Partners in protest

Some City Councils members plan on joining protests during RNC

City Council chambers is a place where fiery oratories are to be expected. However, with the arrival of the Republican National Convention (RNC) — and its protesters — literally around the corner, some might not expect that City Council Members are planning to join those protesters on Twin Cities streets.

“I’ll probably be protesting some or all of the days in Minneapolis and St. Paul,” said Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward). His reason: “Just to register my voice against a corrupt political regime.”

He could be joined by Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward). Glidden, who is due to give birth Sept. 15, said her involvement will depend on how she’s feeling. An experienced protester, Glidden has joined marches, rallies, and other events touching on labor issues, immigrant rights and peace issues, she wrote in an e-mail. This time, though, she would only be protesting one thing.

“I am likely to join in some protests and/or marches because I so strongly oppose the policies of the Republican party,” she said.

The Council has an off week — no officially scheduled committee meetings during the week of the RNC, Sept. 1–4.

Council Member Gary Schiff (9th Ward) said that when he’s not meeting with a Mexican Ambassador on employment, housing and immigration issues, he might take time to protest.

“[I have] no confirmed plans yet, but I’m likely to join one of the rallies,” Schiff said in an e-mail to the Southwest Journal.

Like the majority of other Council Members who might be found holding a placard or hitting the streets, Remington isn’t new to protests.

Remington, an experienced political activist, protested against South African apartheid in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. according to his city biography, and “led the student protest movement for better conditions, books, and respect, culminating in a bargained agreement with the school principal and the district superintendent,” while student body president at Philadelphia’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

Perhaps no one on the Council has more protest experience than Cam Gordon (2nd Ward). Gordon first began protesting when he spoke out against the war in Vietnam as an 8th grader at the Basilica School. A frequent protester, Gordon said he has plans to attend an Aug. 31 Veterans For Peace vigil and march in St. Paul.

Council Member Lisa Goodman, whose 7th Ward will likely be swimming with thousands of protesters, seems fairly comfortable considering the circumstances. Goodman said recently — and Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan agreed — that as long as protesters are not blocking businesses or residences, and are acting in a peaceful manner, there should be no problems.

Minneapolis Police will set up substations to process any protesters who may be arrested on the spot. While chances are slim, if arrested, Council Members would not, necessarily be in danger of losing their seat. Usually, it would take a felony charge for that to happen.

Council President Barb Johnson (4th Ward) doesn’t see anything wrong with her fellow Council Members’ plans to protest. While she might be Downtown, she doesn’t have any plans to protest.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting time to be in town, am I’m really excited to be a host for the city,” Johnson said. “I really look at this convention as just another piece of business, and I don’t view as a way to get into the political arena.”

Gordon said he — and those he knows — often find themselves exercising their right to peacefully assemble and don’t even think twice anymore about protesting. But he has mixed feelings about protests.

“It’s really frustrating sometimes,” Gordon said. “I don’t know if [protests] are good or not. In some ways it gets really, really discouraging that we’re still stuck the same place we were, using military intervention to solve problems. All my life I’ve seen it fail and fail and fail and fail. I’d be happy if [protesting] wasn’t necessary anymore.”