This whole year has been a media circus. The usual measure of political scandals and celebrity gossip has been compounded by the most historic election any of us students have been alive to see. National affairs have been sliding toward this point in history since we became old enough to be politically aware.
Much of this is positive: we have been able to see the first African-American and the first woman to get anywhere close to a major party nomination. Other changes have been negative, as we watched our rights get battered as the result of the xenophobic bunker mentality kindled by the attacks in New York seven years ago and the Patriot Act that came in their wake.
It should be unsurprising, then, that the National Conventions became an actual circus—the ancient Roman kind where people end up bleeding on the ground. In Denver and Minneapolis, hundreds of protesters and journalists were pepper sprayed, Tazed, and beaten by police. College newspaper reporters had their cameras and tape recorders broken or confiscated. A group of eight activists called the RNC Welcoming Committee, who disseminated information and resources to protesters during the convention, were arrested and charged with Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism. Due to the “terrorist enhancement charge,” they face up to seven and a half years in jail and a 50 percent spike in the maximum penalty.
Equating freedom of the press and freedom to assemble with terrorism is another huge, terrifying step towards the complete dissolution of our constitutional rights. The National Conventions are just huge, expensive pageants the parties throw themselves every election to get people lathered up about their side of the war for the White House. The election afterward, however, will have very real consequences in our lives. We hope they will be positive, for our own sakes and for the sakes of Monica Bicking, Eryn Trimmer, Luce Guillen Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Max Spector, the eight activists suffering under the Patriot Act for their actions at the RNC.