DATE August 17, 2000 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Monica Yant Kinney and Tom Ginsberg discuss the protests
in Philadelphia and the police response to protesters
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, in for Terry Gross.
The protests at the Democratic National Convention yesterday focused on the
theme of police corruption and brutality with a stage sit in at the Los
Angeles Police Department's Rampart station house, a division involved in the
LAPD's worst corruption scandal in a decade. As the group moved toward the
convention site, skirmishes broke out, with police beating some of the
demonstrators with batons. The local Los Angeles chapter of the ACLU
announced yesterday it would file a civil suit in federal court accusing the
LAPD of harassing journalists, including one case of firing rubber bullets at
a freelance photographer.
The protests at the conventions in Los Angeles and Philadelphia have raised
questions about police response to political activism, and the public's level
of tolerance for protest and civil disobedience. Thomas Ginsberg and Monica
Yant Kinney covered the protest during the Republican National Convention in
Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The story of the protesters is
still unfolding. So far one lawsuit alleging abuse has been filed against the
Philadelphia police, but legal organizations representing the demonstrators
are considering more. As of Tuesday, all of the protesters arrested in
Philadelphia were out of jail. Trials are set to begin in September. Monica
Yant Kinney recaps what happened in Philadelphia during the Republican
convention two weeks ago.
Ms. MONICA YANT KINNEY (Philadelphia Inquirer): (Technical difficulties)
391--it could go a little bit higher--I think, there were a quartet of people
who were arrested after that final count. Now the protesters have given much
larger numbers. But the bulk of the arrests took place on--for events
surrounding the Tuesday of the convention: planned protests to block streets,
block traffic during rush hour that wound up, in many cases being violent.
There were incidents of vandalism, car windows were smashed, tires were
slashed, spray painted--I know a city official who had the word `fascist'
spray painted on her car. There was an incident in which--a lot of the
policing was done by the cops on bikes. And in fact, at one incident, some
bike cops were essentially allegedly attacked by protesters who had taken
their bikes. And the police commissioner was roughed up in one incident.
And while there were a handful of folks who were given felony charges, the
bulk were misdemeanor charges; things like obstructing a highway, obstructing
justice. Possession of an instrument of crime was an interesting charge that
got a lot of attention here. The theory in Philadelphia was that this
so-called instruments of crime were Nextel cell phones, walkie-talkies, and
PalmPilots, and that a lot of this work that was being coordinated on the
streets was being done with, you know, these little electronic handheld
devices, and those were the so called instruments of crime.
You know, protester after protester would decry that were picked up simply
walking on the street talking on a telephone. Now, you know, we'll have to
see what happens when these cases actually go to trial, if that was indeed the
There was a raid of a warehouse in west Philadelphia, where puppet-making
materials were being stored, where groups of protesters had been putting
together large puppet--political puppets and signs for quite some time. And
it turned into about a six-hour standoff of sorts. I actually was there all
day while the police waited for their search warrant to arrive. A group of
protesters calling themselves the Haverford 70, because there were 70 of
them, and they were on Haverford Avenue, were, you know, holding out banners
and throwing banners from the inside saying `Free the Haverford 70.' They
allege that they were kept inside this warehouse against their will. The
police say, `Well, no, actually they could have left at any time, but we could
not go in until we had this search warrant.' Those folks were then trotted out
one by one, cuffed, taken on a bus, taken away while this raid of that
facility took place.
And, Tommy, want to talk a little bit about what they found inside there,
Mr. TOM GINSBERG (Philadelphia Inquirer): I understand they found coffee
cans full of kerosene attached to chains with rags soaked, which they believe
were going to be used as some sort of weapon. There does also happen to be a
new trend in something called fire twirling, where you do these as some kind
of performance art. And it is popular among this particular crowd of people
who were here. So who knows what the stuff was used for. There was PVC
piping, which is a type of construction piping, which can be used to hold up a
sign in a protest, or it can also be used to stick your hand into and chain
you to somebody else to form a blockade. So what the stuff was actually going
to be used for we don't know.
The police say it was going to be used to obstruct traffic, which is a
violation of law. And the protesters adamantly insist it was for art work for
puppets. And the case may or may not hinge on what they were going to do with
it. I don't know. Maybe the fact that it was there, and the fact that the
police surrounded this place for hours, and in fact, were not letting people
out, even though they said they were. I talked to some people by phone inside
while this was going on. And they said they tried to get out, and police
wouldn't let them. So, I think a lot of circumstances around that event will
probably form as much of a legal case as what they found.
