Taking Stock: What the Philadelphia Convention Protests Accomplished


| August 9, 2000

Taking Stock: What the Philadelphia Convention Protests Accomplished

'The police stole our message,' says radical historian L.A. Kauffman, reporting from last week's protests at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, in her weekly web-column Free Radical.

She means that literally. The Philadelphia police were so well-organized in their response to protesters -- confiscating cell-phones, banners and street-puppets, and making early targetted arrests of key organizers -- the activists were reduced to a riotous mass, unable to effectively communicate their message to the media. So, rather than convey the protesters' message of social and economic justice, reporters focused on sensational images of arrests and clashes with police.

But despite all that, says Kauffman, protesters made huge strides in building a stronger, more broad-based national movement, bridging an internal racial rift-between predominantly black and latino social justice activists and mostly white environmental and anti-globalism activists-that has long hampered their effectiveness.

'The lasting significance of the Philly action won't be its effect on public opinion,' she says. 'It will be how and by whom it was organized. . . . The major players in Philly were a good deal younger and far more racially diverse than the organizers of Seattle or D.C. Activists of color were key in initiating the mobilization and played central planning roles throughout the months of organizing.'

Kauffman is excited by what she sees: 'In 20 years of activism I've never seen a comparable effort: a decentralized direct action based on affinity groups and consensus decision-making process, that was substantially shaped by people of color.' -- Leif UtneGo there>>