Fascistic New Normal in St. Paul

September 9, 2008

from Indymedia:

Reporter’s Notebook from the RNC
Fascistic New Normal in St. Paul

by Alice Woodward

August 29, St. Paul, Minnesota. Police in full riot gear raided the “RNC Welcoming Committee” (which described itself as “an anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizing body preparing for the 2008 Republican National Convention”) This raid, referred to in the media as a “pre-emptive strike,” marked the beginning of a weekend of terror and intimidation brought down by the state on activists, organizers, protestors, and journalists throughout the four-day span of the Republican National Convention.

Leading up to the anti-war protests planned during the convention, police raided several houses in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area, surrounding them, and breaking down doors. The police told people to get down on the ground and shoved guns in their faces in the middle of the night while they were sleeping in their beds. Over the course of the weekend, five people were arrested in these raids, at least 100 were put in handcuffs and then questioned by police. At the Welcoming Committee’s convergence center, the police photographed people and held them for over an hour—no arrests were made, but materials were confiscated and the police issued a fire code violation.

Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, Minneapolis and St. Paul police, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies were involved. Police confiscated normal household items claiming they were going to be used for illegal activities. They searched through the houses and the welcoming center, taking computers, laptops and video cameras.

In the face of this outrageous harassment and intimidation thousands of people came out to protest. At Monday’s protest, police surrounded and detained hundreds of protestors arresting around 175 people including progressive journalist Amy Goodman and two of her producers (see “The RNC’s Outrageous Assault on Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, and Alternative Media…This is What Imperialist Democracy Looks Like”). Tuesday police attacked a protest of over a thousand people, overwhelmingly youth, and which included children and disabled people. Eleven people were arrested that day, some targeted and searched out after being identified in video footage confiscated by the police. Wednesday night, 102 people leaving a Rage Against the Machine show were arrested.

More than a dozen medics have been arrested, as well as legal observers. On Thursday, police moved in and swept people up off the capitol lawn for no apparent reason, later claiming they were involved in breaking a window earlier that week. Then Thursday’s rally of over a thousand people was shut down, hundreds marched to the convention center and protestors sat-in at a bridge. Police blocked off the area with bulldozers, and after an intense stand-off, the police arrested 396 people. Over a dozen of these were media, including AP photographers and people from the local TV station. By Friday, according to the authorities, 818 people had been arrested during the week.

Police came wearing helmets, padded vests, and shin guards; they used tear gas, pepper spray, Tasers, plastic handcuffs, billy clubs, and rifles that fired projectiles and “flash bombs.” The National Guard was present throughout the week in full riot gear.

Two minors who had been arraigned refused to give their names in solidarity with people in jail; they were charged with contempt on the spot and given a 30-day jail sentence without any trial. The Coldsnap legal collective reported brutality and abuse occurring in the jail including multiple police officers assaulting people, people being put in solitary confinement, and sick people not receiving medical attention. Over 24 people in prison began a hunger strike demanding that medical attention be provided to those who need it.

There has been ongoing harassment aimed at intimidating protestors and sending a message that political protest will not be tolerated. The anti-war group Code Pink reported that about 150 police surrounded a group of 10 Code Pink activists who were displaying banners against the Iraq war. Throughout Tuesday’s outdoor concert police cars lined the streets and officers arrogantly milled about the capitol.

On Tuesday riot cops lined the street at a Poor People’s march near the capitol. Later on, the police gathered three deep near the capitol where the Rage Against the Machine concert was scheduled. Rage arrived and wanted to play, but the power was shut off a half hour before the permit ended. Zack De La Rocha jumped into the crowd and started singing a cappella. People were chanting, “Let them play, let them play,” with their fists in the air. They turned toward police and chanted “Fuck You We Won’t Do What You Told Us.”

The march organized by the Poor People’s Campaign arrived at the capitol, people at the concert joined in and the whole atmosphere was energized. The march went to the Xcel Center (where the RNC was going on) and the Poor People’s Campaign presented a citizens arrest on the Bush administration for crimes against humanity.

