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.

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“No Peace for the War-Makers” demonstration at the Xcel Center on September 4

September 4, 2008

Anti-War Committee

1313 5th St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414 w 612.379.3899 w http://www.antiwarcommittee.org

For Immediate Release: September 3, 2008

Contact: Katrina Plotz 651.769.4474

Misty Rowan 651.494.8240

Anti-War Committee press conference to announce “No Peace for the War-Makers” demonstration at the Xcel Center on September 4

On Wednesday September 3, the Anti-War Committee will hold a press conference at 1:30 at the Merriam Park Library in St. Paul to announce plans for a massive demonstration on Thursday, the final day of the Republican National Convention. Plans for September 4 include a rally at the State Capitol at 4 pm followed by a march to the Xcel Center. Individuals and groups will demonstrate their opposition to the war in Iraq and the wars at home on immigrants, workers, low income families, people of color, and the queer community. Demonstrators will utilize creative and diverse tactics to resist war and injustice under a banner of “No Peace for the War-Makers.”

The September 4th demonstration has been endorsed locally by the Welfare Rights Committee, Communities United Against Police Brutality, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and Students for a Democratic Society, and nationally by the Troops Out Now Coalition, the International Action Center, and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.

Anti-War Committee member Misty Rowan explains, “On September 4, the Republicans will nominate John McCain for president, a candidate who supports endless occupation in Iraq and has threatened war against Iran. He has vowed to continue the war at home by extending Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy and by expanding free trade agreements that exploit workers and the environment. We must counter this agenda with demands of our own. We want U.S. troops out of Iraq now and an end to injustice and exploitation at home.

Katrina Plotz of the Anti-War Committee continues, “Throughout the RNC, the Xcel Center has been closed to the thousands of people whose lives are most affected by the plans and decisions of the politicians. The police presence in St. Paul this week has been designed to scare and silence those who are speaking and acting against the Republican agenda. We will not be intimidated. It’s up to us to gather in the streets and converge on the Xcel Center to reject 5 years of unjust war in Iraq and demand justice at home and abroad.”

The Anti-War Committee has been organizing rallies, protests, and educational events in the Twin Cities for the last 10 years. We stand in solidarity with communities at home and abroad who are oppressed by U.S. policy and are committed to building a broad movement for social justice and peace.

Press Conference: “No Peace for the War-Makers”

Wednesday, September 3 @ 1:30 pm, at Merriam Park Library (1831 Marshall Ave, St. Paul – corner of Marshall and Fairview.


Report from the Streets of St. Paul: “organizers remained determined to move forward”

September 3, 2008

By LeiLani Dowell

St. Paul, Minn.

Despite an onslaught of police terror and repression, protesters from across the country used a variety of tactics to march on the Republican National Convention here on Sept. 1. A mass march organized by the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War was followed by youthful street actions to denounce the Republican policies of endless imperialist war and sweeping attacks on workers.

In an escalation of tactics used at the Democratic National Convention in Denver a week earlier, Minnesota police began the repression against RNC protesters days before the march. The cops raided community kitchens, meeting spaces and protesters’ homes; handcuffed and harassed activists; confiscated political literature; and arrested at least three people on bogus “conspiracy to riot” charges.

Despite this intimidation, organizers remained determined to move forward with what would turn out to be a highly successful, massive march as well as direct actions on Labor Day, Sept. 1.

Some 30,000 attended a rally that included representatives of the American Indian Movement; ANSWER Coalition; Appeal for Redress Campaign; Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War; Code Pink; Colombia Action Network; Green Party; Latinos Against War; Palestine Solidarity Group; Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign; Students for a Democratic Society; Teamsters 743; Troops Out Now Coalition; United for Peace and Justice; Venezuela Solidarity Network; Veterans for Peace; Welfare Rights Committee; and Women Against Military Madness.

The diverse crowd, led by the Iraq Veterans Against the War, then marched to the Xcel Center, site of the Republican convention, and back to the State Capitol for a closing rally. Various contingents included low-income people, youth and students, immigrant rights activists, labor, Palestine and Colombia solidarity activists, an anti-capitalist bloc and an anti-climate-change group.

