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Members of an anti-globalization group here hope to shake things up at the Republican National Convention.

Rebels With a Cause


"Vote in the Street."

"Fair Trade Not Free Trade."

"The Republicrats Don't Speak For Us."

These aren't phrases you are likely to hear coming from inside the Republican National Convention when it kicks off July 31 in Philadelphia. But these slogans will be printed on placards and chanted by thousands of protestors who will gather there next week. And some of the protesters will be Richmonders - members of the Anti-Globalization Network (AGN) — who are not happy with economic globalization, and a two-party system that they view as little more than an errand boy for multinational corporations.

Thirty local members of AGN gathered July 15 at the small walled garden on the 2400 block of Park Avenue for consciousness raising, political discussion, and nonviolence training. The demonstrators were largely twenty- and thirtysomethings - a mixture of average citizens of Richmond and hippie-ish types reminiscent of the 1960s. But regardless of their often-respectable appearance, the message they preached was one of revolutionary change.

AGN organizer Sean O'Hearn, 24, says that the group plans to use civil disobedience techniques such as forming a human chain around the convention center. O'Hearn expects 100 Richmond members at the marches and possibly 40,000 protestors from various organizations from around the country.

"We're using direct action to disrupt and delay the convention," O'Hearn says. "We're not trying to stop it, because it's four days and that would be impossible. We're not happy with the two-party system. We're supporting an alternative organization that treats people in a way that is more egalitarian and in harmony with the planet."

Another organizer, Jason Guard, 26, sports short, blond hair and looks more like a young professional than a radical. But he is a veteran marcher whose most recent activism was in Washington D.C. during the Anti-International Monetary Fund (IMF) protest. Guard says that people need to march in the streets of Philadelphia to show the political leaders that people are dissatisfied with politics as usual. He believes that our government's policies exploit workers in Third World countries and destroy the environment.

He dismisses Vice President Al Gore, as just another Democrats who has turned out to be a tool of corporate interests.

"He was touted as an environmentalist in '92, "Guard says. "Where has environmentalism been the last eight years? It hasn't been in the White House. We would have seen something by now."

Guard's eco-politics have pulled him in the direction of Green Party Candidate Ralph Nader. Like almost every AGN member at the meeting, Guard plans to cast his vote for Nader if the consumer protection advocate makes it onto the ballot in Virginia.

"People of our persuasion would rarely consider voting for anyone but Nader," Guard says. Referring to the Republican and Democratic parties, he says, "We're given the nonchoice of Coke and Pepsi. They'll both rot your teeth."

While the marchers are excited about bringing their message to a national stage, they realize that they will face dangers and hardships - namely, arrest and violent confrontation with police — in their four days in Philadelphia.

Guard says there will be at least two people in their organization who will bail out incarcerated protestors, and that they will be in close contact with attorneys who will provide free legal counsel. After seeing numerous friends and associates arrested during the Washington D.C., IMF protest, Guard says he realizes the importance of jail-support personnel and attorneys.

"We're expecting a police state in Philadelphia," Guard says. "Unfortunately what police have learned from Seattle and D.C. is that they can use a preemptive strike. They want as many people jailed as possible before the marches start."

While dealing with arrest is a major issue, violent confrontation between police and marchers is an even more serious issue. Catholic Worker representative Bill Frankelstreit uses role-playing scenarios to train the marchers in how to handle arrest, physical force and tear gas. He stresses the importance of maintaining a nonviolent stance in the face of danger. When struck with a baton or with tear gas a marcher should not retaliate with violence, Frankelstreit says. He then demonstrates how to curl up in a fetal position when knocked to the ground, and how to throw your body across a demonstrator who has been struck repeatedly.

"You have to realize the nonviolent power each of us has," Frankelstreit says to the group.

While the AGN marchers want to make a big noise in the world, they hope that it is the sound of their voices not the sound of shattered glass that grabs the headlines. Guard says he does not support property damage as a means of protest, and says he hopes that there is none in Philadelphia. But he is quick to add that violence against people is far worse than minor property damage.

"It's my understanding that there were about 50 people who broke windows [in Seattle]," Guard says. "It happened about three hours after police used tear gas and beat people. While I can't see that property damage is the right way, I won't condemn them," Guard says. "Property damage is not violence to people. When we [value] windows over people it's bad news."

While economic globalization is at the top of the hit list for these progressive activists, Guard can see a positive type of global interaction in which people from different nations work together for the protection of the working poor and the environment.

"If we were to globalize our ethics in our relationship with the environment that would be great," Guard says. "But what we're globalizing is a rapid reduction in our resources."

While AGN members hope to have an impact on the system, Virginia Republican Party Chairman Ed Matricardi believes that the marches will be little more than a "sideshow," and that the police will effectively control violent and destructive behavior.

"It's a free country and people are allowed to voice their concerns," Matricardi says. "I anticipate that the Los Angeles Democratic Convention will be more disruptive. It looks like they're preparing for bigger protests."

While Matricardi believes that the demonstrators have a right to voice their views, he cautions them against behavior that interferes with other people's freedom of speech, such as blocking the entrance to a building.

"I think that's when they cross the line," he says. "They're not entitled to act in a way that violates the rights and liberties of others. When they interfere with First Amendment rights that's when the police should step