Making sense of ISAG protesters

If you think your right to free speech is protected, try talking back to power. You will be allowed to make your argument only as long as you are in a forum where there is no danger of anyone hearing. As soon as you begin organizing, you will be silenced. This is the only conclusion I can draw from Monday’s protest, which rapidly transformed into a vulgar display of police power in which police cornered non-violent protesters and tortured us with chemical weapons, riot batons, and rubber bullets paid for with our tax dollars.
Adding insult to injury is the complicity of the press, who failed to challenge the disgusting police behavior. How did the police-initiated violence I witnessed from the front of the march get recast as a necessary and retaliative use of force? Two cameramen from network stations were themselves brutalized, yet the story on these networks reinforced the police’s right to initiate Monday’s disgusting spectacle. The police will repeat such behavior until public opinion is mobilized against them. When such dissenters decide to express themselves, I suggest they avoid taking to the streets.
Police claim that protesters “threw rocks at police,” yet with so many cameras and news helicopters filming the events, where is the footage of the alleged attack on police? This report is accepted on faith, as is the connection between protesters downtown and the suspects who released suspicious chemicals in a McDonald’s. However, the chemical was released by an individual who wasn’t a part of the collective action, while the collective was trapped between lines of riot police.
Beginning at Peavey Plaza, a group of assorted protesters planned to walk the sidewalks with several messages, including: the dangers of faith in science, tthe possible health hazards of genetically modified foods, the rights of animals to freedom from genetic mutation, the proposed creation of a genetically enriched master race and the specific questions of property and capital raised by the patenting of DNA. You don’t have to be an anti-capitalist to question if existing intellectual property laws are applicable to unique genetic information.
There are also scientific reasons for our concerns. In 1918, 20 million people were killed worldwide when an influenza virus jumped from pigs to humans. Now, scientists are creating pigs with human-compatible donor organs. This further corrupts the firewall between human and animal genetic codes.
Our belief that Science is not exempt from moral judgment aligns us with a long tradition of activism, yet we are dismissed with the new epithet “Protester”, connoting a myth of violent Seattle flat-earthers. We aren’t opposed to cures or to feeding the hungry, but the solutions to these problems are social, not scientific. Existing technology can solve most of them. The reason genetic research is such a boom industry is that there is enormous profit to be made by the companies sponsoring the research. These corporations won’t be giving new cures to the sick or providing food to the third world. Research is being dictated by investment.
The only accurate observation made by the media was that our messages were lost. These messages could, of course, be resurrected, but it is the convention of television news to interpret events in level and pleasant tones, over even the most outrageous visual examples of police violence. What if, instead of interpretive blather that reassures viewers with unconfirmed reports of protester-instigated violence, pictures of protesters being beaten were joined by their own statements about their purposes and the treatment they received? Before we broke through a police line, we were surrounded by riot cops on all sides, with a phalanx of 100 advancing from behind. We were pepper sprayed one by one, although we were trapped and motionless. We offered to disperse, but there was no way out. This was omitted by the media. Whose opinion was pursued? Police Chief Robert Olson, who responded with a predictably police-affirmative soundbite.
Since the Kent State Massacre, the rights to free speech and assembly in the U.S. have never been under such extreme attack as they were in Minneapolis on Monday. At Kent State, the students were demonstrating against an unjust and unwinnable war. What message do Minneapolis’ protesters have that needs to be so thoroughly and violently kept from your ears?

Collier White is A&E film editor and can be reached at [email protected]