Nearly eight months later, accused activists feel supported

About 50 people packed into a Coffman Union conference room in support of the RNC 8; one came in dissent.

About 50 people showed up to support the RNC 8 at Coffman Union on Wednesday night at a meeting that was meant to fuse the community together in support of the anarchist activists accused of plotting to violently disrupt the Republican National Convention. The activists rallied support from the crowd, and petitioned them to continue showing up at RNC 8 functions and sharing the RNC 8 story. This was the first organized University of Minnesota campus event addressing the RNC 8. It was organized by a socialist group and Friends of the RNC 8, a network of backers. But a lone audience member, who went to the event after seeing a flyer marked âÄúDefend the RNC8! âÄù posted on campus, spoke up against the activists in a rare show of dissent at an RNC 8 event. The psychology sophomore named Alex , whose last name is being withheld because of his stated fear of negative recourse from RNC 8 supporters, questioned the activists during the meeting about what exactly they intended to do. He left the meeting shortly after speaking. The RNC 8 were arrested pre-emptively before the RNC, but theyâÄôre accused of planning to âÄúcrash the convention.âÄù âÄúI decided to go to the event tonight because I wanted these people to see what a true peaceful protest was,âÄù Alex said after the meeting. âÄúBy me going there, listening to their story, putting in my two cents and allowing them to talk back, was peaceful protesting.âÄù A few RNC 8 members âÄî five total attended âÄî addressed Alex, but he said after the event that he was dissatisfied. âÄúI felt like a lot of them, seeing as they werenâÄôt ready for someone to come there and oppose them, they didnâÄôt really answer my question in the best way,âÄù he said. âÄúI feel like there needs to be some sort of counter opposition there. IâÄôm not afraid to do it by myself.âÄù Alex noted that a key reason for his viewpoint is that he has friends and family in law enforcement, and feared for their safety during the RNC. After the event, RNC 8 member and cultural studies junior Max Specktor said he appreciated the counter viewpoint. âÄúIt gets boring preaching to the choir,âÄù Specktor said. âÄúIt gives me a chance to reconsider our ideas, and it strengthens my political beliefs.âÄù Aside from Alex, the Coffman Union conference room was filled to standing-room-only capacity with both first-time and long-time supporters. Mostly, the RNC 8 discussed their case and what they fear are negative implications for the political organizing community, including stifled dissent. They also called on the attendees for continued support. Rob Czernik , an RNC 8 member, suggested following the activists through social networking sites, spreading the word to friends and showing solidarity at court hearings. âÄúYou could also take the heat off of us by spouting off even crazier rhetoric,âÄù Specktor jokingly said. Brian Hokanson , a member of Friends of the RNC 8 who helped organize the event, said he was encouraged by the high event turnout. âÄúIt shows the case has good traction in the Twin Cities,âÄù he said, noting that many people came to the event with background knowledge of the RNC 8 and the anarchist movement, which hasnâÄôt always been the case at other RNC 8 events across the country. Sara Bard , a Spanish instructor at the University, attended her first event supporting the RNC 8 on Wednesday. âÄúMy heart goes out to these people, and I think they should be supported as much as possible,âÄù she said. Her friend, Peter Smith , a former professor, came from Iowa specifically to attend the meeting. âÄúIâÄôm glad [the RNC 8] are willing to stand up and not fold back,âÄù he said. In the future, Bard said she plans to attend events and show solidarity with the eight as much as she can. Art senior Margaret Hanson , a former classmate of SpecktorâÄôs, also attended her first meeting in support of the activists. She wanted to support Specktor and hear whatâÄôs happening with the RNC 8 from the activists themselves. âÄúIâÄôm going to continue showing up,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs important to support a fellow activist because they represent a lot of people.âÄù