Republican Invasion Imminent

Unless you have spent the last few months suffering a coma or isolated in a cave, you surely are aware that the Republican National Convention (RNC) will take place at the Xcel center in downtown St. Paul.  The opening gavel is scheduled to sound on September 1 and the convention will run until September 4 when, in all probability, Arizona’s Senator John McCain will deliver a speech accepting his party’s nomination as its candidate for President of the United States.

             Rumors abound concerning how the presence of the RNC in downtown St. Paul will affect life in and around the Dorothy Day community.  While it remains to be seen how the city responds to the demands placed on it by the responsibilities that arise from hosting a major political party’s national nominating convention, not everything is up for grabs.  Many decisions involving the Dorothy Day Center (DDC), Mary Hall and the surrounding areas have already been announced.  Many others can be easily deduced from a general knowledge of the logistics involved in such an event and a familiarity with standard security practices. 

                All reliable sources agree that there are no plans, during the run of the convention, to shut down the DDC either as a drop-in center providing meals during the day or as an overnight shelter.  The Listening House also plans to continue providing its services during the convention; however, its hours of operation may be adjusted to coincide with the busiest hours of the convention.  The Salvation Army at 401 West 7th Street, First Lutheran Church at East 7th and Maria, and the Rondo Community Outreach Library on the corner of University Avenue and Dale Street are all considering opening their doors to provide drop-in centers away from the hustle and bustle certain to accompany the RNC.  Although the precise hours that these locations will be open has yet to be determined, plans are certainly afoot to provide alternative safe waiting opportunities for those who might prefer to avoid dealing with the influx of delegates, Secret Service agents, journalists, officeholders and whomever else the GOP deems worthy of an invite.

                                The area bordered by West 7th Street, Kellogg Avenue and Washington Street will be designated as the optimal security zone.  Anyone loitering in that zone without credentials might well expect, at the very least, to be ushered along, perhaps questioned or even detained.  MSNBC plans to broadcast from a spot in Rice Park just outside the optimal zone.  The area immediately south of the DDC, that is affectionately known as “The Wall of Shame”, will be a “Free Speech Zone” set aside to accommodate protestors.  Clients of DDC and residents of Mary Hall might find it wise to alter their usual routes so as to avoid these areas.

                                The city of St. Paul will doubtless work to project its best face not only to those present for the RNC but also for the national and international audience following all that will unfold here in early September.  Every indication suggests that the Saint Paul Police, who are drawing on surrounding area forces to meet its goal of having 3,500 officers policing downtown St. Paul during the convention, will display minimal tolerance toward any unlawful, suspicious or threatening behavior.  One suspects that the FBI and Secret Service agents, who are certain to be present, will display a similarly low level of tolerance.           

                                Those of us, and there are some, who engage in buying and selling illegal drugs, public drunkenness, soliciting prostitution, panhandling and other activities of comparable disrepute might do well to steer clear of downtown St. Paul until after September 4.  Those of us, and there are a few, prone to paranoid delusions, sudden outburst of anger or just free floating anxiety in response to crowds might consider traveling via routes that do not intersect the Xcel center.

For the rest of us, the RNC in Saint Paul affords a singular opportunity to witness, and possibly participate in, a particular aspect of the political process.  Voices for Change encourages free speech generally and most especially in circumstances that potentially provide worldwide exposure.  The membership of Voices for Change is currently weighing several forms of political expression designed to focus greater attention on issues connected with poverty and homelessness.  So, as the date of the RNC approaches ignore wild rumors, be alert for genuine information, stay law-abiding, remain calm and prepare to join us in voicing our concerns about affordable housing, greater access to health care, livable wage employment and other issues that impact our community.







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