RNC 2008: Organizing, Autonomy, and You

By Wes Hannah

The Republicans are coming! This summer, Republican delegates and protesters will be gathering in St. Paul, MN for the Republican National Convention from September 1-4. As with RNCs in the past, organizers of diverse political inclinations are planning a number of ways to raise opposition to the convention and to the system of dis-empowering electoral politics in general.

The RNC Welcoming Committee, an anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizing group, began planning for an effective resistance last summer with the pReNC, a conference in the Twin Cities, and has continued organizing and preparing throughout the past year. According to the Welcoming Committee, "this time the fear-mongers will be met with their own biggest fear: people mobilized, organized, and taking the future back into their own hands."

The critical aspect of this organizing, and what sets it apart from other anti-RNC organizing, is that they intend to create a framework that any anarchist organizations can choose to mobilize within while still retaining the freedom to plan autonomous actions. Furthermore, they intend to create an infrastructure of resources, including food, housing, and transportation, that anyone can utilize. At the same time, the group is working on building local outreach to Twin Cities communities and with activists nationwide. Their goal is not to lead the protests, but to help coordinate the cooperation and mutual aid of activists and anarchists coming from across the country to give a proper anarchist welcome to the Republicans. In addition to putting out resources such as maps and advice, they have released an inspiring video, available on Youtube.com, called "We're getting ready! RNC Welcoming Committee trailer."

A full listing of the Welcoming Committee's Points of Unity is available on their Web site. It includes a rejection of capitalism, imperialism, and the state; organizing based on decentralization, autonomy, sustainability, and mutual aid; actively working to eliminate relationships of domination and subjugation; and direct confrontation of systems of oppression, while respecting a need for diversity of tactics.

Preparations are beginning not only in Minnesota, but across the country, where groups have been actively organizing in their communities and traveling to St. Paul to begin planning with the Welcoming Committee. The fifth consulta of the Northeast Anarchist Network has officially endorsed the call to action and many affiliated groups are developing plans to be a part of the protests. The NEAN endorsement, citing the absurd nature of electoral politics and the necessity for individuals to act to express their beliefs and desires, went with a contingent of NEAN-ers to the Twin Cities in January to meet with organizers and begin planning.

An umbrella organization, Unconventional Action, is an affiliated network that connects organizing in the Twin Cities with local and regional organizing in the rest of the country. UA's goal is "to build a horizontal, inclusive framework for protests [through] organizing meetings, propaganda, and consultas in our communities and encourage those in other regions to do the same." Those interested can get involved in Unconventional Action groups or start organizing themselves under the Unconventional Action banner. A recent UA consulta in Binghamton, NY brought together groups from Upstate New York for a report-back from the returned Twin Cities delegation, skill-share on street safety, and networking around the RNC protests.

In January, a national information tour made up of Minnesota anarchists began moving region by region though the country to speak to local groups and consultas, providing information, helping to make plans, and answering questions. They also hope to develop networks of support as they move and to receive feedback on what issues the St. Paul organizers should be focusing.

Already the tour is receiving widespread attention from both allies and the State! When the group tried to cross into Canada on February 2 for several pre-arranged informational gatherings, they were denied entry into the country. During their several-hour detainment, their computers and literature were examined, and they were threatened with several charges. Finally, they were released back into the US and were forced to cancel the Canadian leg of the tour.

In addition to traveling to Minnesota next summer, anarchists can get involved in a number of ways before then. Most importantly, folks should start getting together in affinity groups and at local consultas to start planning. The Welcoming Committee isn't going to have everything planned out - they are going to have an infrastructure set up so that anyone can seek support in carrying out their own plans.

Groups and individuals can also use the next half-year to develop and carry out lead-up actions. Not only will they help hone plans for the RNC, but they will show that this action in September and this opposition in general won't be limited to just one long weekend. Groups that are planning on being there can be in communication with the Welcoming Committee to help coordinate activities and make sure the resources needed are available. Minnesota organizers are also raising funds for legal support, food, a convergence space, and many other aspects of support - they are asking for any financial support groups can provide, as well as any other supplies useful for the protest. Finally, anyone with the time can head out to Minnesota before the protests to be a part of the on-the-ground planning and organizing work!

More information on Welcoming Committee and their work

The complete NEAN endorsement

Unconventional Action

The Northeast Unconventional Action tour is mostly over, but it may still be possible to get involved. The tour schedule is available here.