Ms. KINNEY: And then what you had happen after whether it was for folks
arrested in the middle of a protest or those folks who were inside, the notion
was jail solidarity. We will not say who we are, we will not allow ourselves
to be separated, we will not allow them to use one of us against another, in
terms of, you know, `Hey, you can get out of jail early if you rat on this
other person.' So what you had for a time is hundreds of Jane and John Doe's.
Sometimes they would add a nickname on the end, Jane Doe Sprinkle, or Jane,
you know, Sunshine, as a means of slowing down the process, keeping the
authorities from knowing who they were.
Over time, you know, some of those folks, you know, chafed under the
unpleasantries of being in jail. A lot of them--you know, all last week we
had, you know, a dozen or so a day, eventually giving up their names so they
could get their bail reduced so they could get out of jail. It wasn't a place
they really wanted to be in. In turn they launched a brand new protest
against jail conditions in Philadelphia and talked a lot about how they were
BOGAEV: I'd like to talk about some of the, if not, leaders. Some of the
leading personalities in the protests at least in Philadelphia. Some of the
people who, you as reporters, took more seriously. Monica, you profiled a
John Sellers. And he's nationally known as a civil disobedience activist
among those circles. Could you give us some background on him?
Ms. KINNEY: Yeah. John Sellers, actually--he came to light almost by
accident in Philadelphia. He, by all accounts, was here to observe more than
anything. Sellers is the head of the Ruckus Society, which is a San
Francisco-Berkeley based organization that has emerged in the last five years
as a leading educator for folks wanting to learn civil disobedience. They
hold clinics and training sessions around the country for different kinds of
groups. And by in large, they are quite clear. They are non-violent civil
disobedience and they teach the methods, they teach how to do it safely.
Sellers is a native of the Philadelphia suburbs. And he was here, at least by
his and his family's account, to observe, and was going to be headed to the
Democratic Convention in Los Angeles.
I actually happened to see Sellers get arrested. He was walking down the
street and, actually accompanied by a couple reporters, when all of the
sudden, you know, he's surrounded by police officers that include of the
deputy commissioners of the Philadelphia department. By accounts of the
witnesses, he was talking to the folks with him, had perhaps been on his cell
phone prior, and again was in possession of a cell phone and a PalmPilot--on
him. And he was taken in, and was--you know, the DA and the police
department's response was that he was this ring leader, he was orchestrating
this, because he was this nationally known figure who's been on the front page
of The Wall Street Journal, and The LA Times. And the sense was that he was a
pretty good example of the kind of police targeting that was going on here.
He was familiar. His face was well known.
And to talk to some of the lawyers involved in representing the protesters, he
may have indeed been picked up--at least their account is, he was picked as
sort of a favor to the feds; that maybe if you could keep this guy in custody,
he wouldn't wind up in Los Angeles and could somehow be kept away from those
events. His family, of course, said that is not the case; that was not why he
was here. And he was one of the folks held on $1 million bail, all
misdemeanors, no clear sign of what it was he had been doing or had done
previously to justify the arrest. When it came down, he gave his name, he
participated, he was not a Jane or John Doe, and his bail was reduced
drastically and he was let out. And, you know, he has maintained all along
that this was an absolutely false arrest, just for the sake of getting him off
the streets and keeping him away.
BOGAEV: What were his actual alleged offenses?
Ms. KINNEY: Much of the same as a lot of the other folks: obstructing
highway, obstructing justice, that possession of instrument of crime. There
was some talk that he had been spotted chaining himself or chaining someone
else to a trash can and throwing trash into the street. There was very little
coming out the DA's office about exactly where or when that happened. Clearly
it wasn't that particular day. I saw the guy--there was no trash anywhere
near him when they took him in, and he was not resisting in any way, shape, or
form. And, you know, to talk to people who know him and to check his record
he had been--you know, he had been arrested on previous occasions, but he's
never been violent, and that's not his cause at all. And he has been an
environmental activist. He's been a peaceful protester for most of his life.
And everyone was pretty startled by the things that they were saying about
BOGAEV: Tom, I thought it was interesting that you wrote in one article about
the demonstrators that they may look disorganized, and this might also be true
of Los Angeles, but at least in Philadelphia, they actually aren't
disorganized and they are, in fact, quite sophisticated in their use of
technology and strategy. Can you give us some examples for me?
