Thousands Join Poor People's March Outside RNC

September 03, 2008


Outside the Xcel Energy Center, thousands of people filled the streets of St. Paul for a rally and march organized by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films reports. [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.


Outside the Xcel Energy Center, thousands of people filled the streets of St. Paul for a rally and march organized by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign last night. Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films filed this report for Democracy Now!


    With over 200 people still in jail after Monday’s arrests and with a massive police presence in the street, the Poor People’s March prepared to set out and brace for the police response. Cheri Honkala addressed the crowd.


    A dominant question that the media keeps asking me is, are you afraid? And the answer is, no, I am not afraid. What I’m afraid of is if we continue to let our voices be cut off. What I’m afraid of is people continuing to die on the streets of Minnesota because they’re homeless. This is what I’m afraid of.

    They say, “You know what, Cheri, those anarchists, they’re going to cause a lot of problems for you. They’re going to take your march over, they’re going to be violent, and they’re going to cause some problems for you.” But you know what? It wasn’t the anarchists four years ago or eight years ago when we organized the largest Poor People’s March; it was the police department that created problems.

    And I don’t give a damn if you’re an anarchist, if you’re a Democrat or if you’re a Republican, or whatever your political ideas are. All I know is I’m going to march today with people that have a similar vision of a different kind of world for us to live in.


    A diverse coalition rallied together under the banner of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.

    NEE-GON-NWAY-WEE-DUNG: My traditional name is Nee-Gon-Nway-Wee-Dung, or Thunder Before the Storm. My colonial name is Clyde Bellecourt. I’m founder and national director of the American Indian Movement. I’m here to stand up to this George Armstrong Custer Bush frontier mentality and John Wayne — John Wayne McCain frontier mentality that exists here in America today and stand with the people. If we don’t do that, there will come a day when we’ll need a permit just to leave our homes to go to something like this.


    The protesters pledged to be nonviolent, but riot police rushed into the rally to arrest an Indymedia reporter.

    CROWD: Peaceful protest! Peaceful protest! Peaceful protest! Peaceful protest! Peaceful protest!

    PROTESTER: Take your guns and go home. Bye. Take your armor and go home. Go home. Bye. Bye. Bye.


    Protesters backed the police out of the park, but they made two more arrests, tasing one man as he lay immobile on the pavement.

    PROTESTERS: He’s not resisting! He’s not resisting!


    While independent reporters were being arrested, Fox News arrived, embedded with the Minneapolis police.

    PROTESTER: Sellouts!


    Can I talk to you for a second?

    FOX NEWS REPORTER: Not right now. A little busy.


    Alright. Are you embedded with the police officers?

    POLICE OFFICER: Hold your camera back, now!


    The march disengaged from the police and wound through the city, pausing in front of the jail, where hundreds of protesters remained incarcerated.

    REV. BRUCE WRIGHT: Reverend Bruce Wright with Refuge Ministries, and I’m with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, the Tampa Bay chapter of it. And we’re here marching with the Poor People’s Campaign for Economic Human Rights. Today we’re having a march for our lives, representing the needs of the homeless and the poor of our country. There’s been a war ongoing against the homeless and poor, particularly people of color in our country, and we’re tired of it. We’re not going to take it anymore. We believe it’s an issue of justice. As a person of faith, I believe it’s an issue of faith, as well. And that’s why I’m here.

    DEBORAH: My name is Deborah, and I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    ANJALI KAMAT: Why are you here today?

    DEBORAH: I’m here marching on the RNC to stand up, speak out, fight back against the war that’s going on in Iraq and bring the money back to the USA for housing, education, homelessness.

    ANJALI KAMAT: How do you think today’s event has gone so far?

    DEBORAH: Today’s event is very good. I feel that people are empowered today by what is going on, and they understand what is going on. And it doesn’t matter what the RNC demands, it doesn’t matter what the Democrats demand, it doesn’t matter what the Independents — we’re all one — all for one and one for all. That’s what’s going on here today.


    The march swelled to several thousand and made its way to the convention center, where Cheri Honkala delivered a citizen’s arrest through the steel fence.


    We’re here today because we want to charge the folks that are in the Xcel Center with crimes against humanity. People are dying here in Minnesota and across the country. They don’t have access to healthcare. They join wars. They go overseas, and poor people kill other poor people just so they can have a job.

    I just want to practice my First Amendment rights to speak out, and I can’t do that behind a cage. I’m not going to hurt anybody. I just want to talk to somebody. I’m going to just deliver the citizen’s arrest through the fence. Please don’t kill me for that. It’s a piece of paper, and it’s an American flag. The whole world is watching!


    As the march ended, the police gave an order to disperse and quickly moved in to clear the streets. The second day of the convention closed with St. Paul’s streets in chaos. Protesters once again brought their demands to the Republicans’ gates, and the police once again responded with teargas, tasers and arrests.


    Special thanks to Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films for that report. Also thanks to Elizabeth Press, Fatimah Mojaddidy, Rebecca McNeice and Jordan Hansen.