04 May 1970 saw four students die and nine wounded when National Guard troops opened fire at Kent State University. “One week later six black men in Georgia were shot by police in the back and two days later two black students were killed at Jackson State by Mississippi Highway Patrol Officers,” said Ron Elding of npr in his 40-year retrospective look back article. It was the worst of times. Are they back?
Tampa Police, The Secret Service, US Department of Homeland Security (pitching in $50 million dollars) and Federal authorities will turn that city into an armed camp to protect the Republican National Convention in late August from disruption. Demonstrators fear with no limit to guns being carried by civilians, armed & unstable GOP/Tea Party crazies, backed by a highly militarised police force, could create a Kent State 42-years after the original. If you thought Cairo last October and November with new nerve agent tear gas, fire hoses coating demonstrators with harsh, unwashable chemical agents and bullets fired on peaceful protestors was bad? You ain’t seen nuttin’ yet.
Could this be where the Defence Department rolls out its new wartime crowd control sound laser weapons and other technology we cannot possibly imagine on the nervous systems of those daring to raise their voices in protest of the US government?
As the aptly named Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm put it: “mindful of the “potentially contentious environment” that comes with so many overwrought protesters converging on a national political convention, the city of Tampa has banned a number of items the last four days of August. Don’t come messing around the Republican National Convention with an ‘air rifle, air pistol, paintball rifle, explosive blasting cap, switchblade, hatchet, axe, slingshot, blackjack, metal knuckles, nunchauks, mace, iron buckle, axe handle, chain, crowbar, hammer, shovel or any club or bludgeon.’ All this along with ‘any other instrumentality used or intended to be used to cause physical or personal damage.’
Except, of course, for the most obvious instrument intended to cause physical or personal damage.
The city didn’t prohibit guns.
We live in a world where police no longer defensively quell protest after stopping their advance. Rather they now wear body armour, march on protestors, use pepper spray as an offensive weapon, chase and beat down protestors for doing nothing but speaking and under recently passed laws those protestors could be tried as ‘terrorists’ for exercising their right to speak out against their leaders? Land of the free and home of the brave?
Geography and climate will also aid the police as the Tampa convention site is surrounded by water on three sides and the average August daytime temperature is the year’s hottest at 90F (32 C) with a low of 76F (24C) and the wettest as almost 8 inches of rain falls in August. It’s also the beginning of peak hurricane season. So the irony of a 2nd consecutive GOP convention (filled with climate change deniers) disrupted by a tropical storm event would be poetic.
Police militarisation and a gun on every person offer a scary combination. Watching Oakland Police hunt down, beat and pepper spray the 01 May Occupy protests was chilling. It reminded me of the haunting images of Cairo’s morgue where Dan Richardson of Al Jazeera stood showing protestor’s bodies under sheets with an enormous numbers of ‘rubber’ bullet ‘holes’ from a police force run amok defending Mubarak. If threatened, the Tampa forces will not simply stand their ground. They will go on the offensive and, backed by armed Tea Party crazies, the military, Homeland Security? Getting the picture? This could degenerate quickly into a bullet laden firefight with dozens if not hundreds of innocent protestors slaughtered.
I have often said the difference between Egypt and Occupy is that the Egyptians were willing to die to be free. Listening to several in the Occupy movement and the true 99%ers many appear to be upset enough to have their own Kent State stand in Tampa.
America in 2012 is about demonising those ‘without’ by those ‘with’ doing their snarky television best as talking heads. With 4,500 hours to fill on cable news channels before the election, they will keep talking, screaming and laughing… even if people die. Forget gravitas, this is all about ratings and misinformation. What War on Women? Easy enough for FOX, just run a steady stream of people on the right saying there is no War. Obfuscate and obliterate is how they do it. Say it enough times and those without a clue believe itmust be true.
They honestly think the rest of us are stupid enough to buy it because they are on FOX spewing it. So Tucker Carlson, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter… your gasbaggery 15-minutes will, sadly, only end when bodies fill the Tampa morgue. You will profess shock, your innocence and blame the liberal media, but those deaths will be on you for stoking the fire with your hate.
Why do I feel certain it will happen? People are pissed off with lies and the Parties in government’s inability to work together to get anything done. While FOX will characterise protestors as LW crazies and remain the GOP propaganda arm it is, people are angry and scared because they are not being listened to. So they will descend on Tampa in the many thousands to speak out, to be heard because that is what Democracy used to be about. Kettling them blocks away, out of camera range, it will not be possible this time.
In 1968 Chicago, protestors outside the Democratic National Convention Hall became the story. Fed up with the escalation of the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to not seek a second term in office did not mollify them and many believe the riots in the streets cost eventual nominee Hubert Humphrey the Presidency. Richard Nixon maintained a Johnson like war pace in his first year but pressure was building to end this unpopular war and quickly.
By the spring of 1970, anti-war protests were on nearly every college campuses across the US. Students occupied administration buildings and shut the campuses down over the war and the unfair draft that allowed children of privilege to avoid service. Some of these turned violent in response to police pressure. A modified and convoluted draft lottery system was two months away, the Tet Offensive – an almost year-long assault on US and South Vietnam troops had a devastating effect and The National Guard was called in to quell student strikes on campus. In the previous two years the number of US war casualties exceeded 27,000 and despite promises to end US involvement, 44,000 young US lives had already been lost in the previous nine years.
In Ohio, Governor Rhodes sent the troops in to quell an uprising at Kent State University. They marched on campus, trained their guns on a group of protestors and opened fire with live ammunition. The iconic photo of a young girl screaming in horror as a student bleeds out and dies from a bullet wound to the head in a storm gutter was front page news around the globe. From Kent State onward, the pace of withdrawal quickened and ‘only’ 11K more young men and women would die in this horrible war.
We’ve seen the dramatic shift in response in Oakland and other US cities. Pepper spray, which is supposed to be used when an officer is in danger, has become an offensive weapon against peaceful Occupy protestors exercising their right of speech. A co-opted media turns its back and ignores the cries of the 99% and indeed the police in their terminator style body-armour wield sticks, tasers (now proven to cause sudden death and seizures), rubber bullets and other offensive weapons to disperse them.
Kinda hard to figure out who the ‘criminals’ are in this one isn’t it?
Denis G Campbell is the author of 6 books including 'Billionaire Boys Election Freak Show,' 'The Vagina Wars' & 'Egypt Unsh@ckled.' He is the editor of UK Progressive Magazine and provides commentary to the BBC, itv Al Jazeera English, CNN, MSNBC and others. His weekly 'World View with Denis Campbell' segment can be heard every Thursday on the globally syndicated The David Pakman Show. You can follow him on Twitter via @UKProgressive and on Facebook.
Email this author | All posts by Denis G Campbell