By Ben Adler
The protest happening outside the Democratic National Convention was decidedly lacking in coherence. There were around 50 protesters, surrounded by at least as many cops, at the intersection of North College and East 5th streets, immediately outside the DNC security perimeter.
The gathering was promoted by local Occupy groups, but it lacked a clear message or purpose. The disparate signs covered a wide array of minor and major left wing causes. The protest was nominally dedicated to political prisoners around the world, and so there were a couple signs saying, "Free the Cuban 5 Now!" and "End the Blockade of Cuba." But many attendees said they do not know about that issue in particular. (The Cuban Five are men from Miami who were convicted of espionage.)
Other signs advertised domestic economic themes such as "Stop the Utility Hikes" and "Corporations are not People!" The latter sign holder might be a little bit confused—it was, of course, not President Obama but his Republican opponent who declared that corporations are people.
Adam Price, 23, of Winston-Salem, NC, was a fairly typical attendee: bearded, young and displeased with Democrats as much as Republicans. He said he came because, "the Tea Party system has failed us," and he wants to, "get money out of government." When they started marching up College Street, the crowd chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, this corporate greed has got to go!"
Price plans on voting for Vermin Supreme, a joke candidate for president, who promises to give everyone a pony if elected. Price complains that, "Obama has been a full supporter of most of George W. Bush's policies." He is upset about drone strikes, which he says kill more civilians than targets. American politics is, he says, "not about party lines. It's about the 1 percent maintaining control of our system." For example, he notes, large corporations are sponsoring many events around the DNC.
For all the talk on the right of "Alinskyite radicals," any professional political organizer would say that these protests lacked a concise message or a serious theory of how their signs and chants would turn into policy change.