A Republican convention, I've learned, most closely resembles a parade at Disneyland. About as vanilla white as you can get. This, folks, ain't America by a long shot.
On Sunday, we were briefly in downtown Minneapolis, where against all logic there were hundreds of cops in riot gear patrolling the streets—on horseback, on bicycles, on Segways, in patrol cars. This made little sense to us, since civilized Minneapolis is a full 8 miles from where the real action is in downtown St. Paul. Maybe the cops were practicing in Minneapolis for the fun that was about to start in St. Paul the following day.
Early on Saturday we had received our first whiff of things to come. There were four or five surprise raids on the local homes of suspected "anarchists". The busts turned up lots of incriminating evidence, including slingshots and buckets of urine and feces. Oh yeah, and conveniently there were also the makings of molotov cocktails. As though folks whose weapons of choice are piss and shit really have the moxie to use real explosives.
The real message was apparent to everybody: cops had grabbed glass bottles in the homes, and found gas cans for lawn mower gasoline in the garages, and presto, chango—probable cause for violating their civil rights. The most egregious raid occurred at a home visited by a group of civil libertarians devoted to nothing more than videotaping the activities of police during public demonstrations. These weren't anarchists at all, yet the proclamation was that these dangerous folks had also been harboring weapons of some sort. This is MInnesota, after all, and most every home has an ancient shotgun once used to hunt pheasants.
Silly nonsense, really, but indicative of how much civil rights have dwindled in this time of homeland security.
In reality, things were a little dicier here in the Twin Cities than the carefully restricted media has let on. The silly "anarchists" with their bandana masks are getting most of the press and video airing—this is by intent, since it makes the entire protest movement look silly. In reality, fully 15,000 people marched from the capital to the convention center on Monday, the vast majority of them responsible middle-classed folks, and things were quite a bit scarier than is being seen on CNN and Fox. Many dozens of people with no intention of violence or confrontation of any kind received their first ever dose of tear-gas, something that really hasn't been used here in the Twin Cities since a University of MInnesota demonstration in 1972.
The presence of large squads of riot police in black swat gear is becoming a bit unnerving, and is starting to remind many of us old timers of images of Chicago in 1968. Thus far, I've been a good middle-aged citizen and have been mostly polite to the Republicans clogging the streets. However, there is another march scheduled for Thursday, and I'm giving some pretty serious thought to taking a step back to the early 1970s.
If I have to step around one more drunken Republican with a southern accent, all bets are off.