Use of Force Against RNC Protesters “Disproportionate,” Charges Amnesty International

September 9, 2008

from Amnesty International:

PRESS STATEMENT
For immediate release:
Friday, September 5, 2008
Contact: AIUSA media office
202-544-0200 x302

Use of Force Against RNC Protesters “Disproportionate,” Charges Amnesty International

[London]–Amnesty International is concerned by allegations of excessive use of force and mass arrests by police at demonstrations in St. Paul, Minnesota during the Republican National Convention (RNC) from September 1-4, 2008. The human rights organization is calling on the city and county authorities to ensure that all allegations of ill-treatment and other abuses are impartially investigated, with a review of police tactics and weapons in the policing of demonstrations.

The organization’s concerns arise from media reports, video and photographic images which appear to show police officers deploying unnecessary and disproportionate use of non-lethal weapons on non-violent protestors marching through the streets or congregating outside the arena where the Convention was being held.

Amnesty International urges that an inquiry be carried out promptly, that its findings and recommendations be made public in a timely manner. If the force used is found to have been excessive and to have contravened the principles of necessity and proportionality, then those involved should be disciplined, measures put in place and training given to ensure future policing operations conform to international standards.

Police are reported to have fired rubber bullets and used batons, pepper spray, tear gas canisters and concussion grenades on peaceful demonstrators and journalists. Amnesty International has also received unconfirmed reports that some of those arrested during the demonstrations may have been ill-treated while held at Ramsey county jail.

Amnesty International is also concerned at reports that several journalists who were covering the RNC were arbitrarily arrested while filming and reporting on the demonstrations. They include host of independent news program Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, and two of the program’s producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, who were both allegedly subjected to violence during their arrest. A photographer for the Associated Press (AP) and other journalists were also arrested while covering the demonstrations.

Kouddous described his arrest to media, “…two or three police officers tackled me. They threw me violently against a wall. Then they threw me to the ground. I was kicked in the chest several times. A police officer ground his knee into my back…I was also, the entire time, telling them, ‘I’m media. I’m press….,’ but…that didn’t seem to matter at all.”

Amnesty International recognizes the challenges involved in policing large scale demonstrations and that some protestors may have been involved in acts of violence or obstruction. However, some of the police actions appear to have breached United Nations (U.N.) standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials. These stipulate, among other things, that force should be used only as a last resort, in proportion to the threat posed, and should be designed to minimize damage or injury. Some of the treatment also appears to have contravened U.S. laws and guidelines on the use of force. The U.N. standards also stress that everyone is allowed to participate in lawful and peaceful assemblies, in accordance with the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For more information, please contact the AIUSA media office at 202-544-0200 x302 or visit our website at http://www.amnestyusa.org.

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Reporters Committee decries citations given to journalists at RNC protest

September 6, 2008

PRESS RELEASE · September 5, 2008 ·

Reporters Committee decries citations given to journalists at RNC protest

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today asked Ramsey County Sheriff Robert Fletcher and St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington to drop the criminal citations given last evening to up to 20 journalists who were covering a demonstration at the Republican National Convention.

The reporters and photographers had followed demonstrators who were marching from the state Capitol area into downtown St. Paul. Law enforcement officers flanked the marchers and corralled them on bridges passing over Interstate 94. Journalists and marchers were detained on the bridges while police processed them.

Volunteer lawyers for the Reporters Committee’s convention hotline and several Twin Cities area editors and news directors appeared to have negotiated the release of the reporters with commanders on the scene but Fletcher and Harrington apparently intervened, they said, and ordered that the journalists be issued criminal citations. Once ticketed, the journalists were released.

“What conceivable purpose is achieved by citing (the journalists) them with criminal charges?” the letter from Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish asks. “Once you knew they were journalists, why did you have to engage silly bureaucratic nonsense?”

The Reporters Committee has sponsored a legal hotline for journalists at every political convention since 1972.

Read the letter here:

http://www.rcfp.org/news/documents/20080905-protestlet.pdf


The Republican version of democracy

September 6, 2008

from Muttering Jam:

Courtesy of Free Press.net:


Anti-war group calls for Fletcher’s resignation

September 6, 2008

rom TwinCities.com:

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Organizers of the anti-war march that ended with nearly 400 arrests Thursday called for the resignation of Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher during a press conference outside St. Paul City Hall this afternoon.

The group also demanded an investigation of city officials’ handling of the “raid” on peaceful demonstrators during three and a half hours of marches, sit-ins and, finally, chaotic, tear gas-tainted skirmishes.

“People were arrested and brutalized for standing on bridges and chanting,” said Meredith Aby, an organizer for the anti-war marches on Monday and Thursday.

As in-your-face proof, march participant Mick Kelly lifted his shirt to expose a Frisbee-sized bruise on his left hip. He said he was shot with a rubber bullet as he tried to keep police from taking the group’s banner at Cedar and 12th streets.

Police deny any law enforcement possesses rubber bullets. Pepper balls and some shell casings can look like rubber bullets.

Much of the conflict between march organizers and police came from a misunderstanding about whether or not the group could move from the state Capitol to the Xcel Energy Center.

The group said it might not have had a permit to march after 5 p.m., but it believed that St. Paul police were going to allow them to take to the streets.

As the march began minutes before 5, St. Paul police told the crowd to disperse — it was unlawfully assembled.

Standoffs on the John Ireland and Cedar Street bridges leadinginto downtown ensued.

Anti-War Committee member Jessica Sundin called the move a bait-and-switch.

“It’s a set up,” she said, adding that fall-out from the confrontation should land on St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who allowed his city to be militarized.

“He and the council should take responsibility for the mess they created,” she said.

The group said numerous lawsuits are certain.

