Police in St. Louis have preemptively raided homes of people involved in the BioDevastation Conference against Genetic Engineering. The activists were arrested in order to prevent their attendance at the conference this weekend and their future disruption of the World Agricultural Forum meetings which start on Sunday.
The build-up to the Forums has been what we’ve come to expect. Panic-pieces in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with headlines like "City police get set to deal with protesters" and "Police don’t know how much disruption protests will cause" soften public opposition when excessive force is used, leaving the police force with a free hand. While citizens are bracing themselves for the inevitable violence, the paper explains that there really is very little to protest.
The World Agricultural Forum’s 2003 World Congress is not meant to be about street protests, or trade disputes between the European Union and the United States. It isn’t here to push a particular agrochemical company’s products, or a certain country’s goals, organizers said.
The Congress, being held Sunday through Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at Union Station, is about deeper issues behind the controversy and commercialization, said Leonard Guarraia, chairman and president of the World Agricultural Forum.
That’s the lead, by the way. The "organizers said" is clearly ignorable–nothing in any experience of journalism suggests that those words, or the name and title of the second source, will be read. Several clicks below the "fold"–in a section called "Critics Claims" (in case you weren’t sure how to tell the WAF organizers’ rock-solid facts from the protesters’ mad ravings) we read that, although it is clearly unrealistic, some disagree with the previous 15 paragraphs of warm fuzzies about the state of modern agriculture.
Yet some criticize the congress for a lack of openness. They say it is a function of big-business and government that leaves the average farmer and consumer behind. [emphasis added]
What else do they "say"?
The protesters say his company, and its St. Louis-based competitor, Monsanto, take advantage of farmers. They believe genetically modified seeds will damage the environment and could threaten human health. [emphasis added]
Andrew Bennett, executive director of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, the PR wing of agribusiness giant Syngenta, welcomes protestors input (without extending an invitation or anything):
"It’s how do you get people off the streets and into the room, or into the fields to help farmers, and put their considerable energies to helping solve the problems."
The St. Louis police had a ready answer to the question of "how do you get people off the streets"–by any means possible:
At least 20-30 people have been arrested this morning in coordinated raids on several St. Louis area homes, apparently in "pre-emptive raids" to prevent their attendance at this weekend’s Biodevastation conference and Sunday’s demonstration against the World Agricultural Forum. Others were taken into custody while riding their bicycles to the BioDevastation gathering at Forest Park Community College, and the police have left the bicycles lying along the road. Sarah Bantz — organizer for MORAGE and a speaker at the BioDevastation conference — was arrested for having a container of Vitamin C capsules, which police are claiming to be an illegal drug.
Let’s just say they were "Iraqed". Apparently the St. Louis police department can be reached at (314) 444-5624, (314) 444-5555, and (314) 231-1212; the PD is "currently in the process of redesigning our site to help serve you better"–allegedly since May 21 of last year. Just in case anyone wants to contact them. I’m not advocating anything here, but given the lack of a website, I thought people might want to know how to voice their displeasure at these heavy-handed tactics.
Anyway, welcome to another day in the Age of Unreason. Future protest, prosecuted today.