Republican delegates arriving in Tampa for the convention this week will likely find one thing more oppressive than the humidity: hordes of motley Occupiers, political puppeteers, Teamsters, Code Pink activists dressed as giant female body parts, open-borders extremists, vegan Marxists, and tattooed anarchists, all assembling for their quadrennial temper tantrum.
One major target is the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and anything ever associated with him. Plans include a tent city called “Romneyville” and protests against any companies assisted by Romney’s old firm, Bain Capital.
The purpose, in line with the campaign against the Republican Party being waged by the Obama presidential campaign and its Super PACs, is to depict Romney as a heartless capitalist, oblivious to the suffering of people who can’t make it in the modern economic system.
It is as yet unclear how many protesters will trek to Tampa and endure the heat. Nonetheless, in a ritual that grows more sophisticated with every new Occupy camp and political convention, protesters and their ACLU lawyers have been “in negotiation” with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the city council for several months, demanding permits, demanding special restraints on the police, and threatening lawsuits if they don’t get their way.
The threat is not an empty one. After the 2004 Republican Convention in New York City, the ACLU published a 69-page report, Rights and Wrongs at the RNC, detailing the extensive legal campaign they waged to suppress the police’s ability to keep order during anti-RNC protests. The report was funded by George Soros, who is thanked in the endnotes. Soros is also a major donor supporting the ACLU’s many campaigns against law enforcement.
Rights and Wrongs at the RNC is now the leftist playbook for applying legal and financial pressure on cities before, during, and after protests. Municipalities that dare to host economic summits or try to rein in illegal Occupy encampments find themselves, and especially their police, virtually held hostage by the media strategies and legal actions detailed throughout the manual.
Ordinary citizens (and groups like the Tea Party) cannot stroll into city hall and demand special rules of engagement when dealing with the police. But this is precisely what is being done on behalf of Occupy protesters in city halls and university presidents’ offices across the country. Fear of legal backlash was one reason so many elected officials seemed paralyzed last autumn in the face of the Occupiers’ refusal to obey municipal laws.
The protesters who are about to hit Tampa’s streets, no matter how garish-looking or headline-grabbing, are mere pawns in this chess game. The lawsuits and forced “negotiations” being played out behind closed doors are where the real action is taking place.
And in this game, threats of violence are another crucial chess piece. The ACLU and protest leaders repeatedly insist that they have nothing to do with the violence that erupts in the vicinity of their “peaceful” marches. Yet in reality, violent protest serves their needs. The lawyers file police brutality charges if the police take any action to stop rioters, and they accuse the police of “failing to protect” the public and other protesters if the police don’t stop the riots quickly enough. No matter what police do, they are automatically accused of “silencing free speech.”
The media can’t get enough of the free speech angle, even if it doesn’t apply in any way to the reality on the ground, where rioters smash store windows and mob police vans.
Police in Oakland, New York City, St. Paul, Chicago and elsewhere have endured a sort of multi-pronged legal attack ever since the 1999 WTO riots devastated Seattle’s business district and set anti-globalization protesters on a new course. A dozen years later, after every new clash between protesters and police, police alone are subjected to drawn-out public inquiries and lawsuits. Even when they are found to have been behaving professionally, the police receive re-training, new limitations for engaging even the most violent protesters, and, sometimes, personal consequences.
In another case, the UC Davis pepper spray incident from November 2011, police were acquitted of charges of behaving inappropriately after an internal affairs committee found that the off-camera actions of the U.C. Davis protesters constituted a real threat. Yet, campus police officer John Pike, who used pepper-spray to disperse the protesters, was still dismissed from his job recently.
In spite of the ubiquity of the legal chess game, it remains largely unexamined. Less than a week before the convention, the Tampa media have not scrutinized the acceptance of violence as a strategy by the main activist groups coordinating the anti-RNC protests, and there has been sparse coverage of the violent protesters coming to Tampa. This November 2011 article on anarchist protesters, by Tampa Bay Times reporter Jessica Vander Velde, is an exception.
The litmus test for participating in the new protest movements is “respecting a diversity of actions,” sophisticated wordplay that means, specifically, that no protester should stop another protester from using violence or vandalism, nor should they report them to authorities if they know of such plans in advance.
Occupy the RNC, which is billed as the “above-ground coordinating committee” for protest marches against the Tampa RNC, affirms the “diversity of tactics” pledge as part of the “Tampa Principles” detailed on their website:
- Our solidarity will be based on respect for a political diversity within the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. As individuals and groups, we may choose to engage in different tactics and plans of action but are committed to treating each other with respect.
- We reject all attempts to create divisions among our movements. We agree to not publicly criticize other parts of our movement or cooperate with state or media efforts to portray good protester/bad protester.
- The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain appropriate separations of time and space between divergent tactics. We will commit to respecting each other’s organizing space and the tone and tactics they wish to utilize in that space.
This pledge is actually an endorsement of violence, not non-violence. Yet, Occupy the RNC angrily asserts elsewhere on their website that they are not endorsing violence. This is an obfuscation of both the meaning and application of the “diversity of tactics” pledge. It is also hardly believable, coming from an entity that goes to great lengths to conceal its identity while angrily lashing out at police and other targets.
Yet the main protest planners, including Food Not Bombs, Occupy the RNC, and other Occupy groups, all subscribe to “diversity of tactics.” Activist-journalist Natasha Lennard confirms that the adoption of the Tampa Principles allows for the possibility of violent protest in Tampa:
The question is this: why is Tampa falling for it? Why did the mayor and the Tampa City Council spend months submitting to drawn-out “negotiations” with the ACLU and protest groups without insisting on a public disavowal of “diversity of tactics” and violent protest itself, in order to prevent another Seattle ‘99, New York City 2000, Philadelphia 2004, St. Paul 2008, or Chicago 2012, where anti-NATO protests recently left several police officers injured?
Tampa officials are bending over backwards to accommodate the protesters. While access to the convention site is reasonably limited for security reasons, Mayor Bob Buckhorn outrageously chose to use $57,000 in taxpayer money to rent an empty lot for protesters to “occupy” 24/7 in sight of it. Leaflets are being distributed by the city and the ACLU advising protesters of their rights and offering them access to an official hotline. It seems Tampa officials are acting on the hope that, given enough free demonstration sites, free watering stations, and stroking from public officials, anarchists won’t maraud on city streets.
But none of this will placate protesters who have havoc as their goal. It doesn’t even placate the ACLU officials, who are feigning cooperation with Tampa police. Florida ACLU President Mike Pheneger complains that, by refusing to grant protest permits for sites in the heart of the convention district, Tampa is passing up an opportunity for “a nice, neat, tidy kind of exercise in first amendment rights.” This sort of statement, which willfully denies the real threat of violence, is a merely a warm-up to the lawsuits that will be filed by Pheneger’s group, regardless of the goodwill Tampa demonstrates to protesters.
While some local politicians are unwilling or unable to address the likely prospect of violence, it is a known fact that local and federal law enforcement agencies are greatly concerned. In particular, the anarchist groups and the Ruckus Society are drawing official concern. It is important, as the Republican convention gets underway and goes forward, that the media reveal the true nature of the professional agitators coming to Tampa and their plans to blame the police for any confrontations that may occur.