After two years of strenuously avoiding any and all media, core members of notorious anarchist group the RNC Welcoming Committee held a press conference this morning in their “convergence center” in St. Paul— the very space that was raided by armed agents six days earlier. For the first time, the self-described anarchists disclosed their real names and showed their faces to reporters. Some were teens. Others appeared to be in their 50’s. Most were between 20 and 35.
Six members—three men, three women—sat at a table before dozens of reporters, droves of their comrades sitting along the sides. The main topic of the coming-out party centered on the sweeping police raids across the metro that occurred earlier in the week.
“Armed agents stormed through homes, their guns drawn on families with their children at dinnertime,” said William Gillis, his long reddish hair tucked under a black stocking cap. “[Ramsey County] Sheriff Bob Fletcher has unleashed a level of oppression that should anger and embarrass us all.”
When it came time for questions, tensions sizzled between anarchists and reporters after Committee members chastised the media for being too deferential to authorities’ version of the weekend’s events.
“You’re willing to sit there and accept point blank that we could possibly be terrorists?” said gray-haired Nanette Echols. “You’ve gone to the sheriff, you’ve gone to the government. You have not talked to anyone on the ground about what they saw.”
“Ma’am, with all due respect, the Welcoming Committee, for the entire lead-up to the convention, had refused to talk to the press,” countered a woman reporter from the second row.
Banter erupted. Multiple questions fired from numerous directions. Weren’t the anarchists preparing to unleash violent acts? What about the explosives? And who were they to paint the media with “such a broad brush?”
Committee members, in turn, chided the reporters for failing to substantiate authorities’ claims that police had indeed uncovered explosives. As one point, an exasperated Echols cut to the chase.
“You’re asking a rag-tag group of organizers to provide well-crafted responses to the government’s PR machine,” she said.