Mr. GINSBERG: Yeah. This is interesting too. And this is something I think
the police do understand, actually. They may not understand the goals, but I
think they understand somewhat how it works. Which is interesting then, when
they come out and call people a leader. They do have a structure where they
don't like anyone to be identified as a leader, both for tactical and
political philosophical reasons. They don't like leaders, especially the
anarchist streak among some of them. And for tactical reasons, if you have a
leader and that leader is arrested then you're leaderless. And you try to
The way they organize protests here, and I just presume the way they are being
done in Los Angeles, is a structure that is based on affinity groups, where
you have small groups of people who get together and decide among themselves,
voluntarily, what action they want to take, and are then coordinated through
people who have either mapped out the city, or mapped out certain areas with a
strategy towards either disrupting a street, closing a building, targeting a
certain meeting, whatever it might be. And it's all very diffused--decision
making is very diffused. So you have one group that has mapped out, say, the
building here, and they know that there's a back door, or that there's an
alley over here, and there's a street, and there's a police sub station down
the block, and they then go to the affinity group, and they present that
information to the affinity group. And they say, `Here's an opportunity for
you,' and the group then decides what to do.
In some cases the group then goes out to do this activity, and they find that
the police have surrounded the building, so they quickly call up those people
on their cell phones, their Nextels, which is a particular kind of cell phone
that can double as a walkie-talkie. And you say, `Well, gee, this place is
blocked. What else you got?' And they say, `Well, it looks like there's
another place over there.' So then they hang up, and they say, `Well, should
we do it? OK. Let's go do it.'
So they--it's very diffused, decentralized decision making. It's
sophisticated in that it always works with electronic communication. It seems
to anyway. And it's sophisticated and tactically, they can arrest a lot of
people, and yet these protests can continue with whoever's left on the street.
BOGAEV: They also divided their groups into different groups. A tactical
group--Right?--and a medical group.
Mr. GINSBERG: There are a lot of different kinds of support: medical,
legal, technical. One of them that they had here was tactical support people
who were deployed around in different areas of the city that they had
previously mapped out. And they had phones. And they were not taking part in
protests. They were just telling people this area is clear, there's a group
coming here, there's a group going there. Interestingly enough, the police
realized this enough, in fact, they realized this in Seattle, that if they
target people who are on the phones they can actually--they can hamper the
protest somewhat. They can certainly hamper the coordination. And that does
seem--that seems as to what happened here.
By the end of the--by Wednesday morning, the second day of the bad protests
here, a lot of people were saying they couldn't reach their tactical people by
telephone. And they were not answering the phones. It appeared that the
police had kind of eaten up the core of some of their coordination. So it
left them still doing their activities, their actions, but they were much less
coordinated and a little frustrated. So, to that degree, they're
sophisticated. And I think police are learning how to target them, and
protesters in turn, very likely, will learn how to get around it.
BOGAEV: My guests are Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Tom Ginsberg and Monica
Yant Kinney. They covered the protests during the Republican National
Convention here in Philadelphia and are following the story of the lawsuit
that has grown out of the demonstrations. Let's take a break, and then we'll
talk some more.
This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
BOGAEV: If you're just joining us, my guests are Philadelphia Inquirer
reporters Monica Yant Kinney and Tom Ginsberg. They covered the protest beat
during the Republican National Convention earlier this month, and also are
covering its fallout.
Let's pick up the story since the end of the Republican Convention in
Philadelphia. Can you give us a run down on the lawsuits that have been filed
against the city since then?
Mr. GINSBERG: So far there has been one lawsuit. There had initially been
talk and promises and threats of more. And what they would exactly be over
varied from unlawful search and seizure to arrest without probable cause so
forth. The one lawsuit they've managed to put together so far is over the
unlawful search and seizure of protest medics, people who were activists who
had been outfitted as medics and were probably on the streets, basically in
the same pattern that the protesters were, but they were--the medics were
there as observers, as medics only; they were not supposed to take part in any
At roughly the same time on the same day, on Tuesday, the second day, or
actually the third day of the protests, the biggest protest--at about the same
time in the day, several groups of these medics seemed to have been targeted
at the same time. At least that's their allegation. They were surrounded by
groups of bicycle cops, or others. They were forced to put their hands on
walls, their stuff was gone through, in some cases their bandages were thrown
away in the garbage right in front of them. In some cases, they say their
water was poured out on the street and they were told to pour it out. In one
case a guy was told to drink his own water to prove that it was water.
