Political protesters hear call with text messaging

Via: Smart Mobs:

A well written article by Noah Shachtman for the Chicago Tribune on how the mobile phone has become a tool of choice for US political organizers with some quotes from Howard.

some quotes from Howard.

And when activists by the thousands gather in New York City to protest at the Republican National Convention, which begins Monday, cell phones will get their biggest workout yet as activist instruments.

Mobile-engaged masses don’t just connect differently; they act differently too. SMS alerts over cell phones have enabled demonstrators to shift tactics, deploy resources and respond to the police, just about instantly.

“It allows us to react more quickly to a situation as it’s happening. Text messaging lets everybody be on the same page, at the same second,” said Rachael Perrotta, a 24-year-old organizer from Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood.

Law enforcement officials concede they’re having trouble keeping up with these fast-moving, cell-connected groups.

“Now, they can actually coordinate tactics, create a feint. They’ll start a demonstration in one place to draw the police, while their true objective is in another,” said Charles “Sid” Heal, a crowd-control specialist and 29-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“There’s nothing we can do right now to counter them,” Heal said. “They’re in a digital age, and we’re still in analog.”

Dozens of overlapping mobile-messaging groups will connect protesters in New York. General broadcasts from the activist collective CounterConvention.org will let demonstrators know about events throughout the day.

Volunteer medics will use an SMS service called TxtMob to coordinate first-aid treatment for demonstrators. Smaller bands of activists will use TXTMob as well to track the movements of key Republican officials, including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

“We’ll have roving mobs wherever Bush and Cheney are at,” said CounterConvention.org’s William Etundi.

Activists also will be able to document the demonstrations for themselves, using the digital cameras commonly embedded in today’s cell phones. These pictures then can be instantly uploaded to a Web site, Moport.org , which is creating a photographic record of the convention protests.

Rheingold, sees mobile phones’ political impact stretching far beyond demonstrations.

“They’ll be used to coordinate activities in real time in the streets at the convention. In November, they’ll be used to get out the vote and for poll watching,” he said.

“It’ll change politics now and forever more. This is the first stirrings of it.”