Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guantanamo on the Platte

By Brenda Norrell

DENVER -- If you like chaos, you should be in the streets of Denver. If you like being surrounded by squads of riot police with nothing to do but irritate people, you should definitely be in Denver. If you like downtown shop owners saying, "Our restrooms are out of order," and "We turned the Wi-Fi off for the week," you should really be in Denver.

I don't know how anyone else's day went, but for me, I spent eight hours accomplishing nothing. First, there's the downtown Kinkos, the worst in the nation. You can pay $30 for what should cost $5 to accomplish because the computers are pitiful. It has been that way for years.

While many shop owners just handled the chaos  this way: "Our restrooms are broken," (Kinkos) or "We turned off the Wi-Fi for the week," (Paradise Bakery)" on down the street, Barnes and Nobles tried another approach. It was so hot in there that babies were sweating.

Finally I gave up and sat in a coffee shop. Across the street, the anti-abortion crowd had huge posters of fetuses. The restaurant owners were very upset because people really couldn't eat looking at these. There seemed to be lots of drama, as police and news reporters kept rushing back and forth as confrontations came and went. But one thing was clear, these protesters, mostly white Christians from small towns, were treated very different by Denver's riot police, than the peaceful marchers for political prisoners on Monday. 

For people of color, the police drew their weapons. The alternative crowd wasn't treated well either. For the peaceful Food Not Bombs group, there was a huge buildup of police delivering intimidation and repression. Finally, for all the alternative protesters near the Civic Center there was a huge arrest sweep on Monday night. Medics, documentary filmmakers, and reporters said they were detained for one and one half-hours during the roundup.

Apparently Denver police felt Monday's crowd was entirely too peaceful and arrests were in order. There was no other way to explain the big roundup and arrests Monday night. Police sprayed people with pepper spray and shot pepper bullets at them. As for the bizarre single file procession of dozens of police through the Food Not Bombs dinner of rice and lentils, there's no way to explain that.

Still, there are great handmade signs all over Denver. However, there's little indication that the "haves" at the Democratic National Convention are paying any attention to the people in the streets. The people taking to the streets of Denver have come from all over America. Anyone who has a cause is here. Two signs today read, "911 was an inside job," and "Clean coal spending $2 million on convention." On the lighter side, here's a few great signs from the streets: "Give everyone everything," "Get rid of government everything," and "Free hugs."

Anyway, back to today. As I was leaving the Civic Center area, I heard from a young woman photographer who had witnessed one of the police attacks. She said one person was simply photographing his friend being arrested. The police told him to halt, so he dropped the camera and put his hands in the air. The young man taking photos was then tackled by three riot police and arrested. His crime was taking a photo. She also filled me in on the fenced dog cages being used as jails during the convention.

The locals call it after their river, "Guantanamo on the Platte."

(PHOTO: Denver riot police ready for the big sweep on Monday. Apparently the people were too peaceful, as the guy sleeping on the grass demonstrates. The photo was taken shortly before the sweep and arrests in the Civic Center area on Monday evening. Photo Brenda Norrell)


Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Great report on the DNC. Seems very chaotic! The explanation of the intersections of race is very good. I could almost see how this would take place in a place like Denver having formerly lived in Colorado for two years. Denver nor Colorado are not as diverse as states in the East. It has some very extreme conservative parts. As for the photographer who was arrested for taking a photo, how bizarre?

machetico said...

Gorki Luis Águila Carrasco is a popular musician in Cuba. In 2003, he had just produced an award-winning video, and a radio station in Havana announced that Gorki was the third most popular rocker in Cuba. Then - at a rock festival in Pinar del Río (the westernmost Cuban province) in April 2003 - he was suddenly arrested on charges of drug trafficking.

Four months later, on 15 August 2003, the controversial Cuban rock artist was convicted and sentenced to four years imprisonment. His constant challenge to free speech in Cuba was silenced. During the brief trial, where Gorki’s attorney did only have ten minutes to present his client’s case, the Counsel for the Prosecution did not present convincing evidence. The circumstances leading to his arrest were such that no evidence of drug trafficking was presented.

On October 17, 2003, Freemuse launched an international campaign for the release of Gorki Carrasco, and requested the Cuban government to reconsider the doubtful court case against him.

Initially, Gorki was held under harsh conditions that seriously affected his health in Destacamento Cinco in the Provincial Prison of Pinar del Río. In 2004, he was moved to a minimum security prison just outside Havana. There, he was part of a prison salsa band.

In March 2005, he was granted conditional release.

Approximately 75 dissidents - writers, doctors and opposition politicians - were jailed in Cuba in 2003. The majority continue to serve time in the Cuban prisons.

On April 23, 2007, the Cuban music rebel was praised for his courage in a report on the American news network CNN where his new music got world-wide exposure.

"I've lost my fear
I've already been a prisoner
I've only got a few bones left
From up here the tyrant is watching you
You're playing his so that he'll oppress us"

These are new lyrics of Cuban musician Gorki Aguila and his band Porno Para Ricardo, ('Porno for Ricardo').

"If anything, Gorki's lyrics have become more, not less, political since his time behind bars," said CNN's Morgan Neill when he presented the new music of Gorki to the world on CNN, profiling what he termed as "the most outspoken voice in Cuba's rock scene".

Neill and his camera crew visited Gorki and his band in their rehearsal room where they are limited to practice and make their music once a week, behind closed doors in a room insulated with egg cartons, in an appartment which Gorki shares with his father.

The group told him that they are banned from playing live, and they distribute their music only via the internet and via handmade CDs which are passed hand to hand.

Last Monday August 25, Cuban police arrested dissident musician Gorki Aguila on a charge of "dangerousness," fellow band members said Tuesday.

Hebert Dominguez, the bass player in Aguila's punk rock band, Porno para Ricardo, said police detained Aguila at his home at 10 a.m. Monday.

Aguila, the lead singer, was arrested as he was about to record the final songs of the band's next record, according to a statement on the band's Web site.

"This new episode of harassment and persecution is occurring just as Porno para Ricardo is in the middle of recording its new record, which eliminates any possibility that this repressive escalation could be described as a 'coincidence,' " the statement said. "In Cuba, the voice of the brave is silenced by the regime, which doesn't hesitate to use intimidation and force."

An official at the state-run press office said Cuba had no comment on the arrest.

Aguila, 39, is an outspoken critic of Cuba's government. "Communism is a failure," he said in the cited 2007 interview with CNN. "A total failure. Please. Leftists of the world -- improve your capitalism."

Dominguez said authorities said Aguila's trial will take place Thursday. Police told the group's guitarist, Ciro Diaz, that Aguila faced a possible sentence of one to four years in jail.

The statement on the band's Web site said Aguila wasn't feeling well -- that he had inflammation in his lungs and was short of breath.

Cuba uses the charge of "dangerousness" to prosecute those whom authorities believe are likely to commit crimes. Under Cuba's penal code, habitual drunkenness and anti-social behavior are signs of a "state of dangerousness."

Free Gorki! Freedom of speech for Cuban musicians! Freedom for Cuba!