At one point the police lined up with batons and started walking slowly toward the protestors, chanting, “Move. Move. Move.” A protestor described when the police moved in to attack: “People were walking back to the state capitol to get to their cars and go home and police said their presence walking back was an ‘unlawful assembly, you all need to keep moving’ and then opened fire with tear gas and concussion grenades. I saw clouds of smoke go up and I thought it was concussion grenades, then I saw the blue hint of the smoke and people started running and leaving very quickly and in front of us, another line of cops started firing….”

People were yelling out, “Don’t Run, Don’t Run,” helping each other get down the street, they were trying to get out and there were smoke bombs and mace. Loud explosions and screams punctured the atmosphere, people were screaming and running and others tried to help people stay calm, then more National Guardsmen in camouflage came in, sneaking out of a dark parking lot and threw tear gas into the crowd of people trying to run. One woman told Revolution, “There was a fucking asthmatic woman shouting ‘Medic,’ and the police guy was just like, ‘Get away from the sidewalk!’ and he shot a fucking tear gas, not at her, but past her, he was just like ‘Get away!’ She fucking couldn’t breathe.”

There were shoes and eyeglasses in the street. A woman in her twenties looked back at a line of police in the park and said, “I have never felt more unsafe in my life.” People were agitating that what the police were doing was illegal and unconstitutional; people were outraged.

The St. Paul Police Department has declared to the public repeatedly that their plans have been a success. At a press conference on September 3, Police Chief John Harrington repeatedly claimed that “rioters” and “anarchists” were targeted because of their alleged plans to disrupt the convention. Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said in a statement that the “Welcoming Committee is a criminal enterprise made up of 35 anarchists who are intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention.” Testimony and eye witness accounts from medics, legal observers, journalists, and protestors, as well as hours of video footage posted on YouTube and all over the internet, reveal a different story. What has actually occurred is targeted attacks on event organizers, legal observers, medics and journalists, as well as police indiscriminately coming down on protestors, as well as bystanders.

Many diverse youth and progressive people have been a part of mobilizing to protest at the RNC. The statement at the website of the RNC Welcoming Committee is endorsed by several chapters of the Students for Democratic Society, Campus Anti-War Network, and a number of anarchist organizations and grassroots groups like the Queer Action Network and Milwaukee Anti-racist Action. In addition, anti-war activists, unions, Iraq war veterans, and many others across the country mobilized to come to St. Paul to politically protest the crimes that have been committed by the Bush regime.

An affidavit filed by the police with the Ramsey County District Court states that police have infiltrated the RNC Welcoming Committee since August of 2007, employing both undercover investigators as well as informants. A May 2008 article in a local St. Paul weekly, City Pages exposed that FBI was seeking out informants to attend “Vegan Potlucks” in the Twin Cities. The article recalls how this occurred in the lead-up to the 2004 RNC in New York City, pointing out that “the NYPD’s Intelligence Division infiltrated and spied on protest groups across the country, as well as in Canada and Europe. The program’s scope extended to explicitly nonviolent groups, including street theater troupes and church organizations.” Similarly, surveillance and profiling occurred in Denver leading up to the DNC, carried out by what’s called “fusion” groups, consisting of federal as well as state authorities collecting information. An article on worldcantwait.org, titled “Gitmo on the Platte,” details this and other similar police state measures taken in Denver for the DNC this year.

The Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has pointed out that given this kind of history, the allegations towards organizers, which rely entirely on covert operations and no material evidence at this time, are highly questionable. They said in a statement, “Evidence read to date does not corroborate these allegations with physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these allegations other than the claims of the informants. Based on past abuses of such informants by law enforcement, the National Lawyers Guild is concerned that such police informants have incentives to lie and exaggerate threats of violence and to also act as provocateurs in raising and urging support for acts of violence.”

At the same time, new norms are being established. The Ramsey County prosecutors charged eight of the people arrested in the raids with second-degree furtherance of terrorism, conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to commit civil disorder, and conspiracy to damage property. This is the first time that charges have been issued under the Minnesota version of the Patriot Act, which was passed in the state in 2002.

This repression and police terror has been opposed by City Council member David Thune as well as Congressman Keith Ellison. Petitions and statements in support of protestors and those arrested have gone up on the Internet; one gathered over 35,000 signatures overnight. Many are demanding that people in jail be provided with medical care and the legal support they are entitled to, that they be released and charges be dropped.


