Convention security concerns

When you invite a political convention to your city, you invite the protest and the pageantry.

In 2004, the national conventions for the Democratic and Republican parties featured a lot of posturing and pomp and also a lot of protesting. In Boston, where the Democrats held their convention, public demonstrations were relegated to the Orwellian “free speech zones,” flung blocks away from the actual convention sites. Security concerns were used as the justification for these tactics. The real goal behind these measures was to keep protests out of sight and out of mind -and hopefully out of the press.

At the Republican National Convention in New York City, protesters weren’t just ignored; some 1,800 were arrested, including many bystanders not even involved in the protests. Last week, The New York Times reported that on one day alone, over 1,100 people were taken into custody and brought to a holding pen on a pier near the Hudson River where they were held for an average of 32 hours on a charge equivalent to a traffic ticket, while people accused of crimes like assault and robbery were allowed to see a judge far sooner. Every protester was fingerprinted and had their background checked, despite the fact that there was no legal requirement for doing so. These records were made public only recently because the city of New York had been fighting to keep them secret. They knew very well that such heavy-handed repression of free speech would reflect badly on their city.

With the Twin Cities playing host to the Republican National Convention in 2008, we hope these examples will serve as grim reminders of what not to do in the name of maintaining order. Security is a top concern, but detaining protesters or sending them out of eyesight doesn’t serve that cause.

When you invite a political convention to your city, especially in the times we live in today, you invite the protest along with the pageantry. No one wants the 1968 Democratic National Convention melee to happen again, but stifling dissent with these tactics is unconstitutional and unacceptable. We hope the Twin Cities will show they’re above such shenanigans.