okay, so we need the numbers. perhaps i hold entirely too much confidence in our rights as citizens and the constitution in general to in any way be an effective revolutionist. i must admit also here, that i am currently very conflicted about a violent/nonviolent philosophy, given, the times and physical environment that we occupy. but, it seems to me that even if we formed a militia and marched on the capital and demanded a government for the people and by the people, we - in all technical and "legal" ways - would have yet to break a single constitutional law. so how could they even touch us?
it has been almost a year since junkyard empire performed a weeklong series of protest and awareness campaign concerts in and around the twin cities during the 2008 republican national convention held in saint paul minnesota. i spent the week attending and deciding to miss some of the first week of classes in order to experience what i now call "reality education" on the streets of saint paul. junkyard empire had a protest rally/show scheduled for almost every day of the convention, and in some cases, more than one show a day. what transpired, impacted us to the extent that we all agreed to write about our experiences in order to inform and/or simply relate our sense of confoundedment and simultaneous reassurance that junkyard empire is exactly the right position for us to be, creating art and generally speaking truth if you will. after more than nine months, i guess i am ready to do so.
there was a march of the poor people's contingent scheduled on the first day of the convention. i headed to saint paul to meet up with everyone in order to show our solidarity with people's rights everywhere. on the bus, i noticed a much elevated sense of community as the majority of us commuters where headed to the march - many with gas masks and goggles at hand. i, being from north dakota, hadn't ever been apart of any such political event.
we showed up at the state capital mall, where the march was assembling - and where, in four days, i would experience one of those life altering powerful moments on stage. as more and more people congregated and speeches were told to remind us that, yes indeed, we all showed up in the same place at relatively the same time for a common purpose, the march set forth. i remember being impressed with the sheer number of people taking the street and marching down toward the convention, legally.
as the march approached the excel center - the site of the republican national convention - or rather, came within approximately 1,000 feet, the crowd was surrounded by fences and "herded" into a roughly 20 foot wide by 10 foot tall gated coral away from the excel center. there was ONE person, banging on a kettle and telling the crowd to "enter at your own risk" at the entrance gates - i.e. lockable doors - but through sheer shock and inertia, the crowd carried through and into the confined passage.
i remember distinctly that it took a few minutes to really understand what was happening, and by that point, i was already in the gate gazing at hundreds of signs reading "let us win in iraq" and "freedom isn't free" through a series of two 10 foot tall nonpenetrable fencing. my initial fear was of the safety of the thousands of confined people. what if a riot or violence of any kind erupted? where would i go? i was, after all - and all in the name of "public safety" - confined to a relatively small and very densely populated space, with nowhere to retreat toward personal safety.
but then set in outrage. observing that the momentum of the crowd had shifted from excited patriotic expression of dissatisfaction over totalitarian politics executed under the guise of american democracy to nervousness. the crowed literally hushed to nothing - simply a group of scared, and concerned cattle walking through a gated, guarded and inescapable passageway. i had some time to contemplate our situation in the still quiet of the crowd.
then it broke; with "freedom isn't free" through two fences on each side of me, 10 feet of industrial perforated steel, snipers on every roof, and a line of riot patrol palming their sticks, grenades, riffles and tear gas - like snake's tongues rhythmically and excitedly dancing through the air in search of prey - from behind bullet-proof vests, goggles, impact masks and shields while creating an obvious and controlled march route. day one.
we played at an outdoor music festival hosted by the black dog cafe in lowertown. there were very few people attending due to what we later learned was a massive police blockade, preventing any downtown access to lowertown because a rage against the machine show was predetermined by big brother to be dangerous, unlawful, and downright unpatriotic. day two.
the schedule had us performing at a local restaurant/bar in minneapolis the next evening, a place that we had performed previously that has a generally enjoyable atmosphere. taking a short break from the front lines, this show didn't involve any tear gas or bullets - rubber or otherwise.
day four: last minute, junkyard empire is asked to perform for a march rally on the capital steps by the anti-war committee. here, the march was to assemble for speeches, some - hopefully - inspirational music and march on the excel center. during a verse of "rise of the wretched" the police stormed upon the crowed, towering from horses and surrounded an individual in order to make a perceived arrest.
"rise of the wretched" faltered for a brief moment, as we collectively and instinctively decided to improvise live protest music - in the stead of music for protest. the band was directly feeding from energy in the crowd as they surrounded the police forces and began chanting "let them go". taking a hendrix moment, the music delved into extreme freedom through beautiful dissonance.
this blatant attack on a peaceful gathering was a pathetic attempt to break the perseverance of the people. the anit-war march left, as scheduled toward the excel center, under a declared "expired permit" to protest. junkyard empire re-joined the march at what appeared to be a stalemate against a police blockade. here, were massive trucks lining the streets to prevent any forward progress toward the national convention, where mccain was to speak in a few hours. the beds of these trucks were filled with armed forces aiming guns at a crowd of otherwise placid citizens simply holding their ground - sitting, communicating and gently expressing their first amendment rights to free speech.
all exits where cut off; surrounded, beaten, gassed - the evidence of which destroyed. in all, more than 400 protestors, journalists and lawyers where arrested. the night streets of saint paul erupted with concussion grenades, tear gas, riffle shots and explosions, while speeches were made of freedom, prosperity, god's virtue and the value of life from inside the comfort of a climate-controlled excel center.
i don't want anything to do with it. this false democracy, hypocritical chastisings of other nation's political and economic processes and feeble demonstrations skewed by a privatized mega media. people suffer, people thirst, people hunger and people die in poverty here in america. people are also shot, arrested and detained of pre-cognating crimes of "terrorism" through simply demonstrating constitutionally granted political dissent here in america.
we support slave labor with an artificial market for diamond rings to symbolize eternal love, our purchase of coffee, and the clothes on our back. we currently have the greatest disparity of wealth and power in the history of our country. a select few of the people cannot pass a message of truth through the airwaves of the rich. those with enough courage to speak of personal integrity and innovation through non-conformity dissent are restrained and prevented from assembling. we need the numbers, we need the impact - the dissatisfaction and the climate are ripe.
in lue of a decent conclusion, there is this:
"I knew that the moment the great governing spirit strikes the blow to divide all humanity into just two opposing factions, I would be on the side of the common people."
- Ernesto Guevara, Becoming Che - Carlos Ferrera