The Republican National Convention set new standards for conventions and for protests. Not only was it the largest operation for both the RNC and protestors alike, but it was the largest instance of police infiltration and pre-emptive raids in America’s recent memory. Eight organizers of the “welcoming committee” (protest coordinators) are facing serious charges. As the Friends of the RNC 8 website states, they were originally charged with conspiracy to riot in the 2nd degree in furtherance of terrorism, a felony which is the first ever use of Minnesota’s PATRIOT Act.
One of the stories to be overshadowed by the crackdown was the ingenious use of cell phones and social networking to coordinate the mobilizations. A small collective of tech groups and individuals gathered before the convention to organize the Tin Can Collective. Among their communications efforts is a program called Tapatio. Tapatio is a collaboratively-developed, open source computer program described as a communications resource for the radical anti-authoritarian community that was made for the RNC.
Participating in the Tin Can Collective was Hackbloc, one of many hacktivist groups that use their technological expertise for social or environmental justice. Hackbloc states their mission is “to research, create and disseminate information, tools, and tactics, empowering people to use technology in a way that is liberating, and facilitate building of affinity groups that will support and strengthen their local communities through education and action.” Among their points of unity are autonomous organizing, security culture, and internet neutrality.
I spoke with eVoltec, a member of Hackbloc, about their efforts during the RNC and the role technology can play in autonomous organizing.