America Coming Together And Others Use Web To Promote Anti-Convention Protests
According to Thomas Gensemer, director of online strategy for ACT, the campaign is intended to get businesses and individuals in New York and elsewhere to "speak out against the Republican invasion of NYC." Among the grassroots promotional components of the campaign is ActHere.com, a Web site that enables people to enter their ZIP codes to find information about anti-convention events like concerts, gallery openings, and of course, protests.
"A number of New York City galleries, theaters, restaurants and retail shops have already signed up to participate," notes Gensemer, adding that event proceeds will fund ACT's push to register voters in 17 battleground states. The ActHere.com Web site implores business owners to "Donate a portion of your earnings or business receipts during the convention (August 30-September 2) to America Coming Together."
In addition to their Republican foes, the group itself will be invading the city with window decals, postcards, and billboards. Today, ACT plans to distribute more than 15,000 postcards and window decals at the request of its donors and supporters.
As evinced by activist groups and widely publicized through Howard Dean's presidential primary campaign, and the subsequent prominence of event-facilitating Web sites like Meetup, the Internet has become an indispensable medium through which geographically disparate people are organizing offline political activities. Top Meetup topics listed in the Politics and Activism category include Dean campaign offshoot Democracy for America, which has 168,600 members; Kerry in 2004, with close to 130,000 members; and Republican Party, with 8,800 members. On the agenda for meetings to be held on July 22 according to the Republican Party Meetup topic Web page "Remove Cheney from the ticket!"
Search Google for "Republican Convention NYC," and the top four listings include two for protest organizations aiming to draw members of the anti-Bush league to New York to demonstrate their resistance to the convention and the Republican policies.
The third listing leads to RNCNotWelcome.org, a Web site featuring an array of downloadable flyers and posters, information about New York City housing, transportation, and local organizations, and a map indicating hotels where delegates will be staying. The fourth listing links to the more technologically advanced CounterConvention.org, which enables visitors to submit information to post to the site about convention-related events, offers of available transportation to and from New York, and listings of apartments available for a temporary stay. The Web site also provides downloadable posters, and viral components including a form to alert others about the site as well as an RSS feed of its calendar of events.
Because of the way in which Google organizes its search results, the high rank of these two listings suggests that the sites are relatively popular online destinations, and have been linked to from several other Web sites.
Although a search for "Democratic Convention Boston" delivers no anti-convention-related listings on the first results page, searching for "Democratic Convention Protest" brings up a second-slot listing for The Bl(A)ck Tea Society Web site. The coalition of anti-authoritarian Boston groups is organizing protest activities resisting the Democratic National Convention; the site features resources similar to those of the anti-RNC sites, including a forum for posts about events, propaganda, and medical information.
Whether the real world convention protest activity will match that of its virtual planners, however, remains to be seen.