Another case, somebody said that the officer poured the water over his head.
Lots of little harassment. None of these people were arrested. And this was
a pretty clear, at least, easily argued case. And this appears to be the
reason why the lawyers chose to mount this one first.
BOGAEV: The ACLU, though, has filed in federal court on behalf of the main
protest organizers in Los Angeles, accusing the LAPD of infringing on free
speech by harassing and intimidating peaceful protesters. Does the ACLU cite
examples from the Philadelphia police action in their suit?
Mr. GINSBERG: That I don't know. There has been--there have been some
suggestions that the Los Angeles Police did this preemptively after the police
raided the warehouse here. I have not seen any proof of that. And certainly
the Los Angeles police don't--they don't seem to need a lot of pointers from
Philadelphia police when it comes to dealing with crowds. I think that they
certainly have had experience. That is not to say that they don't watch each
other. There was a contingent of Los Angeles police in Philadelphia observing
events here. To what extent they where involved in arrests or other things,
we don't know. Philadelphia police were in Washington, DC, in April to study
things there, as both LA and Philly police were in Seattle last year studying
things there. They cooperate with each other.
In addition to that, there was a multi-agency task force that included federal
officials, that was an operation here through the whole convention. And they
shared a lot of information. You know, where does an idea come from to do
things, I don't know, but...
Ms. KINNEY: But it has been interesting to note that even in the first few
instances of protests-police conflict in Los Angeles that there have been
clear differences in their approach. I mean, even Philadelphia police
Commissioner John Timoney has made a couple swiping remarks about the
difference in apparel and the riot gear that LA police have chosen to use, and
the rubber bullets, which Timoney, famously, said, you know, `I'm from
Ireland. We don't use rubber bullets.' And he made--you know, Philadelphia
was quite clear in saying we won't do tear gas, we won't do rubber bullets.
And they are taking some clear steps to distance themselves from what is
happening or not happening in Los Angeles.
BOGAEV: Monica Yant Kinney and Tom Ginsberg reported on the protests during
the Republican National Convention for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and are
covering the legal aftermath. We'll hear more in the second half of our show.
I'm Barbara Bogaev, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
BOGAEV: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.
Let's continue our conversation with Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Monica
Yant Kinney and Tom Ginsburg. They covered the protests during the Republican
National Convention in Philadelphia earlier this month and have been reporting
on the legal fallout. Almost 400 protesters were arrested. The last of the
demonstrators were released from jail on Tuesday. Some critics have accused
the city of holding protesters in jail for an unreasonably long time during
their processing in an effort to keep them off the streets. I asked Monica
Yant Kinney about the validity of that claim.
Ms. KINNEY: Well, I think to a large extent the police have acknowledged
that they did have a strategy to keep certain people off the streets. I mean,
in a story that we wrote they said--you know, they acknowledged that they were
targeting people they believed to be leaders--ring leaders, they called them,
organizers. Whether those people were indeed leaders or not, they were--they
had surveillance, they had intelligence, it said these folks were, you know,
directly involved in the planning of some of these activities. But what's
interesting about the length of time in detainment is that, you know, you have
a lot of different stories about why it took so long. I mean, on one hand you
have police saying, `What we've said all along is that we're not gonna make
any special arrangements for these folks. We're not gonna somehow expedite a
system for a bunch of, potentially, out-of-town protesters, give them better
treatment than your garden variety Philadelphia criminal would get.
On the other hand they were so overwhelmed by the number of people coming into
this system that even the typical structure of how you move someone from one
location to the next to get them to arraignment is gonna be slowed down. And
then you have the matter of people who just flatly refused to give their names
or cooperate in any way. And that's gotta slow down any system. At one point
when some of the bail hearings were going on, folks were petitioning to have
their bail reduced. And a lawyer representing a group of Jane and John Does
made an appeal, you know, `These folks are in here for ridiculously high
bails, Judge. And we want to get them brought down.' And she said, `Well,
let me get this straight. They haven't given their names. They've given no
information and you want me to reduce their bail and I don't know who they are
or where they're from?' She said, `You know, they can pay the bail that
they've got now, which a lot of people did, and they actually got out as Jane
and John Does, but I'm not gonna cut them any slack. If we don't know who
they are, they're a complete flight risk.'
