RNC Day 3 & 4: Xtreme Free Speech Zone
By Wednesday, the third day of the Republican National Convention, I had covered a lot of ground. I had talked to GOP delegates, conservative radio hosts, a hot dog vendor, the co-founder of Aljazeera's English Language channel, protestors, news people who had seen the marching and many more. While armed and armored riot police kept the protestors from interacting with anyone else, and kept anyone else from joining (or rejoining) the protestors, there did seem to be one area where anyone with a particular point of view could get their moment of fame: Rice Park, just outside the RNC's Riverfront Center entrance, well away from the two layers of metal security fences and metal detectors.
Rice Park, facing the MSNBC broadcast tent
Individual protestors marching, people milling about
MSNBC was broadcasting from a big gazebo-like tent, and their cameras could pan out into the audience. You couldn't get close to the 10-15,000 protestors marching against the Iraq War or complaining about mishandling the economy or any of the major issues of the day, and you didn't see the number of people, perhaps also in the 10-15,000 range, who couldn't get in to march. No, you could talk to and see all the people who were, let us say, representing issues of concern to a much smaller group.
I called this area The Xtreme Free Speech Zone. You could carry signs saying anything, and the cops wouldn't bother you (that I saw) but you might get on national tv.
Riot police relaxing at Rice Park outside tv camera range
as individual protestors marched loudly but peaceably
On Wednesday and again on Thursday, I talked to several of these people, individually or in small groups. I just wandered up to them and asked if they would like to be interviewed. Then recorded our conversation.
The question arose: Should I
give these people a voice at all
. I don't necessarily agree with what they're saying. But I didn't necessarily agree with the RNC delegates and I posted their interview. Going to San Francisco and hanging out with a radically different range of political views was quite enlightening. While some people (such as my mother) didn't think I should air some of these, all the lefties, the liberals who wouldn't be caught dead voting for McCain (and some not for Obama) said that they deserved to be heard. The Free Speech Movement from the 50s is still alive. I'm a Free Speech 99 1/2%-er: While there are things that shouldn't be known, at least right away, they are few and far between. The default is to let everyone have their say. We can debate/ignore/laugh at/take action with what they're saying later.
So: Call me Herodotus. I present these interviews without editing. I don't if what they say is true, but this is what they told me.Joshua Woroniecki
of no organization was one of two carrying a big banner telling everyone that they are going to hell if they don't accept Jesus, next to a smaller placard with a picture of an aborted fetus. He had a message for Democrats and Republicans alike. 9/3/08. (mp3, 5:05)Larry Sinclair
claims that he had a sexual encounter with Barack Obama in 1999 and the candidate has been covering up his sex and drug use to the point of murder. 9/3/08. (mp3, 9:15)George Kanany
is a Coptic Christian, an American from Egypt who wants to raise issues about Islamic occupiers of Egypt and the rise of Islam in the US, and Barack Hussein Obama's Muslim name. 9/4/08. (mp3 5:38)Ashley Burns
and PETA's pigs (and a Jew in a cock ring) were promoting a new "sin" tax on meat to encourage a more healthy lifestyle. 9/4/08. (mp3, 4:18)
I saw this group on Wednesday, but my iPod had run out of power. Fortunately, they were still there on Thursday, sitting on a bench looking like office folk from the 50s. Jeff Cunningham
explains about The Office of Blame, and the different reactions their group is getting at the RNC from the reactions they got at the DNC. 9/4/08. (mp3, 3:25)
That's all the Xtreme Free Speech Zone conversations I had, though I nearly included one or two from inside the convention. Perhaps some pictures in a different post. Coming: More delegates, YouTube, the most popular t-shirt sold at the RNC, I actually find two black people at the convention, and post-McCain enthusiasm.