At the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, police lines advanced through protesters, shot tear gas, and clubbed students. The violence was splashed across the front page of every major paper. Some say the Convention doomed the chances of Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey. Will New York in 2004 define Generation X in a similar way?
History, from the last four years at least, suggests that New York may well resemble Chicago. The refusal of permits and massive build-up of security measures points toward a pattern of suppressing dissent, exemplified by the 2000 Republican Convention in Philadelphia and the protests at the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) talks in Florida last November.
I have no doubt that there will be ample police violence in New York, and possibly at the Democratic Convention in Boston as well. The question is whether the media will have the intestinal fortitude to report it this time around--and I have serious misgivings about that. Judging by the recent record, the outlook is not good. A case in point is the coverage afforded the aforementioned FTAA protests. Stonington continues:
[P]rotests at the FTAA talks last November saw the use of unrestrained violence by police. For instance, members of the Miami-Dade County's Independent Review Panel of police actions said, in a draft report released a few weeks ago, "Civil rights were trampled and the socio-political values we hold dear we undermined."
In fact, Stonington's description of the police brutality in Chicago applies almost word-for-word to what happened in Miami--except that the protesters weren't necessarily students, and the police had added tasers and rubber bullets to their arsenal.
How much of the violence was reported in the mainstream media?
A search at the New York Times website for any articles about FTAA and Miami from November 1, 2003, to the present returns...nothing.
A similar search of the LA Times yields 8 stories. Of those, only this one is about the protests:
Miami Plans for Wave of Protests at Trade Meeting
[John F. Timoney] said his force of more than 1,000 officers has received training on how to ignore verbal insults impugning their sexuality, ethnicity and parentage. Special squads have been formed to swiftly dismantle "sleeping dragons," the human chains reinforced with PVC pipe, concrete barrels and other materials that antiglobalization protesters have used in the past to paralyze the flow of traffic and people.
There is no record, as far as I know, of any "sleeping dragons" in Miami; nor is there any reasonable doubt that the police illegally and violently stifled peaceful dissent there. But it was hardly "splashed across the front page of every major paper." Why? Because the corporations that own the major news media are in favor of "free trade," and they aren't eager to print stories that conflict with their self-interest. Those same corporations short-sightedly believe they stand to gain from the Bush League's pro-corporate agenda, and will again be loath to bite the hand that feeds them.
Police violence will occur at the GOP convention, and it will be recorded by thousands of amateurs with VCRs, cameras, audio cassettes, and old-fashioned paper and pencil. Their accounts will be published in blogs, online journals, and independent news media. The job of every partiotic American will be to make sure that the mainstream press is held accountable for covering the story too. Keep a watchful eye on indy media coverage of the convention, and make sure your local news outlets hear from you when they fail to tell the whole story.