And we're not gonna--just over and over again, we're not gonna make special
accommodations for folks just because they were brought in on, you know,
charges that may very well get thrown out of court once they're case is moved
through the system. I mean, clearly by virtue of agreeing to drop a lot of
these bails, the DA's office acknowledged that $1 million for misdemeanor
charges was exorbitant. And each one of those hearings where the DA came in
saying. `All right. We'll take it down to $200,000 or so,' was an admission
that these are probably gonna be kicked out once things move along in the
BOGAEV: What was the justification though for the high bails? Was there a
consensus among the sources you have in the legal community that that is not
only out of line but unconstitutional?
Ms. KINNEY: Oh, the consensus was everyone was fairly shocked. I mean,
defense attorneys all over town and legal experts said, `You have people
accused of felonies, serious, heinous crimes that don't see bails quite that
high.' And everyone was sort of scratching their head. And to that end, I'm
not sure that we ever heard from the DA's office the specifics beyond `This
person was an organizer and a ring leader, a, you know, a master of mayhem,
someone who was the force behind violence that erupted and therefore, that's
why we're sticking these charges.'
I mean, quietly, a week later, when each of these bail reduction hearings that
were held came into play, someone from the DA's office walked in and told the
judge in the case, `Sure. I recommend reducing it to--you know, from a
million to 200,000,' without much explanation. The judge would in turn say,
`I'm taking it down even further. This is--you know, these are misdemeanor
You don't need to hear much explanation beyond the fact that within a span of
five or six days, the DA was--after the convention was gone--the DA was
willing to say, `These bails were too high.' Now whether that issue comes out
when those cases that go to trial, they may not have much of a case at all.
But the idea being if you could--the police seemed to think if you could keep
somebody behind bars and keep them there long enough, you could prevent
anymore violence or eruptions to happen here.
BOGAEV: Could you describe the conditions under which protesters--many of
them--were held here in this city while awaiting bail hearings and
arraignments--since it is under scrutiny now?
Ms. KINNEY: Well, you have two different stories. You have the descriptions
that the protesters give, and you have the descriptions that the police in the
city gives. And to some extent, you have a third, which is some of the
neutral observations of attorneys who went in. They didn't let folks like Tom
and I go in and have the run of the place. But on the protesters' side, you
had some pretty over-the-top accusations about folks being hog-tied, folks
being dragged naked against their will, you know, through hallways at one
point. Someone said they were dragged through a troth of urine and feces; and
folks being essentially chained to the cell for the purpose of trying to get
their fingerprint or take a picture.
They complained about everything from the food offerings. There were quite a
few vegetarians and vegans, in particular, who didn't take well to the white
bread and cheese sandwiches, which are the fare when you're in jail in
Philadelphia, nor did a lot of the, you know, suburban or college-age, maybe
first-timers in jail understand that you have to go to the bathroom in front
of your fellow inmates. There were a lot of indignities that seemed to be the
focus of their anger and frustration that perhaps didn't cross over into the
line of brutality or mistreatment.
On the other hand, you didn't hear the police saying that this was all true.
They said, `Well, yeah, we feed them cheese sandwiches. That's the standard
fare. And when someone practices non-compliance and they take off their
clothes and they refuse to be physically moved, we do have to drag them.
That's how we get people moving around. That's a police tactic.' The ACLU
did have attorneys that were in at several points during the custody, and for
the most part, we did not hear that coming--they were not echoing the loud,
angry condonations that were coming from the protesters. They'd say they just
didn't see the extremities. Whether or not any folks were transported between
a couple different facilities, and it's entirely possible that some of these
things did take place. But without physically being inside, it just seemed
that every day the accusations got a little bit louder and a little more
extreme, and at the same time, a little muddier. It wasn't quite clear what
was abuse and what was just uncomfortable for people who had never been in
BOGAEV: Monica Yant Kinney and Tom Ginsburg of the Philadelphia Inquirer,
we'll talk more after the break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
BOGAEV: My guests are Tom Ginsburg and Monina Yant Kinney. They reported on
the political protests in Philadelphia earlier this month and are covering its
What is behind the protest tactic of not giving your name when you're
Ms. KINNEY: Well, they call it jail solidarity. And the idea is `If you
can't separate us, you can't play us against us. You can't get one of us to
rat out the other. You can't--really if you can't separate us, you can't
divide us. And we are all in one and body and in spirit, and therefore, we're
gonna give you our names, we're not gonna help you in any way. If we have to
take off our clothes and lay our bodies limp in jail, we will make it as
difficult as possible for you to keep us in custody or to pull us apart from
each other.' And the idea probably sounds really great when you're there on
the protest line, but I think after a few days in jail what--you know, I think
they at one point had more than almost 200 people, I think, had been Jane and
And they--a lot of them got some pretty high bail and the idea was, `Well, if
you can't pay that now, you're gonna have to give up your names so that we can
get a hearing to consider lowering your bail.' And a lot of them held on for
several days. But over the course of a weekend in jail and some pretty
unpleasant circumstances, I think as of yesterday, they were gone. They were
done. Now a few of them did get out as Jane and John Does with the idea being
that they'd pay a little bit higher percentage because the city presumes that
they're never gonna see them again, and they will pay higher than what their
fine would be because they're not gonna come back for their hearing.
