Crashing the Party: Legacies and Lessons from the RNC 2000
Author: Kris Hermes • Foreword by Marina Sitrin • Afterword by Heidi Boghosian
Publisher: PM Press
Size: 9 x 6
Page count: 352
Over the past fifteen years, people in the United States—and dissidents in particular—have witnessed a steady escalation of the National Security State, including invasive surveillance and infiltration, indiscriminate police violence, and unlawful arrests. These concerted efforts to spy on Americans and undermine meaningful social change are greatly enhanced by the coordination of numerous local, state, and federal agencies often operating at the behest of private corporations. Normally associated with the realities of a post-9/11 world, Crashing the Party shows how these developments were already being set in motion during the Republican National Convention (RNC) protests in 2000. It also documents how, in response, dissidents confronted new forms of political repression by pushing legal boundaries and establishing new models of collective resistance.
Crashing the Party explains how the events of 2000 acted as a testing ground in which Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney was able to develop repressive methods of policing that have been used extensively across the U.S. ever since. At the same time, these events also provided a laboratory for the radical, innovative, and confrontational forms of legal support carried out by R2K Legal, a defendant-led collective that raised unprecedented amounts of money for legal defense, used a unique form of court solidarity to overcome hundreds of serious charges, and implemented a PR campaign that turned the tide of public opinion in favor of dissidents. While much has been written about the global-justice era of struggle, little attention has been paid to the legal struggles of the period or the renewed use of solidarity tactics in jail and the courtroom that made them possible. By analyzing the successes and failures of these tactics, Crashing the Party offers rare insight into the mechanics and concrete effects of such resistance. In this way, it is an invaluable resource for those seeking to confront today’s renewed counterintelligence tactics.
“Crashing the Party is a must read for every dissident, legal activist and those opposed to our growing police state. Don’t leave for your next demonstration believing that the cops and courts have all the power. They don’t. This important book, building on the lessons learned when activists took on the repression unleashed at the 2000 Republican National Convention, tells you otherwise. It is an untold story of ‘collective resistance:’ the radical way in which activists and legal people, working together, beat back state repression.”
—Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights
“Crashing the Party is an exhaustive on-the-ground account of the tools that all levels of governments now use to suppress political dissent. Although focused on the 2000 Republic National Convention in Philadelphia, author Kris Hermes identifies and documents coercive techniques employed at many other protests, both large and small. Hermes, who gained first-hand experience before, during, and after the event, also shows how dedicated jail solidarity efforts can mitigate the harmful effects of arrests and overcharging, although sometimes at great personal cost. A must-read for anyone interested in knowing the how far governments can and will go in this post-9/11 era.”
—Jim Redden, author of Snitch Culture
“Crashing the Party is a participant-observation case study of the protests surrounding the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, but it is much more than that. It reminds readers that the United States did not become a police state only after 9/11. Violent, armed repression has been a continual theme throughout the country’s history. Those who resist political domination should study this book as it reveals the continually changing dynamics between the repressive apparatus and the people. Engagingly written, it is both a critical and detailed history, and a handbook for resistance.”
—Geoffrey R Skoll, emeritus faculty of criminal justice, author Dialectics in Social Thought: The Present Crisis.
“Crashing the Party is a triple treat! It delves into the creative dance between the forces of repression and forces of resistance, grippingly revealing how both experimented with new steps. Yet it follows the lead of activists, letting us listen to the music of their voices. And against the crushing weight of the state’s policing apparatus, in 2000 and now, the book celebrates people’s ability to gift each other strength and solidarity.”
—Cindy Milstein, coauthor, Paths toward Utopia: Graphic Explorations of Everyday Anarchism
“A terrific book filled with fascinating stories. Through insightful analysis and firsthand experience, Hermes weaves together an intriguing tale of the complex interactions between activist groups, lawyers, legal workers, the community, the media, police, and prosecutors. Having worked on defense committees, I found the text and tone rang true throughout. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in studying grassroots civil liberties and the right to dissent.”
—Chip Berlet, author, paralegal investigator, and human rights activist
“In Crashing the Party, author Kris Hermes frames this compelling story through a broad lens of local politics, historical repression, and present day civil rights abuses. In fact, Hermes offers a uniquely informed perspective. Although Crashing the Party is meticulously researched—the case study relies on court documents, media reports and personal interviews—it greatly benefits from Hermes’ own detailed observations. As a legal advocate, he played an integral role in supporting activists who protested during the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. He bore witness to the politically motivated mass arrests and brutality aimed at the protesters, punished by law enforcement for nothing more than exercising a Constitutional guarantee. In this book, Hermes recreates scenes that are so ludicrous as to be laughable, had the consequences not devastated lives. As a former journalist who covered the treatment of RNC activists in 2000, I recognize the importance of documenting the city’s efforts to suppress political dissent. Crashing the Party goes a step further by providing a guide for activists who continue to fight for social change.”
—Gwen Shaffer, Assistant Professor of Journalism at California State University Long Beach and former reporter who covered the RNC for Philadelphia City Paper
“In trying to shut down the Republican National Convention protest in 2000, we fought the law and the law kicked our butts! But we fought back, during and afterward, with lots of lessons to be learned in how to challenge the national security state. Crashing the Party takes us inside that pivotal moment, its social context, and its enduring influences for those protesting in the streets, organizing against state surveillance, and navigating the legal system in radical and transformative ways.”
—Dan Berger, author, Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era and The Struggle Within: Prisons, Political Prisoners, and Mass Movements in the United States
“Crashing the Party will make you angry, it will inspire you, but mostly, you will learn. Despite the unconstitutional efforts to crush them, the protesters at the 2000 RNC in Philadelphia and their allies in the legal community developed creative new tactics and strategies to push back. The stories are so powerful in part because Kris Hermes was there, which gives us a unique and intimate view of the events on the ground, and he’s written it all down in engaging prose. Everyone who seeks to create change must read this book.”
—Sue Udry, Executive Director, Defending Dissent Foundation
About the Contributors:
Kris Hermes is a Bay Area–based activist who has worked for nearly thirty years on social justice issues. Organizing with ACT UP Philadelphia in the late 1990s spurred his interest in legal support work and led to his years-long involvement with R2K Legal. Since 2000, Hermes has been an active, award-winning legal worker-member of the National Lawyers Guild and has been a part of numerous law collectives and legal support efforts over the years. In this capacity, he has organized dozens of press conference and spoken at numerous community meetings, political conferences, book fairs, and other similar events across the U.S. Hermes has written extensively in his professional career as a media worker and as a legal activist.
Marina Sitrin is a writer, lawyer, teacher, organizer, and dreamer. She is the editor of Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina, author of Everyday Revolutions: Horizontalism & Autonomy in Argentina and coauthor of They Can’t Represent US! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy. She has a JD in International Women's Human Rights from CUNY Law School and a PhD in Global Sociology from Stony Brook University.
Heidi Boghosian is the executive director of the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and former executive director of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the cohost of the weekly civil liberties radio show Law and Disorder on Pacifica's WBAI in New York and over forty national affiliates. She received her JD from Temple Law School where she was the editor in chief of the Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review. She also holds an MS from Boston University and a BA from Brown University. She is the author of Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance.
See and hear author interviews, book reviews, and other news on the Kris Hermes’s page HERE
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