WANTED: For criminal assault and violation of civil liberties

September 4, 2008

Assistant Police Chief Matt Bostrom

This is the police officer who is in charge of security for the RNC, and is one of the people responsible for the illegal raids, assaults, and arrests of peaceful protesters in St. Paul.

In addition to his violent attacks on protesters, Asst. Chief Bostrom is also a liar – see this story from 2007 when he promised that there would be no no police officers infiltrating protest organizations, and that Police will be in uniform, not riot gear. He said, “The city of St. Paul is a free-speech zone. I say that proudly. I was disappointed when I saw what Boston did (in handling protesters at the 2004 Democratic Convention). I don’t understand this idea of putting people in a pen someplace so they can express themselves. That’s not the way we will do things.”

Sign the petition: Tell John McCain, the RNC, Asst. Chief Bostrom, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Police

STOP the Illegal Raids!

STOP violence against protesters!

Release All Arrestees and Drop the Charges!

http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml


End the Occupation of St. Paul! McCain/RNC/Police OUT now!

September 3, 2008

Sign the petition: Tell John McCain, the RNC, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Police

  • STOP the Illegal Raids!
  • Release All Arrestees and Drop the Charges!

http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml


**Urgent: STOP Police Brutality!

September 2, 2008

Sign the petition: Tell John McCain, the RNC, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Police

  • STOP the Illegal Raids!
  • Release All Arrestees and Drop the Charges!
  • Stop Police Brutality!
  • Protest is not a crime!

Sign the petition – send messages to McCain, the RNC, the local sheriff and police chiefs, the Mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis, members of Congress, and the media:

http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml


Police state Minneapolis

September 1, 2008

from Left I on the News:

The Republicans may be fleeing from Minneapolis as fast as they can now that they have a convenient excuse for doing so, but their police state remains behind. Numerous blogs and others are doing a great job covering what’s happening, but Glenn Greenwald (here and here) is probably the best place to go:

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets.Troops Out Now Coalition has an online petition demanding an end to these outrages.

As Greenwald writes, we heard an awful lot about Chinese suppression of protest in advance of and during the Olympics (although the suppression wasn’t so great that hardly a day passed when I didn’t see a Western reporter interviewing someone on the subject). Will the same corporate media, or any Democratic or Republican politician, have anything to say about American suppression of protesters? I’m sure we’ll all be shocked if they do.


Activist group condemns ‘violent and illegal’ police raids; restraining order sought against police

September 1, 2008

from Politics in Minnesota:

A national anti-war activist group, the Troops Out Now Coalition, has set up an online petition drive in the wake of this weekend’s police raids and arrests of Republican National Convention protesters.

The petition accuses authorities of using “fear and intimidation” tactics and acting under orders from the RNC to raid three Minneapolis homes and the RNC Welcoming Committee’s “Convergence Center” in downtown St. Paul.

“Release the arrestees and drop the phony charges,” the petition, on the coalition’s website, reads. “I condemn the violent and illegal raids being carried out against activists assembling to protest at the Republican National Convention. I am opposed to any attempts to suppress dissent at the RNC, and I demand that anyone being held be released immediately, all phony charges dropped, and all property seized to be returned.

“Friday and Saturday’s raids on the Convergence Center and other locations were outrageous attacks on the rights of people to protest at the RNC. Dissent is not a crime.

“These arrests days before the beginning of the Republican National Convention were an attempt to undercut turnout at the expected massive, legally permitted, anti-war rally planned for Monday, September 1, organized by the March on RNC Coalition, which will gather at the State Capitol and march to the RNC Convention site. The police, acting on orders from the RNC, clearly intend to use tactics of fear and intimidation to impact the days of protest planned for over a year by hundreds of justice and anti-war organizations.

“The only group of people who have come to Minneapolis-St. Paul with criminal intent are the delegates, corporate lobbyists, and politicians who are participating in the Republican National Convention. They are conspiring to continue the illegal war in Iraq. They are conspiring to wage another illegal war against Iran. They are conspiring to steal money from working people and use it to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. They are conspiring to continue to violate basic human rights by engaging in illegal wiretapping, surveillance, and police brutality at home, while running torture camps such as those in Guantanamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib.

“People have a right to protest at the RNC. I support and defend that right.”

