Responding to Katherine Kersten's Sunday 9/28 column
by Dick Bernard
Sent: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 to Minneapolis Star Tribune
Katherine Kersten's latest attempt to besmirch the Twin Cities Peace Community (Sep 28 STrib) is no surprise. Even before the Republican National Convention (RNC) she was indicting and inciting. Unfortunately, the media on which most people rely for their news was similarly complicit, focusing reader attention on possible violence, then a few broken windows, the detentions and a relative handful of arrests. Essentially ignored was the good news: tens of thousands who peacefully participated in rallies, marches, concerts, conferences and art-centered events that week in early September.
We know that larger unpublished reality.
Beginning on October 23, 2007, a community dialogue was held at the University of St. Thomas on the issue of community policing and the RNC. Two high ranking officers of St. Paul's Police Department, and the President of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP), were part of the panel that night.
In December, 2007, MAP invited St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington to be the keynote speaker for its annual meeting. In his comments about the Department's plans and philosophies in its approach to RNC events, Chief Harrington made a great impression. He was invited back in January 2008 to give further thoughts on the challenges of the upcoming RNC.
Beginning in February 2008, and through its August meeting, MAP had open forums about the interface of the Convention and the protest organizations. MAP sponsored the formation of the training of Minnesota Peace Teams to help keep the peace if events unraveled. (The 80 members of the Peace Teams stand in stark contrast to the gunboats we saw on the Mississippi River during the RNC.)
During the same pre-convention period, a committee of MAP was planning the Peace Island Conference for September 2 and 3 at Concordia University in St. Paul. "Hope In a Time of Crisis, a Solutions-Driven Conference" was its title. Six plenary sessions at the conference focused on Energy and the Environment, Global Peace and Nonviolence, and Justice and Human Rights.
A great line-up of nationally known musicians and arts-based activities were also organized by a non-partisan community group for a Peace Island Picnic at Harriet Island on September 4.
The RNC came and went, and there is no need to further rehash the focus of the local media. Unfortunately, the principle "If it bleeds, it leads" came into play. The facts are still out on how and why unruly incidents happenedbut those incidents got almost all of the main stream media's time and attention.
The Peace Island Conference drew over 400 participants, totally lived up to its name, and garnered nary a word of attention from mainstream media.
Similarly, the Peace Island Picnic drew over 1000 participants, and was in all ways a family event from beginning to end. The only newspaper coverage of the picnic was so inaccurate that it had to be retracted and corrections published.
In her column Ms. Kersten went beyond other public media in seeking out the negative and embellishing it. Ms. Kersten wrote: "If police had not stopped the anarchists before nightfall on Sept. 1, according to (Ramsey County Sheriff Bob) Fletcher, "this town would have been destroyed." That is a gross exaggeration. By the STrib's own account on September 5, there had been 10,000 peaceful protesters September 1 and 69 arrests (not convictions, but arrests) on felony or gross misdemeanor charges during the week .
In our opinion, the jarring presence of an army of police in full riot gear ready to do battle (something we had been promised wouldn't happen) exacerbated rather than reduced tensions and incidents.
The unreported reality of the week is, moreover, that many constructive exercises in participatory democracy happened outside the RNC in St. Paul, and the local peace community had a great deal to do with all of it.
.. Given the lofty goals and principles that the City of Saint Paul put in place for this convention, we recommend that the City and the community come together soon to genuinely share positions and to learn from our experiences of September 1 to 4, 2008.
Dick Bernard, Woodbury, 651-730-4849 firstname.lastname@example.org,
Past President Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP), Peace Island Conference Committee
Michael Andregg, St. Paul, 651-962-5907,
Organizer of the October 2007 Forum on Community Policing and the RNC;
Dennis Dillon, Minneapolis, 612-333-0723,
Chair, PIC, and Executive Committee MAP;
Rebecca Janke, Lakeland, 651-214-8282,
President, MAP and member PIC;
Coleen and Ross Rowley, Apple Valley, 952-456-0186,
Organizers, Peace Island Picnic
to MAP Member Opinion "Peaces"