tactics, these different actions and tactics will be organized to maintain a separation of time and space, letting internal conflicts among the groups, if any, stay internal, and an agreement not to assist law enforcement actions against activists and others.

On May 16, several groups interested in protesting the convention will meet at the Federal Courts in Minneapolis seeking an injunction that will make the City of St. Paul to issue permits for different anti-war march on the RNC in September.

Nekessa Opoti is the publisher of kenyaimagine.com, a Kenyan online magazine and newspaper.