But the protesters were real clear--and, in fact, most of them kept their
nicknames--they refused to give their names throughout the course of the
events because they wanted to remain in this solidarity. And that was one of
the reasons that folks who were criticizing their cause saying, you know,
`Look, you're claiming abuse or you're claiming mistreatment in jail, you're
claiming that you've been targeted, but you're calling yourself Twinkle. That
doesn't really lend a lot of credibility to your cause. We need to see more.
We need to hear more.' And very few of the protesters would really step up to
the plate on that. They wanted to really stand behind the solidarity and keep
BOGAEV: Several people were arrested at the protests in Philadelphia for the
offense of using a telephone while walking down the street, talking on the
telephone. Can you address the constitutional issues that have grown out
of--in the aftermath of the Philadelphia protests.
Mr. GINSBURG: Well, there very well may be in one of the lawsuits that comes
up a false arrest lawsuit. Talking on a cell phone is not illegal obviously.
However, if police can show that they were using the cell phone as part of an
ongoing protest to organize the violation of law, that may be a different
issue and legally, I think, it's much muddier. One of the charges that a lot
of them have been hit with is not just obstructing a highway, but conspiracy
to obstruct a highway. And that conceivably could fall under the
category--the ACLU--one of the ACLU lawyers even admitted as much, even said
as much right after a lot of these people were rounded up that the targeting
of people, which the police said they were doing, targeting people with cell
phones who they perceived to be as leaders or ring leaders would, on the face
of it, not necessarily be unconstitutional if it be could shown they were
involved in mounting these.
I don't know how that can be proven, one way or the other. We'll just have to
see what happens if it will be maybe come down--maybe come down to testimony,
witness testimony, the one person was using the cell phone to do this or that.
I don't know. I talked to one woman--another one who wouldn't give me her
real name--who insisted she was talking to her mother. Who knows.
Ms. KINNEY: And interestingly enough, some of the protesters, by the end of
the week, said they had changed their strategy. They were dressing up in sort
of business dressy clothes so they would not be perceived as protesters
walking down the street using their telephones, but rather just businessmen.
Office workers who were conducting their day's business. Clearly they
understood that the phones--the role the phones played were a part of this.
But the ACLU lawyers haven't filed anything but specific charges to violation
of their constitutional rights. And in fact, have more often been saying that
the larger issue here is one of trying to keep people from voicing their
dissent, their right to speak out. That the way that the police handled this,
the way the police planned it from the start was an attempt to suppress their
free speech. That may wind up being the issue that is--the constitutional
issue that comes out.
Mr. GINSBURG: Yeah. I think you have to keep your eye on what the issue is.
Certainly, people were involved in organizing and carrying out protests. But
what were those protests? What destruction was planned? What disruption
actually happened? And to what extent is the blocking of a road, you know,
for a few hours going to be a horrible thing that lands somebody in jail and
requires preemptive arrests and crackdowns and--I don't know. I think that in
the end--I think the police department here and in other cities and the city
here will have to learn again--perhaps like was done in the '60s and '70s--how
to countenance some level of protest and let it happen and understand that it
doesn't always have to be a threat to the nationality or the autonomy of a
state and a government. I mean, it can happen. I think Philly tried, at
certain levels, to do that to a certain extent. On the other hand, they also
had made a promise to the Republicans to make this city keep running. And
they were really dedicated to doing that.
BOGAEV: Monina Yant Kinney, Tom Ginsburg, I want to thank you very much for
talking with me today.
Ms. KINNEY: Thanks.
