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On DemocracyNow! today, Amy Goodman interviewed Alternet journalist Arun Gupta about the demonstrations outside the RNC. Gupta talked about why the protests were so small, and about the mark that conventions leave on cities in the form of what he called a "massive security matrix" left behind to police the poor.
Essentially it was a military zone, a war zone outside the convention. That was certainly part of the strategy. Protests were extremely limited. They were spirited, but maybe 500 to a thousand people at most, and it was really quite remarkable.When you were moving with the protesters they were blanketed by media but then it was moving in this police bubble and surrounded by this surveillance state, and I think that was the intention.At one point I happened upon the Westboro Baptists — these are the "God Hates Fags" bunch…an extremist religious group, it's basically one family, the Phelps family. And they show up at high profile events with these signs that literally say "God Hates Fags". They also regularly show up at funerals of US soldiers killed in foreign wars…They are really right-wing extremists.And as I'm standing there watching this, you know, handful of protesters, down the street comes a couple hundred anarchists, chanting "We're here, we're queer, we're anarchists, we're going to mess you up." And that to me kind of encapsulated what the strategy is, that the only people who are practicing democracy — and this is supposed to be a great exercise in democracy — are right-wing fanatics and left-wing militants because everyone else has been scared off by this militarized spectacle.
Amy Goodman mentioned the $50 million the federal government spent on security, weapons and surveillance in advance of the RNC, and said that police were warning the public about the possible use of IEDs to attack the city, but that amidst all the fear-mongering and security spending, there had only been two arrests of demonstrators.
Gupta replied: "What this really does is scare away the public. What these conventions do…they leave behind this massive security matrix to then police the poor…very much a conscious strategy."
Read more on the militarization of the police.