Friday, August 29, 2008

Dissent in Denver: A Snapshot of the Voices Kept Out of the Convention Center

One convention down, one convention to go. Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night concluded four days of speeches, parties, and Democratic celebration over their nominee for President of the United States. Beginning on September 1, the Republicans will roll into St. Paul, Minnesota for four days of the same to try to convince Americans that John McCain and Sarah Palin are the duo to lead this country for the next four years. While there has been much media focus on what has happened inside the Pepsi Center in Denver this past week, it is also important to focus on what happened outside the Pepsi Center, in the streets of Denver, in order to give the public a full view of everything that transpired during the DNC.

Before the convention began, I wrote about the plans of protesters and the actions that were taken by the City of Denver in preparation for dealing with the voices of the people that may not mesh with the Democratic party-line. With the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, I would like to look back at some of the events that transpired in the streets.

The corporate media did take a little notice of the protesters on the Sunday before the convention began. Fox News sent a reporter to mingle with the protesters and to "cover the story". As you might imagine, the protesters did not take too kindly to the presence of Fox News:

The Fox News reporter decides to go into the protest march and asks numerous protesters: "what is your message?". When some of the protesters do not give him a response, the reporter says, "I guess they don't believe in freedom of speech." This of course, is ridiculous considering that freedom of speech is what was allowing the march to exist in the first place. The purpose of this "report" by Fox News, was to paint the protesters as violent and radical and to avoid any real substantive discussion on the issues. This is a trademark of the corporate media when they cover protests. The major media networks acknowledge that their is a protest, but cover the protesters from a glance, misrepresent their views, and fail to give any voices of dissent airtime for a civil discussion of the issues. Compare that display of so-called journalism with the report filed by the independent news program Democracy Now!:

As the protests grew in number and the Convention got under way, the presence of law enforcement officials also grew. Consider this incident of police surrounding protesters, escorting media out of the area, then pepper spraying and arresting 91 people inside. Again, from Democracy Now:

Video also surfaced of police physically assaulting a protester from the organization CODEPink and then arresting her when she attempted to explain her story to the media:

As we move into the Republican National Convention and more protest is expected, it is important to watch the corporate media with a critical eye when they present opposing views as Fox News did in the report I posted above. It is also important to make sure that the police do not abuse their power and use un-necessary force against voices of dissent. Protesters largely rejected the so-called "free speech zone" in Denver and while it remains to be seen how protests will transpire in St. Paul, there is some indication that the situation may be more of the same. The Minnesota Star Tribune reported this past week that three journalists who arrived in St. Paul to cover the protests, had all their equipment illegally searched and confiscated:

"The incident comes on the heels of a recently adopted city resolution stating police may confiscate video cameras only during events such as protests if needed for evidence or if the person with the camera has been arrested. 'I'm surprised and certainly concerned by this,' said Council Member Cam Gordon, who pushed for the resolution. 'While I still want to get all of the details, this certainly sets the wrong tone for the convention.' "

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