“I feel absolutely confident that lawsuits will be filed” at every level of government, said Dianne Mathiowetz with the Troops Out Now coalition.

When asked what police could have done differently Thursday night, Anti-War Committee member Katrina Plotz answered quickly.

“They needed to move out of our way and let us march,” she said. “They blatantly chose to do something else.”

Plotz said the “police repression” of anti-war protesters would backfire.

“The anti-war movement is just going to get bigger exponentially because of what we’ve seen here in the Twin Cities,” she said.

The group also countered claims by St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington that protesters planned to hurl Molotov cocktails once they reached the Xcel.

If there were such items in the march, why haven’t we seen them, the group asked.



North Star Health Collective announces press conference to denounce police detention and abuse of medical volunteers

September 5, 2008

Sept 4, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contacts: Kim Christoffel and Kat Donnelly, North Star Health Collective: (800) 719-6487, ext. 6

Tomorrow, Friday September 5th, at 12 pm there will be a press conference at the southeast entrance of Ramsey County Jail on Lafayette Road in St. Paul. This is North Star Health Collective’s first official press conference.

LOCAL HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS DENOUNCE POLICE DETENTION AND ABUSE OF MEDICAL VOLUNTEERS

Saint Paul, MN – A group of local and national health care providers has been offering first aid to protesters and city residents during the RNC protests. This aid has been offered to people exercising their first amendment rights to protest. The care providers have witnessed law enforcement harassment of EMTs, RNs and other first aid providers while they were engaged in providing care, including approximately 25 arrests (10 of which were made during the writing of this press release Thursday night). Members of the North Star Health Collective (NSHC), a local group coordinating medical response during the protests, will hold a press conference Friday morning to bring attention to these incidents and testimonies of medical personnel present in the street.

NSHC will be highlighting examples like this:

*On Monday evening, two clearly marked providers, giving care to a paraplegic, were forcibly thrown to the ground by police and arrested. Explained Sean P. McCoy, a U.S. Navy Veteran and trained EMT:

“My medic partner and I were treating a handicapped male in a wheelchair for pepper spray to the face at the parking lot of Jackson Street. In the process of treating the patient, we were surrounded by several police officers in riot gear and forcibly thrown to the ground and told we were under arrest. We were then forcibly removed from our patient, handcuffed, and forced to lay face down on the ground while the officers proceeded to cut our bags off of us and remove all of our medical gear by dumping it on the ground.”

Mr. McCoy was held for over 55 hours in Ramsey County Jail, and, like many other protesters, locked in his cell for over 23 hours a day.

During the press conference, members of the group will display examples of the kind of projectiles they have seen police fire into crowds of people, often at point blank range.
Explained Garth Kahl, an NEMT-B from Oregon:

“There is a reason that these are called less-lethal weapons as opposed to non-lethal weapons. The indiscriminate firing of baton rounds, sponge grenades, and other blunt force projectiles in crowded areas is highly dangerous and irresponsible.”

Kim Christoffel, a graduate student in social work at the University of Minnesota and a local coordinator with NSHC, states:

“Our goal has been to keep people safe in areas that local EMS vehicles cannot quickly reach. Our observation of harassment of medical personnel contradicts police statements that claim that their actions have been directed at keeping everyone safe during the protests. It is shocking that providers have been arrested while attending injured and distraught people. NSHC never thought it would be necessary to say it, but apparently it is: ‘Providing medical care is not a crime.’ ”


Anti-war protesters arrested before McCain speech

September 5, 2008

from Reuters:

By Andy Sullivan

ST. PAUL, Sept 4 (Reuters) – Police arrested 250 anti-war protesters on Thursday shortly before John McCain accepted the Republican presidential nomination at the party’s convention a short distance away.

The protest, dubbed “No Peace for the Warmakers,” drew nearly 1,000 people who had planned to march to the downtown convention hall where the Republicans met.

Marchers chanted “Who is the terrorist? McCain is the terrorist” as they tried to cross several bridges that span Interstate 94 into downtown St. Paul, but they were blocked by police.

After several standoffs, police in riot gear and many on horseback and bicycles ordered the protesters to disperse. When they did not after two hours, officers used flash grenades and tear gas to herd them onto a bridge.

“You are all under arrest,” a police officer told the crowd.

The 250 additional arrests followed 420 at several protests earlier in the week. Several journalists were among those arrested.

In a separate earlier incident on Thursday, roughly 60 people were arrested after they sat down in an intersection.

While more than 10,000 people have protested Republican policies peacefully during the four-day convention, they were overshadowed by several hundred who smashed shop windows and threw rocks and bottles at police on Monday.

In court documents, law enforcement authorities said self-described anarchists had planned to disrupt the convention for more than a year.

At least 20 faced felony charges ranging from destruction of property to conspiracy to riot, and one man was charged with making bombs that he planned to use at the convention.

Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said police have at times been overzealous. While those who break laws should be punished, “You can’t just sweep up everbody,” he said.

Some people at the protest said they were unnerved by the violence earlier in the week, and the heavy police presence.

“I feel like even if we don’t do anything wrong we might get in trouble,” said 19-year-old Casey Radcliffe.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan, writing by Jackie Frank, editing by Patricia Zengerle)

full story


Cops Try to Corral Group of 200 Protesters for Arrests on Marion St. Bridge

September 5, 2008

from FOX “News”:

ST. PAUL, Minn. — At least 55 people have been arrested on the fourth consecutive day of protests during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Thursday night, police were trying to corral about 200 more protesters for arrests on the Marion Street bridge in St. Paul.

Police expect the official number of arrests to climb through the evening as more people are processed.

Protesters Get Tear Gased Near the State Capitol