Reporting at the RNC

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 by Susan Van Haitsma (reposted from the makingpeace blog) 

It was good to talk yesterday with our local CodePink folks who were just back in Austin from St. Paul.  They described the full week of activities that took place surrounding the RNC, the barricaded ‘police state’ that made navigating the city a real challenge, the police (and national guard troops) who were sometimes pleasant and sometimes unnecessarily intimidating and provocative, often herding crowds of mostly young people into corralled areas where it was difficult or impossible to exit. 

Much has been made in the AAS of the two young men from Austin who are alleged to have been planning to use incendiary devices at the RNC.  It remains to be seen what happens in their cases and whether there was significant evidence that others had such violence in mind. 

The larger story is that the vast majority of the demonstrators were committed to using creative, nonviolent methods to draw attention to the issues that concern the majority of Americans about US policy, the current administration and the McCain/Palin campaign — and the mainstream press largely ignored it. 

Among the heroes in the story are the independent media – the writers, photographers and videographers who followed the action on the streets, even when they were targeted by the riot police along with the crowds.  Unlawful arrests of journalists at the RNC are being investigated after an outpouring of concern from readers, lawyers and other journalists around the country — but, again, not much mention from the established media about this breach of First Amendment freedoms. 

It’s interesting that many of those who call for harsh punishment of the two young men from Austin are also those who generally favor using violence to address violence.  These young men were apparently following the same line of thinking: “violence is the only language they understand.”

If you want young people to express themselves peacefully, then be good role models for doing so.  Don’t send hundreds of armed, masked, black-clad rambo-looking characters to provoke them.  Don’t feature only the stories of those who retaliate with violence.  I think the press has a responsibility to report the breadth and depth of the nonviolent ways people are rising up to reclaim their democratic ideals.  If nonviolent protest is not reported, that’s one more message to young people that only violent acts make the news.
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photos taken at the RNC by Heidi Turpin and Fran Hanlon of Austin CodePink