Mr. GINSBURG: Thank you.
BOGAEV: Tom Ginsburg and Monica Yant Kinney of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Commentary: Media's description of vice presidential candidate
Senator Joseph Lieberman
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:
At the convention last night when Joseph Lieberman accepted his party's
nomination for vice president, he spoke more than once about his Jewish
religion. Our linguist Geoff Nunberg has been thinking about the word `Jew'
and its past and present use ever since Al Gore tapped Lieberman as the first
Jew to be on a national party ticket.
If the Pulitzer committee ever gets around to giving a prize for journalistic
circumspection, they ought to give serious consideration to the way The
Washington Post announced Gore's vice presidential choice on August 7th. The
headline ran: `Gore Taps Lieberman As Running Mate.' And the story went on
to talk about Lieberman's political background for 11 paragraphs before it
finally got around to noting that he was, as The Post demurely put it, `The
first person of the Jewish faith selected to run on a national ticket.' The
rest of the press was neither quite so restrained in their placement of the
information, nor quite so fastidious in conveying it.
Actually the first I saw of the story was in a copy of the San Francisco
Examiner that was sitting on a rack when I stopped at the corner store that
morning. The headline screamed: `Gore Picks Jewish Running Mate!' And it
was only when I squinted at the subhead that I found out that the vice
presidential candidate was going to be Senator Lieberman rather than, say,
Larry King. That seemed an uncomfortably prominent placement to give the
candidate's religion. I went around for the rest of the afternoon saying
things to myself like, `Men come to lay carpet for Jewish homeowner.'
Apparently the Examiner thought better of it, too. By the time the late
sports edition came out, the headline had been changed to, `Gore's Historic
Pick For VP,' which at least left you equally in the dark as to who the choice
was and why he was significant.
Most of the press tried to find a middle way between those extremes. The New
York Times headline was, `Lieberman will run with Gore,' with the subhead,
`First Jew on a major US ticket.' Even that got a number of people upset.
Some who were indignant about the emphasis given to Lieberman's religion and
some who were just uncomfortable about seeing him baldly described as a Jew.
It's odd to think that that word can still summon up so much uneasiness. But
that was evident in the number of circumlocutions that the press found for
Lieberman. From The Washington Post's `Person of the Jewish faith' to the
more common phrase, `Jewish person,' which I found in more than 40 newspaper
stories about Lieberman that appeared in the week following the announcement.
You kept seeing things like, `Will Americans vote for a Jewish person for vice
Why are people still diffident about calling somebody a Jew? It might be that
the use of the word `Jew' as a noun is contaminated by its uses as an
attributive adjectives in things like `Jew lawyer, Jew banker or Jew
shortstop.' That's not to mention the dazzlingly infelicitous phrase `Jew
person' that was applied to Lieberman by the president of the Dallas chapter
of the NAACP in the course of making some anti-Semitic remarks that promptly
got him fired from his post. And then there's the verb `to Jew down,' which
is clearly beyond the pale of polite conversation.
There should be nothing offensive about using Jew as a bare noun though. But
even that gets some people rattled. It's an old story. For more than 150
years, the word `Jew' has been trailing a cloud of consternation behind it,
ever since some people began to wonder whether anti-Semitism might be a social
problem rather than an immutable part of the human condition.
You can see the shift in the publishing history of Dickens' "Oliver Twist."
When the novel first appeared in 1837, Fagin was described as a Jew in just
about every sentence, `the Jew entered,' `the Jew replied,' `the Jew said.'
It gets to sound almost like a pronoun. But Dickens eliminated most of the
occurrences of the word in later revisions of the novel. Other 19th century
writers were even more leery of using the word `Jew.' The extreme case is
Benjamin Disraeli's windy novel "Coningsby," which describes its Jewish
character Sidonia with every synonym and paraphrase available. He's an
Israelite, then a Hebrew, then a Mosaic Arab. For Sidonia puts it to the
young hero, `I am of that race that the apostles professed before they
followed your master.' It's a circumlocution that makes The Washington Post's
`person of the Jewish faith' seem almost direct by comparison.
