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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Divest from Iran Bill: Special Interests Reach into MN Leg.

Category: Iraq War
Posted: 05/18/09 08:27, Edited: 05/18/09 08:28

by Ross Rowley

Governor Pawlenty signed the little debated, easily passed ?Iran Divestment Bill? into law on Saturday (May 16). Few people noticed it because the end of session, budgetary brouhaha over the state deficit consumed all the local newsprint. It seems that only a 94 word AP article about its passage was generated.

This bill now mandates that the state Board of Investment rid itself of all foreign energy investments in Iran within a 15 month timeframe that begins 90 days from its signing. It is estimated that this law will cost Minnesota as much as $3 million in transfer fees alone to comply. With oil prices so low, mandating the sale of stock funds will most likely also mean tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars lost from state pension funds.

So why are we divesting funds now? Is it because of demands from the U.N? Did human rights groups or a coalition of concerned European allies urge the divestment? Or did the Obama Administration request it? No, no, no, no. The State of Minnesota Investment Board is going to be forced to divest because a very powerful pro-Israeli interest group wants it done.

Our state of Minnesota , in a terrible, struggling economy, stands to incur losses of millions of pension investment dollars in order to pursue a policy pretty much guaranteed to fail. Boycotts and/or divestments with nations we consider our enemies have historically had little effect. Many would argue that the forced divestment is actually counter-productive. One only has to think of the financial- trade embargo of Iraq throughout the 1990s which hurt innocent Iraqi civilians but strengthened Saddam?s hold on the country.

What does the passage of this law really show? It demonstrates that most of our state legislators along with Governor Tim Pawlenty have what it takes to be leaders at the national level: the willingness to sacrifice their constituents? interests to satisfy the objectives of a powerful interest group.
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Protest -- Not Always Violent, But Not Newsworthy Either

Category: Iraq War
Posted: 09/01/08 21:06, Edited: 09/01/08 23:15

by Dave Mindeman

There was a very long and peaceful processional from the Capitol to the Xcel Center. A long line of people displaying their displeasure with a corrupt administration.

However, if you watched the news, you would think that the majority of protests were violent, disruptive, and lawbreaking. Pictures of broken windows and overturned newspaper stands seem to be much more interesting than marchers with banners or signs.

I don't know how many people were in the march... I heard too many different estimates to really be certain, but I would guess over 5,000 would be ballpark. Splinter groups of a few dozen each went out of their way to make trouble. Who got the coverage? I think you know.

Not all of the side protest groups were intent on violent behavior.

I saw one of the splinter groups at the corner of Jackson St. and 10th, just before the march began. This group roped off that intersection blocking traffic in all directions. They clearly wanted a confrontation with the police and they did get it....sort of.

They chanted their slogans and I watched a couple of police officers radio in. I assumed they were calling for more help, but they did something else first.

The first officer on the scene tried to get them to disperse. Of course, they refused. She (the officer) then broke some of the tape and got a few cars to move through. The anarchists (I guess I'll call them that for lack of a more definitive term) quickly closed the opening by standing in front of traffic.

The cars started to back up. More police cars made an appearance but most of the officers remained with their cars. The officer tried to work around the protesters without confronting them. They, in turn, didn't push the issue and eventually started to move down the street. However, it was only to set up another blockade one block furthur up the street.

A few more police officers moved into that block. Meanwhile, the first officer started to move traffic away from that particular street. Eventually, they cordoned off one direction.

One block furthur down, the protesters, again, chanted slogans and blocked the traffic. The police officers talked to them and moved the traffic around them when they could. A couple of other police officers then started moving traffic out of the intersection. It was strange but they forced the cars to move onto an interstate ramp -- even if they wanted to move forward. They just decided to move vehicles out of there.

One pickup truck driver started to get out of his vehicle and was about to head toward the protesters but one of the officers pointed directly at him and order him back into his vehicle. He meant business and the driver obliged. He, too, was directed to the ramp.

The protesters continued to do their "civil disobedience" and the police officers continued to work around them -- neither side seemed to be communicating or were confrontational. They just seemed to be occupying the same space.

Eventually, the protesters moved out of the area. The police directed traffic back to a normal pattern. Back-up teams of police were in the area but never got involved. Frankly, it was all quite peaceful, even though the entire incident went on for about 35 minutes.

To be honest, I thought the police handled the situation quite well. I guess the protesters made their point but if they were trying to get arrested, that didn't happen.

So, at least for this little corner of St. Paul, the drama played itself out -- nobody got hurt and everybody seemed to have their say.

UPDATE: Looks like later in the day the police got a little more frustrated and started mass arrests in questionable circumstances. Go to the UPTAKE and check out their videos.
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Protests in Denver

Category: Iraq War
Posted: 08/28/08 00:12

by Dave Mindeman

In downtown Denver today, we came across a very large anti-war protest that literally stopped all downtown traffic for awhile. I took a video of the march which you can view at this link:

Denver Anti-War Protest March

The protest march was large. We were on the 16th Street Mall Bus when they announced that Mall traffic was closed while 6,000 people moved through the streets. The busses were told to stop driving and wait, so we had to get off the bus. We ended up being close enough to get a spot to view the march.

It was a very peaceful march with no incidents that I could see. Iraqi War veterans led off the march in military fashion...but every part of the march was surrounded by police officers....on foot, on bike, and swat teams in white vans. Tightly controlled all the way. I wonder if we will see more of the same in the Twin Cities next week.

Two days ago there was a little rougher protest with several arrests and some pepper spray injuries. The Unconventional Denver group (although the paper also mentioned a group called Recreate 68 as involved also) had planned to protest the "capitalist fundraising orgy" involving several big fundraisers around town. But according to the Denver Post newspaper, police intercepted them and made over 100 arrests.

The paper said the police were aware of the group's plans and had massed thier forces in the park. One person was quoted as saying, "The thing that was crazy was no one was doing anything. And then they used the pepper spray."

It seemed to be an overreaction.

Nothing like that happened at the large protest march. Many people lined the streets to watch. As you can see on the video, police kept tight control...but it took over 5 and 1/2 minutes for all the people to file by at a pretty brisk pace.

We shall see what happens next week in Minnesota.
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