At long last, we’ve completed our 35,000-word full report on last summer’s anarchist mobilizations against the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, complete with chronological maps and painstaking documentation. Updated from the feature in Rolling Thunder #7 and expanded to include the complete text of thirteen different participant narratives, this report offers a comprehensive history of the preparations for, events of, and aftermath following the protests, and an analysis of their context and implications.
Unlike virtually every other analysis yet published from the radical community, this one utilizes subsequent internal government reports, comparing them against a wide variety of other sources. We hope our investigation and the accompanying archive of personal testimonies will prove useful both to participants still trying to understand the events of this past summer and to organizers looking to derive lessons from them for the future.
In a nutshell, we hypothesize that the chief significance of the 2008 anti-convention mobilizations was in the precedents they might set for future organizing. Anarchists took the initiative to determine their own goals and strategies for the protests, establishing decentralized networks throughout the US far in advance. This enabled them to build relationships with other organizing groups and to coordinate their actions, effectively setting the tone for the protests at both conventions. At the same time, the protests were less attended than expected, perhaps as a result of the Obama campaign detracting from street-level participation in the antiwar movement. In this regard, they were the final act of an era that has now passed.
The RNC protests met with an almost unprecedented degree of state repression, which is still playing out today even as the political climate has changed. The federal government continued its strategy of gathering intelligence and entrapping stragglers, already familiar from attacks on environmentalists and animal rights activists. Local authorities focused on infiltration, profiling, and raids, ultimately arresting over 800 people and bringing conspiracy charges against organizers. Despite all this, they seem to have been remarkably unprepared to maintain order in the streets on the first day of the RNC, and their subsequent overreaction helped discredit them in the public eye. Most arrestees have gotten off scot-free; it remains to be seen how the ongoing felony cases will conclude. The outcome of the RNC 8 conspiracy trial in particular will indicate how sustainable we can expect the organizing model debuted at the 2008 conventions to be.