Of course, not all authors were so circumspect. George Eliot used `Jew' all
the time in her 1876 novel, "Daniel Deronda," where she waded into the Jewish
question with a confidence bordering on hutzpah. That's the other tendency
you could see in the press reaction to the Lieberman choice. If The
Washington Post circumspection had an opposite number, then it was in Time
magazine's decision to call its cover story on the nomination, `Hutzpah!' with
an exclamation point. The article took the word from Lieberman, who had
quipped that some people might describe the selection as an act of hutzpah,
which Time defined as a Yiddish word for audacity. But actually the word is a
lot closer to nerve or frontery than simple boldness. In Lieberman's mouth,
it might be self-mockery. But coming from Time, it made it sound as if the
nomination was an outrage, presumably not what they wanted to convey.
Actually the headline might count as a bungled act of hutzpah all by itself.
BOGAEV: Geoff Nunberg is a linguist at Stanford University and the Xerox
Palo Alto Research Center.
Coming up, some music you won't hear at the Democratic National Convention
tonight. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
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Commentary: Music used at tonight's DNC
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:
You may recall that the Democratic convention that anointed Bill Clinton as
its candidate eight years ago concluded with a spectacle of Bill, his wife
Hillary and Al and Tipper Gore all dancing to Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop."
And Bill Clinton played the song again after his speech on Monday night. Rock
critic Ken Tucker has been thinking about some pop music Al Gore and vice
presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman might want to use as their convention
Democrats feel that can use rock 'n' roll for their own purposes because rock
is mass culture, democratic with a small D. Republicans, being the party of
age and privilege, avoid public displays of populous party animalism that old
devil rock 'n' roll can inspire. Indeed the Republicans must have been
chuckling up their sleeves when on Monday night outside the LA convention
center a concert by Rage Against the Machine ended in a little rubber bullet
police and protesters melee. Still, it seems inevitable that the
Gore-Lieberman ticket will conclude its Los Angeles love in with some piece of
baby boomer pop. This, even though the potentially lethal combination of
record labeling, Tipper Gore and Joe Lieberman, who has teamed up with Bill
Bennett to deplore the, quote, "moral sewage of popular entertainment," is
likely to severely inhibit the nature of the song chosen. This means probably
no joke farewell to Bill Clinton with a rousing rendition of the 1968 hit by
The O'Kaysions "I'm a Girl Watcher" or Sly and the Family Stone's "Thank
You For Letting Me Be Myself Again" or--Oh, man, who is not going to miss
Clinton?--K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "I'm Your Boogie Man."
Here, however, is an unsolicited list of Gore-Lieberman possibilities. For
their pursuit of elevating post-Lewinsky discourse, Stevie Wonder's "Higher
Ground." Al Gore is into self-deprecating his stiff image these days so he
might want to go with Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock" or Eddie Floyd's
"Knock on Wood" or the only song he can probably dance to convincingly, the
Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian."
(Soundbite of "Walk Like an Egyptian")
BANGLES: All the old paintings on the tomb, they do the sand dance, don't you
know? If they move too quick, oh-way-oh, they're falling down like a domino.
And the bazaar man by the Nile, he got the money on a bet, for the crocodiles,
oh-way-oh, they snap their teeth on a cigarette. Foreign types with their
hookah pipes sing: Way-oh-way-oh-way-ooo-aaa-ooo, walk like an Egyptian.
TUCKER: For Lieberman to address his orthodox faith while also alluding to
his support for gay rights, how about "Saturday Night's Alright For
Fighting" by Elton John? If the ticket decides to go for cute, of course,
there's always Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me." If, on the other hand,
they decide to try and get down with their bad selves while remaining true to
their cautious, hesitant selves, there's also Funkadelic's "Standing on the
Verge of Getting It On." If they decide to decide their pop culture
obliviousness, there's a good piece of '80s schlock available, "Out of Touch"
by Hall & Oates. And while most of network television is humming Wham's "Wake
Me Up Before You Go-Go," the Democrats, like their opponents, know that the
secret soundtrack to all presidential campaigns is the backroom maneuvering
and dealmaking summed up by the true anthem of modern politics, Charlie
Rich's "Behind Closed Doors."
(Soundbite of Charlie Rich singing "Behind Closed Doors")
Mr. CHARLIE RICH: (Singing) No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.
My baby makes me smile; Lord, don't she make me smile. She's never far away
or too tired to say, `I want you.' She's always a lady, just like a lady
should be. But when they turn out the lights, she's still a baby to me,
'cause when we get behind closed doors, when she lets her hair hang down, and
she makes me glad that I'm a man. Oh, no one knows what goes on behind closed
doors, behind closed doors.
BOGAEV: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Entertainment Weekly.
BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.
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