While Republican Party leaders shied away from the conference so as to not seem insensitive in the face of Hurricane Gustav, activists remembered the neglect of the Bush administration in response to Hurricane Katrina. A Troops Out Now Coalition banner read “Bush–McCain; Katrina–Gustav: Criminal Neglect Continues.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of youth engaged in militant street actions. They were met by brutal attacks at the hands of the police, including being doused with pepper spray and tear gas. Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) activist and eyewitness videographer Elena Everett reported that a disabled man in a wheelchair was sprayed head-to-toe with pepper spray. Others were hit in the back with tear gas canisters.

The Coldsnap Legal Collective (coldsnaplegal.wordpress.com) reports that as of Sept. 1, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office had announced 284 arrests. Some 130 were charged with felony offenses, which most likely will be used to keep them in jail until the end of the convention. The collective says that the majority of those arrested are still being held in jail, and some are being refused proper medical attention. The collective is asking supporters to call the jail at 651-266-9350 to demand that these activists be released and given proper medical attention.

While the corporate media has focused almost exclusively on property damage sustained during the street actions, including windows being broken at a Macy’s department store, several eyewitnesses told this reporter that the person who began breaking the windows was clearly an agent provocateur working with the police. He approached the window in clear view of the cops, broke it and walked away without an arrest. A police car was also damaged.

However, at a press conference the following day, march coordinator Jess Sundin was quick to point out that any rage displayed by activists in the streets is completely justified and pales in comparison to the state violence committed on a daily basis by U.S. forces at home and abroad.

The joint press conference was held by the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, the RNC Welcoming Committee and the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign–all of whom held fast in their solidarity with arrestees, despite attempts by corporate media reporters to bait them into denouncing “violence.” One man, representing the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign, challenged the reporters: “You act like we’re having this press conference in a country that hasn’t practiced oppression for hundreds of years.”

A number of activities are planned to continue the protests through the end of the convention on Sept. 4, including free public music festivals, a “March for Our Lives” and a “solutions driven” peace conference. For updates on activities, visit https://dncrnc.wordpress.com/.

LeiLani Dowell is an activist and leader with the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC).  TONC activists and organizers have been on the streets at both conventions, marching against racism, war, and injustice.

To find out more about the Troops Out Now Coalition, go to www.TroopsOutNow.org

To donate to help pay for organizing expenses, go to http://troopsoutnow.org/donate.shtml

To sign the petition demanding an end to police brutality and illegal conduct in St. Paul, go to http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml


September 1st March on the RNC is Still On! Come Out to Say NO to the War and to the Republican Agenda!

September 1, 2008

from Twin Cities Indymedia:

We have had lots of calls to the coalition office asking, “Are the demonstration and march still going as planned?” The answer is YES! The anti-war movement has ALWAYS had a demand of money for human needs not for war, and Hurricane Katrina was one of the reasons for that demand. Hurricane Gustav affects the Republican Party because they don’t want to be seen as ignoring another crisis. However the demonstration will be voicing opposition to the war’s prioritization above human needs such as building levees, the economy, healthcare, etc. In addition, the RNC will still be in session during our march. Tomorrow we can still give our mesage to the party that supported the war and that supports its continuation. Lets show up in record numbers!

If you want to know who is speaking or to look at maps for parking or other issues please go to marchonrnc.org. We hope to see you there with your friends and family! US Out Now! Money for Human Needs Not for War! Say NO to the Republican Agenda!

– the Anti-War Committee
for the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War

Schedule for the September 1 Rally at the State Capitol:
7am – Set-up help needed at State Capitol Building, St. Paul
9am – Marshals meeting in front of the stage at State Capitol Building, St. Paul
9:30am – Volunteers meeting at the Information Tent at State Capitol Building, St. Paul
11am – Rally at the MN State Capitol
1pm – March on the Xcel Center
4pm – Closing Rally
6 to 7pm – Clean up crew needed at State Capitol Building, St. Paul