Chip Berlet on “Convention Protesters To Be Treated As Terrorists”

Political Research Associates‘ veteran investigator Chip Berlet has an excellent backgrounder on how political this year’s political conventions are run. The most interesting part to me is was his discussion of Marc Sageman and Bruce Hoffman, authors who have a paranoid interpretation of grassroots political organizing equating a decentralized movement with decentralized terrorist networks. Law enforcement is transposing the “lessons” of fighting terrorism overseas onto domestic politics.

Convention Protesters To Be Treated As Terrorists
By Chip Berlet, Political Research Associates
Huffington Post: off the bus
Posted August 22, 2008 | 03:25 PM (EST)
…Social science research into the handling of demonstrations at major events across the United States since the Seattle protests in 1999 reveals a pattern of distorted threat analysis and repeated police abuses…U.S. government polices involving crowd control, violence, and terrorism under the Bush administration have slipped back toward outdated social science models on collective behavior and paranoid right-wing political ideologies linking radical political dissent to subversion and armed revolt. … To justify this, government counterterrorism “experts” warn that violence-prone cells are bubbling up through a domestic network in which radical ideology leads inexorably to “homegrown terrorism.” This was the same paranoid analytical model through which it was claimed during the Cold War that political radicals were on a slippery slope toward collectivism, socialism, communism, and then armed insurrection.

…Read the rest of the article here.

Major party political conventions have been increasingly militarized. Its easy to trace this back to the 1968 Democratic convention or to the war fever spreading since 2001. The two 2004 conventions in (New York and Boston) were effectively insulated from the cites around them by bus convoys for he delegates and ‘free speech zones‘ for the protesters. But I have heard anecdotally that protests at the 1976 Democratic convention gathered across the street from Madison Square Garden on the steps of the Manhattan Post Office. However, there were significant protests around both the 2000 Democratic and Republican conventions. The police preparation and behavior during the protests were significantly more militarized than in the past.

What happened in the 1990’s was the development of free trade pacts. When the Democratic Party under Clinton endorsed NAFTA, it removed the last remnants of New Deal employment and industrial development from its platform and with it from U.S. mainstream politics.

Protests at the 1996 conventions were muted. The 2000 conventions, however, occurred just after the 1999 Seattle WTO ministerial meeting. As Anup Shah notes, writing in 2001 for Global Issues, the Seattle protesters were rallying in favor of democracy together with trade issues. The state has continued to seek law enforcement management of protests instead of democratic solutions. The political environment has only become more closed, expensive and top-heavy. The continuation of protests is and indication that democracy is as much of an issue now as in 1999.

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Posted on August 24, 2008, in Analysis, News, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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