Protesters Get Ready for the DNC
Splitsville: The knot of protesters organizing around the Democratic National Convention got a lot more tangled Tuesday morning when a coalition of progressive groups formally presented itself as the Alliance for Real Democracy. This move deepened a division that started in May, when pacifist-leaning activist organizations and those with a more radical bent could not reach agreement on language within a "Statement of Non-Violence." Many of those groups were already unhappy with the name of what until then had been the go-to outfit for protest planning, Re-create '68, whose moniker has continued to conjure violent images of the Democratic convention in Chicago forty years ago, despite efforts of its leadership to explain otherwise.
For the past few weeks, groups in the Alliance have been meeting to craft a message and create a list of DNC-related events, including free concert performances by such protest-friendly acts as the Coup, Flobots and the MC5's Wayne Kramer. While some members of the Alliance, including the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center and Denver's Green Party, had not previously been members of Re-create '68, others were once in the R-68 camp, outfits such as the Iraq Veterans Against the War, Tent State University and the Students for a Democratic Society.
Zoë Williams, once a familiar name on the R-68 roster but now speaking for CODEPINK, would rather discuss the anti-war parade the Alliance is planning than talk about how the split has affected relations between protesters; she anticipates that the demonstration against the Democrats' continued war funding could attract tens of thousands of people. Its biggest resource could be the support of United for Peace and Justice, a national organization that represents some 1,300 groups and has always expressed reluctance to sign on with R-68. "We've talked with the Re-create '68 folks, and they don't want to change their name, and that's their right," says Leslie Cagan, a national coordinator for United. "It's never easy to turn out large numbers of people, and we are concerned that the name could be a problem for some people."
But while the reference to 1968 could conjure unpleasant images for the mainstream consciousness, for those on the far left, it represents an era of revolutionary uprisings around the globe — in France, Mexico, Prague and Vietnam. This is why radical groups such as the anarchist Unconventional Action and the St. Louis-based Black Radical Congress are still more than willing to coordinate with R-68 on events and direct-action protests. But with two groups now jostling for position as they try to divvy up park permits won in a city lottery or coordinate marches so that toes don't get stepped on, organizing the organizers will be trickier than ever.
R-68's Glenn Spagnuolo says he doesn't consider the formation of the Alliance as a problem, since many of its groups comprise "more progressive Democrats" who were never going to sign on to the R-68 agenda. He notes that his organization still includes about a dozen groups. In fact, he says, the Alliance could serve to bring more people into the fold — and that's a good thing when protests are concerned. "One group doesn't speak for everybody," he concludes. "Whatever it takes to get people into the streets, we support that."
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