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Alumnus holds forum on fighting surveillance, brutality in political movements

A Cal State Long Beach alumnus talked about the aggressive police force in America and offered insight into organizing political movements in an open discussion of his recent publication “Crashing the Party: Legacies and Lessons from the RNC 2000,” Thursday.  

Kris Hermes’ book is a case study on the events during and after the Republican National Convention of 2000 in Philadelphia, where 400 protesters were arrested and bails were set as high as $1 million.

Hermes became involved with a legal group called R2K Legal that worked with attorneys and the media to protect the rights of the RNC protesters, who were enduring criminal court cases.

“It was through getting arrested multiple times that I started doing legal support and finding attorneys that could represent us and [make] sure no one was targeted while they were in jail or [going] through the criminal prosecution process,” Hermes said.

Hermes discussed how former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney’s police model to oppress political dissidents has grown since that time, citing demonstrations such as Ferguson and Occupy Wall Street.  

This police model included mass surveillance, using projectile weapons on protesters and police infiltration using undercover operations into a political organization.

He described how the Philadelphia protesters in 2000 showed an outstanding solidarity in the trials and persecutions after mass arrests were made.

He also worked on the media campaign that was a huge success in turning public opinion in favor of the protestors.

One attendee at the discussion asked how social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, affects a political movement.

Hermes said social media works for gathering people together but creates passivism, where people may think hitting the Like button on a page constitutes support for a cause.

He made a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement today and its tactics, such as the obstruction of freeways in cities across the country to obtain media attention.

Hermes said he thinks there needs to be “a strategy that includes demands and innovative actions that extend a movement from just spontaneous protests and civil disobedience to actually achieving some long-term goals.”

His insight comes from a personal history of political activism that started when he was a student at CSULB.

A mechanical engineering major in the ‘90s, he helped organize a protest to prevent budget cuts that could impact the engineering department.

He then moved to Philadelphia in 1997, getting involved with a non-partisan group called ACT UP, which used direct action and tactics to address issues concerning those living with HIV/AIDS.

After doing media work for multiple organizations, he learned how the media plays a major role in activist movements.

He said most activists are wary of getting involved with the media but that it can be used to their advantage.

“Sometimes if we don’t engage in the media, they’re more prone to having a damaging influence or effect in the movement, and if we can direct the narrative and effectively exploit the media, then I say we’d be better off,” Hermes said.

He said that as long as there is democracy in our country, hopefully there will be activists to continue to agitate and protest.

“Look for ways to be as creative and innovative as you can in your activism,” Hermes said. “Don’t just go out and march and fall in line with what the state wants you to do, which is essentially just be a passive protester. Find ways that you can be as militant as possible and confrontational and push the boundaries of [the] status quo so that we can actually advance movements of social change.”

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