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Some lessons from Philly RNC

by sarin Wednesday, Aug. 09, 2000 at 3:16 AM

A few personal tactical/strategic observations from the Philly protests

Critique as you will, these are some lessons I've constructed from the experience in Philly. Most are just personal observations, but oh well.

1. Comms should go in camo.

People doing strickly messenger and coordination services should blend in as much as possible to the typical garb of the area of action. Business suits demand repsect and the police seem all to willing to offer it. We cannot afford to have people nabbed off the street just for holding a cell phone or a radio.

2. 8 people can take an entire street in the right situation.

In Philly the police were incredibly spread out. It took at least 15 minutes to gather enough forces together for them to make an arrest. From what I saw, when a street was taken over it mattered nothing that 2-3 cops were on the corner. They obliged. The police would not make arrests until they outnumbered the protesters. 10 minutes later when bike or horse police arrived, the protesters were able to disperse to take down another street.

I understand that that tactic is something specific to the Philly actions and that other protests wont be dependant on shutting down a massive business district.

3. Always have your head up.

In DC we knew where the police lines were. That was usually quite clear. In Philly the bicycle police were a new tactical force to deal with that often ended up in our rear - not just to block us, but actually moved in while we were facing the wrong direction and made arrests. We need to make sure we have people watching all sides when attempting to make barricades.

4. Keep mobile.

It was rather frustrating to see people ocntent with taking a street and staying there. In Philly the point was multiple street actions, blocking traffic in a range of directions. I noticed that the police were very quick to redirect traffic. When we parked ourselves at an intersection for a half hour, the police had already remedied much of the traffic snarl. Only by staying mobile did we keep them guessing, prevent being blocked in and spread the disruption.

And probably the most controvercial issue:

5. Don't protest major media events.

Its taken some time to realize this, especially as I had my hopes raised so high for the attention we could recieve at the RNC. But contrary to that, the media at closed door boring meetings such as the WTO or IMF dont care to broadcast the meetings. They find the street demos fascinating.

But the spectacle, as orchestrated and as boring as it was last week, was in the First Union Center, not the streets. The organized program did not allow for coverage of anything much out of the ordinary. Special interest stories about the food the Republican delegates were being served got more attention than we did.

Why? Becuase the spectacle is pre-arranged. But with something like the WTO, the press wasn't going to give much coverage of the actual meeting anyhow. You cannot compete with a network sit-com with some street plays.

Evidence of this is the amount of pre-convention attention the protests gathered compared to the near-blackout afterwards. Time magazine had a sidebar previewing the protests 2 weeks ago, but Monday's issue has nary a word on the subject (even though a Time reporter was there). The press seemed eager to give us attention, but when it came down to the editors having a say, we didn't exist.

My only conclusion is that protesting events that are not media-spectacles anyhow will give us so much more coverage.

I know the raid on the puppetspace hurt our visual imagery and hence the messages, but the cameras were not there anyhow.
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media matt k
a few more lessons from philly Sera Wednesday, Aug. 09, 2000 at 9:37 PM
Deception is the key T S G Wednesday, Aug. 09, 2000 at 11:25 PM
VERY INCITEFUL ANALYSIS Philly Observer Thursday, Aug. 10, 2000 at 3:04 AM
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