Another site, Twin Cities Indymedia, reported Sunday evening that the National Lawyers Guild, a group of attorneys and law students based in New York, and Communities United Against Police Brutality, a Twin Cities organization, had filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against local police to prevent them from seizing video equipment and cellular phones used by independent media organizations.

The groups said examples of police interference with the right to document their conduct included the beating of CUAPB vice president Darryl Robinson while “copwatching,” the seizure of equipment of three journalists with Glass Bead Collective, and the targeting of journalists during a raid on a house in St. Paul Saturday afternoon.

“Another example is the action of Ramsey County sheriff’s deputies, who deliberately shut off CUAPB president Michelle Gross’ video camera while she was documenting Friday night’s raid from inside the convergence space,” the groups said. “This action prevented her from documenting the incident in its entirety. Despite their actions,  Gross was able to capture about 7½ minutes of video and audio of the beginning of the raid, including use by deputies of a battering ram to force open the door to a upstairs theater where families were watching a film.”

Hennepin County Judge Mark Wernick has not yet acted on the request for the restraining order.


Urgent: Stand Against Police Repression in the Twin Cities! Defend Freedom of Speech and Assembly! Sign the Petition

August 31, 2008

Urgent!

Defend Freedom of Speech and Assembly!

Stand Against Police Repression!

Sign the petition at: http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml

Dear Friends,

As we write, thousands of activists are gathering in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul in preparation for a week of protest during the Republican National Convention.

Over the past three days, these activists have been targets of police raids, brutality, and media distortion. Salon reports, “Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets.” (from http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/08/30/police_raids/index.html)

These arrests, days before the beginning of the Republican National Convention, are an attempt to undercut turn-out at the legally permitted anti-war rally planned for Monday, Sept. 1, organized by March on RNC Coalition. The event, which is expected to be massive, will gather at the State Capitol and march to the RNC Convention site. The police, acting on orders from the RNC, clearly intend to use tactics of fear and intimidation to impact the days of protest that have been planned by hundreds of justice and anti-war organizations for more than a year.

It is more important than ever, in the face of the outrageous harassment and illegal arrests, to support ALL the protesters in St Paul this week.

Take a minute and send a message in support – go to http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml.

Police have claimed that protesters intend to engage in acts of violence, but the only criminal and violent acts taking place in the Twin Cities are those being committed by the Ramsey County sheriff’s office and the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments. The illegal and excessive raids, conducted by SWAT teams armed with automatic weapons; the mass preemptive roundups of dissenters; and the attempt to label all protesters as criminals are tactics clearly intended to silence protest. We will not be deterred or intimidated by these tactics.

Please join us in standing up to Bush-McCain-RNC police state tactics. A delegation of Troops Out Now Coalition activists is in Minneapolis-St. Paul and will be participating in the many protests during the week of Sept. 1-4. If you are in the area, please join us–look for Troops Out Now Coalition banners and placards.

Whether you are able to join us in the streets or not, you can still stand with us against police repression. Please sign the petition at http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml.

Demand: Stop Illegal Raids and Arrests! Protest is not a crime!

TEXT OF PETITION

Please add your name at http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml

Minneapolis-St. Paul Police: Stop Illegal Raids and Arrests!

Release the Arrestees and Drop the Phony charges!

I condemn the violent and illegal raids being carried out against activists assembling to protest at the Republican National Convention. I am opposed to any attempts to suppress dissent at the RNC, and I demand that anyone being held be released immediately, all phony charges dropped and all property seized to be returned.

The Aug. 29 and 30 raids on the Convergence Center and other locations were outrageous attacks on the rights of people to protest at the RNC. Dissent is not a crime.

These arrests, days before the beginning of the Republican National Convention, are an attempt to undercut turn-out at the legally permitted anti-war rally planned for Monday, Sept. 1, organized by March on RNC Coalition. The rally, which is expected to be massive, will gather at the State Capitol and march to the RNC convention site. The police, acting on orders from the RNC, clearly intend to use tactics of fear and intimidation to impact the days of protest that have been planned by hundreds of justice and anti-war organizations for more than a year.

The only group of people who have come to Minneapolis-St. Paul with criminal intent are the delegates, corporate lobbyists, and politicians who are participating in the Republican National Convention. They are conspiring to continue the illegal war in Iraq. They are conspiring to wage another illegal war against Iran. They are conspiring to steal money from working people and use it to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. They are conspiring to continue to violate basic human rights by engaging in illegal wiretapping, surveillance and police brutality at home, while running torture camps such as those in Guantánamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib.

