RAISING HELL AT THE DNC  
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Cops Raid Shadows, IMC

Claiming there was bomb in a nearby van, Los Angeles County Sheriffs temporarily closed down Patriotic Hall, home to the Indy Media Center and the Shadow Conventions, just as both were about to broadcast live reports from LA.
 
 
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LOS ANGELES, Monday, 10:30 p.m. -- Claiming they had an intelligence tip about a bomb threat, LA County Sheriffs temporarily closed down Patriotic Hall, the home of the Independent Media Center and the Shadow Conventions, located five blocks from the Democratic Convention.

The sheriffs detained 3 activists for several hours, shut down all power to a TV satellite truck in the parking lot and tore apart a "suspicious" van, only to later admit they had the wrong vehicle. As a result, Free Speech TV's live national telecast, "Crashing the Party" -- which would have been broadcast in 60 cities across the country during Bill Clinton's speech -- was knocked off the air. At the same time, hundreds of Shadow Convention participants were pushed out into the street.

Compounding matters, The LAPD reportedly got another "tip" that there was rioting going on outside Patriotic Hall and sent a massive police force roaring to the South Figueroa Street location. Trucks with shot-gun totting cops, hundreds of riot-geared police and five large busses all pulled up, ready to make massive arrests. What they discovered was Gore Vidal and Christopher Hitchens speaking to a crowd of 200 people in the streets outside the Hall, forced there by the sheriffs inside. When asked how the LAPD could think there was rioting going on with the LA Sheriffs on the scene, Deputy Chief Newton commented that "communication between the departments isn't very good."

Brian Drolett, in charge of the satellite operations for Free Speech TV, wondered, "By what right can they come in and shut down a national TV show on this flimsy pretense? By what right can they turn LA into a police state and discourage people from talking about the issues of import to Americans? I can only think that this was a planned effort to block our satellite transmission."

Rachel Cadman, a radio journalist working at the Indy Media Center, had been standing near her van in the Patriotic Hall parking lot late this afternoon when four Sheriff's deputies aggressively approached and took her, her sister and a friend into custody. According to the Sheriffs, the LAPD bomb squad was then called -- but they didn't respond immediately because they wanted more information. Nevertheless, without the bomb squad present the van was pulled apart, and all its contents thrown out into the parking lot and left there. (The bomb squad would arrive later and search the truck a second time, to no avail.)

After being forced out on to the sidewalk, the Shadow Convention participants shared a loud speaker from the mobile truck of Anteye.com, a video-oriented web site covering the Shadow Convention. Arianna Huffington and her cohorts attempted to keep the show going. The situation brought out the gallow humor of Vidal and Hitchens, two of the more droll commentators on the American left. Vidal said he "felt like he was in Chicago in '68 and was filling in the time until the bomb went off." Hitchens offered, "If we had a general election we'd have to decided which generals to choose." While Hitchens was joking, hundreds of riot geared cops were lining the streets and marching toward the Anteye truck and the people listening in the street.

Ultimately the entire situation at Patriotic Hall seemed an exercise in elaborate harassment by the various LA police forces, aimed at disrupting peaceful activities. It seemed at almost every turn, the LAPD had adopted the Colin Powell approach to democracy -- shows of massive force to intimidate the expression of free speech.