Why Blockade the RNC?

Here’s an important piece from the RNC Welcoming Committee explaining why they believe it is feasible to blockade the RNC:

Over Labor Day Weekend, 2007, anarchists and anti-authoritarians from all over occupied Amerikkka gathered in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The object was to discuss the 2008 Republican National Convention and hash out a framework for anarchist resistance. Through a process of consensus in the main strategizing session and the action breakout that followed, attendees developed a three-tiered strategy for denying delegates access to the RNC. The strategy is available for viewing at several websites and floating around the internets, including: http://www.NoRNC.org and http://www.UnconventionalAction.org

We want to clarify that the strategy was not developed by the Welcoming Committee and then submitted for general approval- we understood from the beginning that such large strategic decisions were not ours, alone, to make. Nor, in fact, was the strategy developed by any other group and then imposed on everyone else. It is a strategy whose elements came from many different directions and coalesced into its current form at the pReNC. And like the strategy was not ours alone to develop, neither is it ours alone to change. Rather, we are acting in service of a movement much larger than ourselves, and place the highest importance on the facilitation of inclusive consensus processes and broad strategizing efforts that, we believe, give us our best shot at success.

In the months since the pReNC, the Welcoming Committee has been directing much energy towards disseminating information about this strategy and facilitating cooperative organizing for RNC resistance. Understanding that we are merely compiling and clarifying the arguments of a broad and diverse group of contributors and organizers rather than pushing our own agenda, onto the question at hand… Why blockades?


The geography of the 2008 RNC lends itself quite readily to a blockading strategy–unlike conventions of past years, this one is being held in a city without the capacity to sustain it alone. St. Paul is not big enough. Thus, convention-related events are happening all over the Twin Cities metro area, bringing Minneapolis into the fold. And between Minneapolis and St. Paul, there are still not enough hotel rooms to house the thousands of conventioneers who’ll be descending on our cities for four days. So, delegates, media, staff and extras will be housed throughout St. Paul, Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs, requiring that they all be transported to and from their hotels en masse (mostly on several hundred city buses contracted specifically for that purpose). Thanks to the mighty Mississippi, they’ll mostly have to be funneled across a small number of bridges, and thanks to the car culture we live in, they’ll only have a limited number of entrances to downtown St. Paul from which to choose. Few conventions have presented such clear transportation vulnerabilities, and we would be foolish to pass up the opportunities those vulnerabilities present. The 2008 RNC is begging to be blockaded.


Blockading is something that we as anarchists have put a lot of energy into over the past couple decades, meaning we have a lot of experience and technical know-how to apply to this sort of situation, and have a chance to share those skills with all kinds of folks just getting into things. It’s a strategically prudent choice to identify the skills–like blockading–that we have, and to use them where they’re most fitting. Our movement definitely suffers for being small and stretched-thin, and doing that is simply a more efficient use of our energy. This is an especially positive thing when you take into account that organizing mass mobilizations has historically been quite a drain on our radical communities. Simply put, the blockading strategy takes less from our movement by utilizing a skill we’ve already put lots of energy into developing.


Calling for “blockades” sets a radical tone for the day without dictating the forms of resistance that people engage in. Anything from a lockdown, to a pile of gathered materials, to a yoga bloc in an intersection, to a good, old-fashioned traffic jam, helps create the desired effect, and the more diverse the actions, the less likely the cops will be prepared to deal with them all. Last summer’s G8 protest in Germany created a change in the landscape of our organizing. Dissent! and Block G8 were able to mobilize huge amounts of people because of the open and participatory manner in which it was organized. The blockading strategy provides ways for large numbers of people who would likely be excluded from other strategies to plug in, through such things as public blockades–large, effective, accessible actions that meet people closer to their comfort level and provide clear avenues of participation for folks who aren’t experienced or aren’t already a part of strong militant networks.

And simultaneously, there is ample room for small affinity groups with the capacity to plan and execute their own actions to do so. But, breaking with the recent trend in mobilization planning of calling for a “day of decentralized direct actions” and strategizing no further, the pReNC framework creates a way for all of these actions to complement each other, resulting in an output greater than the sum of its parts.


Not everyone is into blockading, and that’s cool, but a lot of other tactics–the more mobile and offensive sorts, for example–are hard to do well in a space where large numbers of cops have easy access to any sites of potential interest and there’s little else going on to hold their attention. Successful execution of the blockading strategy, however, will actually create spaces more conducive to “other tactics” than we’d otherwise see.


The most “direct” way to oppose a dog-and-pony show is just to stop it. It’s worth recognizing that the RNC is a symbolic event–we all know who the nominee is, and the convention is just a chance for his party to gather and toast themselves at our expense. Stopping the convention won’t stop the election, but it throws a big fuckin’ wrench in the GOP’s PR machine, and they need that machine to survive.


It’s the plan we have, it’s the plan we’ve been working on for months. One of our best assets in RNC preparation is time. Organizing started almost two years in advance of this convention, and when we have the opportunity to execute a strategy with two years’ worth of organizing behind it (half of that explicitly around this blockading strategy), we don’t see the logic in throwing that away in favor of another strategy that simply doesn’t exist and, at this point in the game, could only be haphazardly organized.


Any strategy we come up with and have the resources to execute is bound to have its weaknesses–we are, after all, human–but one major recurrent weakness that we have the opportunity to alleviate in this round is that created by a lack of internal cohesion. Obviously, as anarchists, it is not our intention or our desire to see the homogenization of our movement; we do believe that our strength rests quite heavily on the diversity of thought and tactics found on our side of the barricades. But our strength rests as heavily on a shared understanding that diverse tactics are most effective when they are implemented in complement to each other.

In touring the country and discussing the strategy with anarchists all over, it’s become quite apparent to us that lots of people are pretty damn into it. They’re organizing, seriously and in big numbers, and willing to put in the requisite work to make this specific strategy successful. Given any two plans of equal strategic merit, the plan that incites broader enthusiasm, energy and support, is the plan more likely to succeed–and we believe the three-tiered strategy is such a plan.

– RNC Welcoming Committee


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