People have a right to protest at the RNC. We support and will defend that right.

Sign the petition at http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml


Arrestee Updates!

August 31, 2008

from Coldsnap legal collective:

All six arrestees are still being held at Ramsey County Jail on probable cause, which means that they might not be able to see a judge until Tuesday or Wednesday. Four of the arrestees have been able to call our hotline and are fine, but two of the arrestees have been separated from the others in jail.

Want to show your support and solidarity? Call the jail at 651.266.9350 and demand their release! Let’s get them out of there!


Urgent: Stand Against Police Repression in the Twin Cities! Defend Freedom of Speech and Assembly! Sign the Petition

August 31, 2008

Urgent!

Defend Freedom of Speech and Assembly!

Stand Against Police Repression!

Sign the petition at: http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml

Dear Friends,

As we write, thousands of activists are gathering in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul in preparation for a week of protest during the Republican National Convention.

Over the past three days, these activists have been targets of police raids, brutality, and media distortion. Salon reports, “Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets.” (from http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/08/30/police_raids/index.html)

These arrests, days before the beginning of the Republican National Convention, are an attempt to undercut turn-out at the legally permitted anti-war rally planned for Monday, Sept. 1, organized by March on RNC Coalition. The event, which is expected to be massive, will gather at the State Capitol and march to the RNC Convention site. The police, acting on orders from the RNC, clearly intend to use tactics of fear and intimidation to impact the days of protest that have been planned by hundreds of justice and anti-war organizations for more than a year.

It is more important than ever, in the face of the outrageous harassment and illegal arrests, to support ALL the protesters in St Paul this week.

Take a minute and send a message in support – go to http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml.

Police have claimed that protesters intend to engage in acts of violence, but the only criminal and violent acts taking place in the Twin Cities are those being committed by the Ramsey County sheriff’s office and the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments. The illegal and excessive raids, conducted by SWAT teams armed with automatic weapons; the mass preemptive roundups of dissenters; and the attempt to label all protesters as criminals are tactics clearly intended to silence protest. We will not be deterred or intimidated by these tactics.

Please join us in standing up to Bush-McCain-RNC police state tactics. A delegation of Troops Out Now Coalition activists is in Minneapolis-St. Paul and will be participating in the many protests during the week of Sept. 1-4. If you are in the area, please join us–look for Troops Out Now Coalition banners and placards.

Whether you are able to join us in the streets or not, you can still stand with us against police repression. Please sign the petition at http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml.

Demand: Stop Illegal Raids and Arrests! Protest is not a crime!

TEXT OF PETITION

Please add your name at http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml

Minneapolis-St. Paul Police: Stop Illegal Raids and Arrests!

Release the Arrestees and Drop the Phony charges!

I condemn the violent and illegal raids being carried out against activists assembling to protest at the Republican National Convention. I am opposed to any attempts to suppress dissent at the RNC, and I demand that anyone being held be released immediately, all phony charges dropped and all property seized to be returned.

The Aug. 29 and 30 raids on the Convergence Center and other locations were outrageous attacks on the rights of people to protest at the RNC. Dissent is not a crime.

These arrests, days before the beginning of the Republican National Convention, are an attempt to undercut turn-out at the legally permitted anti-war rally planned for Monday, Sept. 1, organized by March on RNC Coalition. The rally, which is expected to be massive, will gather at the State Capitol and march to the RNC convention site. The police, acting on orders from the RNC, clearly intend to use tactics of fear and intimidation to impact the days of protest that have been planned by hundreds of justice and anti-war organizations for more than a year.

The only group of people who have come to Minneapolis-St. Paul with criminal intent are the delegates, corporate lobbyists, and politicians who are participating in the Republican National Convention. They are conspiring to continue the illegal war in Iraq. They are conspiring to wage another illegal war against Iran. They are conspiring to steal money from working people and use it to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. They are conspiring to continue to violate basic human rights by engaging in illegal wiretapping, surveillance and police brutality at home, while running torture camps such as those in Guantánamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib.

People have a right to protest at the RNC. We support and will defend that right.

Sign the petition at http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml


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