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RNC Readies for Anarchy

Protester dons Guy Fawkes mask. arindambanerjee / Shutterstock.com

It’s that time again: the quadrennial alarm over real and imagined (if not plainly hyperbolic) dangers from national convention protesters and their dark and dangerous siblings, the “anarchists,” or “black bloc” brethren, who are always expected but never really end up coming to the party, at least not in anticipated numbers or force. The only “activity” reported at the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul, for example, was the arrest of a man who police said was planning to lob a molotov cocktail during the festivities. The other terror charges against supposed convention anarchists, who were raided and arrested before the event, were eventually reduced to misdemeanors or dismissed entirely (a $50,000 settlement against police was awarded to three of the activists, otherwise known as the “RNC Eight,” in 2011).

Police at RNC Convention in St. Paul 2008. Ben Josephs.

Nevertheless, the organizers and the vast security apparatus assembled for next week’s Republican National Convention are already sounding the alarms over potential “extremists” amid the expected Occupiers and other protest groups, and the media is delivering it with well, the usual credulity.

“Federal authorities are urging law enforcement agencies across the country to watch out for signs that extremists might be planning to wreak havoc at the upcoming political conventions — by blocking roads, shutting down transit systems and even employing what were described as acid-filled eggs,” read a FOX News report on Wednesday. The story was based on a joint bulletin by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security obtained by CNN, which warned that anarchists from New York City might be planning to travel to the Tampa convention to disrupt the three day political confab. That followed this convenient AP report on Tuesday :

Tampa police say they have confiscated “suspicious” items from the rooftop of a downtown building located about a mile from where next week’s Republican National Convention will be held. A police statement says the items included bricks and pipes. They were found on the roof of a two-story medical office building.

Spray-painted nearby was a figure wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, similar to the main character from the film “V for Vendetta.” The movie was adapted from a graphic novel about a masked anarchist vigilante battling British fascism in the near future. The mask has been used by the Anonymous hacker collective, as well as participants in “Occupy” protests … Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said she believes the items were put there by protesters for use during RNC demonstrations. “It is disconcerting, but it’s not surprising,” she said. “This is normally how things proceed leading up to a large event.”

Police are also investigating whatever link the rooftop finding may have with a blurry online video in which an unidentified person in a Guy Fawkes mask (see the image above) appears to be threatening the convention. The video has drawn a range of reader responses from across the web, from those who call it a cynical attempt by police to justify their new toys (tasers, tanks, surveillance cameras, etc.) to others who cry for a hard blue line of smoke and steel when the protesters finally arrive. Like this nugget from MikeMC1970 on Breitbart.com:

Time to break out the national guard, the rubber bullets, the bean bag shot, the pepper spray, the pepper balls, and the tasers. Meet these morons with hard smiles and even harder truncheons.

The fact is, as I reported in March, the police have all those things and more, readied for both Tampa and the subsequent Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.

Much of the warnings, really, are based on speculation, not what has actually transpired at previous conventions. According to the CNN report, agencies said that anarchists “had discussed” taking over bridges and skywalks and a radio station in St. Paul, but that never happened. The only bridge activity amounted to 350 protesters being rounded up on the Marion Bridge and summarily arrested.

Still the police are readying for the worst. No better way of conveying that than this “mock riot” training video. Turns out the police are pretty good at beating the drum. All they need is a Guy Fawkes mask, and they’re ready to rumble:

about the author

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a contributing editor at TAC and co-host on the Empire Has No Clothes podcast. Follow her on Twitter @VlahosAtQuincy.

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