Protests

Anarchists Are Planning Lots of Violent, Extremist Things for the Conventions, Warns Law Enforcement

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The FBI and police warn, in a vague, but ominous sort of way, that anarchists and other "extremist" folks are planning scary things for the upcoming Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

Now, is there a good chance that when thousands of people, including some of the radical political persuasion, gather, some not okay property damage will happen? Of course. However, is there an even bigger chance that the rumored threats, which this time 'round include anarchists using improvised explosive devices and "acid-filled eggs" are wildly overhyped? Definitely.

Says CNN:

as of March, the FBI had intelligence indicating individuals from New York "planned to travel to Tampa and attempt to close" all of the Tampa Bay-area bridges during the Republican National Convention next week.

According to the document, the FBI's information as of March showed that anarchist extremists proposed "engaging in potentially destructive criminal activities against critical infrastructure outside the security perimeter throughout the Tampa Bay region because they expected access to the main RNC venue to be tightly controlled."

Now seems like a great time to point out what kind of "critical infrastructure" the RNC has. It includes A $50 million tax payer-funded"security perimeter" and other safety measure such as an eight-foot security fence, a $273,000 SWAT truck, and drones overhead. "Suspicious" bricks and pipes were recently seized by nervous Tampa Police, as were 16 prostitutes, for some reason. 

Also, as the Tampa Bay Times reports:

Fox News reported that the bulletin, titled "Potential For Violent or Criminal Action By Anarchist Extremists During The 2012 National Political Conventions," says extremists probably can't get past the high fences, roadblocks and other tight security that will surround the convention itself.

So instead, the network reported, the bulletin said extremists could target nearby infrastructure outside the convention's secure perimeter, including businesses and transit systems and could use tactics that include throwing Molotov cocktails or acid-filled eggs.

CNN reported the bulletin notes that anarchists have a history of trying to disrupt major events by blocking streets, intersections and bridges, interfering with business or public transportation and in some instances have "initiated violent confrontations with police." At the 2008 RNC in St. Paul, Minn., the bulletin said, anarchists discussed blocking bridges and skywalks, taking over a radio station, targeting corporations and identifying hotels where delegates were staying.

Do you know who else has a history of disrupting movement and blocking bridges and roadways? The planners and the police during every single G20, WTO, or RNC or DNC summit or conference. Not to condone violence, or even blocking average people's progress around the city, but it's hard to keep a straight face when there are dire Law Enforcement warnings of violations of "public safety" and "public transportation" when for three days, these events impede, harass, and stifle normal people from going about their business. 

And public safety is undoubtedly violated when police use violent tactics against protesters who pose no threat to anyone, even those with the audacity to trespass past the insane security lockdowns. So are the pre-emptive raids on anarchist gatherings, most notably pre-2008 RNC, but also most recently the FBI's search for "anarchist literature" in the homes of Occupy activists. That does not make me feel safe. Nor does this soothing PSA from the Tampa Police, even if they admit that anarchists are not particularly dangerous, just disruptive. It is good PR to say that you support, or understand, legitimate protest, but the extent that law enforcement will be controlling this event means that it's not really free speech.

Pittsburgh G-20, which I witnessed, was of course a perfect storm of law enforcement excess that mostly flew under the radar. A few black-clad protesters rolled a dumpster or two, the LRAD sound weapon was tested on said dumper-rollers, some more black-clad folks on the next night caused $50,000 in damages. But 200 people, mostly college students in their own neighborhoods, were arrested, pepper-gassed, and chased by hundreds of riot cops, with most arrested on the night after the conference was completed. 

The chance that a rogue protester at the RNC or DNC will do something worse than break a few windows is not zero, but the chance that cops will crack down on legitimate protest is much, much higher. It's pretty much a guarantee.