"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Minneapolis Pre Convention Arrests Updated! Links included below lead to several videos and slide presentations as well as additional on site reporting.

The Star-Tribune reports Minneapolis police raided Republican National Convention protest groups and arrested five members, charging them as a criminal enterprise that planned criminal acts to “welcome” conventioneers:

“In a statement Saturday morning, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said the St. Paul raid targeted the RNC Welcoming Committee, a group he described as “a criminal enterprise made up of 35 self-described anarchists…intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention.”

“These acts include tactics to blockade and disable delegate buses, breaching venue security and injuring police officers,” Fletcher said. Deputies seized a variety of items that they believed were tools of civil disobedience: a gas mask, bolt cutters, axes, slingshots, homemade “caltrops” for disabling buses, even buckets of urine.”

Protesters claimed the police action was preventive detention and likened it to terrorism. They vowed they would not be intimidated. The raids were also condemned by City Councilman Dave Thune:

“I’m really ticked off…the city is perfectly capable of taking care of things,” Thune said. “If they had found anything that could have been used to commit a crime they would have arrested somebody.”

“Unless they come up with anthrax or weapons of mass destruction, I think they [the police] came up short.”

I try to be open-minded but anarchists don’t do much for me. Neither does this city councilman.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to a Pioneer Press article that has more details on these arrests.

St. Paul police officers attempt to gain entrance to a house on Iglehart Ave. Saturday. Sara Coffey with the National Lawyers Guild was stopped outside the house, handcuffed and detained. She helped police negotiate with those inside.

By Abby Simons, Heron Marquez Estrada and Bill McAuliffe, Star Tribune
Last update: August 30, 2008 - 6:26 PM

Ramsey County authorities conducted raids across Minneapolis and St. Paul Friday and Saturday as a pre-emptive strike against disruptive protests of the Republican National Convention.

Five people were arrested and more than 100 were handcuffed, questioned and released by scores of deputies and police officers, according to police and elected officials familiar with the raids.

In a statement Saturday morning, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said the St. Paul raid targeted the RNC Welcoming Committee, a group he described as "a criminal enterprise made up of 35 self-described anarchists...intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention."

"These acts include tactics to blockade and disable delegate buses, breaching venue security and injuring police officers," Fletcher said. Deputies seized a variety of items that they believed were tools of civil disobedience: a gas mask, bolt cutters, axes, slingshots, homemade "caltrops" for disabling buses, even buckets of urine.

But the raids drew immediate condemnation from activists and St. Paul City Councilman Dave Thune, whose district includes the former theater at 627 Smith Avenue South, which was rented by activists as a gathering space.

"This is not the way to start things off," Thune said Saturday morning. "This is sending the wrong message. Regardless of how you feel about these people...they had a right to be there."

On Saturday afternoon, law agents surrounded 951 Iglehart Av. in St. Paul where members of I-Witness Video, a New York-based group that monitors police conduct during protests, were staying. They were detained and handcuffed but eventually freed without charges.

At a news conference Saturday, Cheri Honkala of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, one of the protest groups, described the Friday raid and an earlier one Thursday that evicted a demonstrators' camp on Harriet Island as "terrorism" intended to divert attention from issues the protest groups are raising and cast the news as police versus protestors.

Thune was especially critical of Fletcher for taking action within St. Paul city limits.

"I'm really ticked off...the city is perfectly capable of taking care of things," Thune said. "If they had found anything that could have been used to commit a crime they would have arrested somebody."

Buckets of urine, slingshots, anti-bus weapons seized in raid on anti-RNC protesters
By Mara H. Gottfried, Elizabeth Mohr and Dave Orrick
Article Last Updated: 08/30/2008 09:07:32 PM CDT

Ramsey County sheriff's deputies found weapons and devices to disable buses - among other items - in searches in the Twin Cities last night and today.

Authorities said the items came from "key members of the RNC Welcoming Committee," a self-described anarchist group.

Five people have been arrested and four properties have been searched, according to the sheriff's office.

At 8 a.m. today, the sheriff's office executed search warrants at three Minneapolis homes - 2301 23rd Ave. S., 3500 Harriet Ave. and 3240 17th Ave. S. The FBI, Minneapolis police and the Hennepin County sheriff's office assisted them.

"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," said Sheriff Bob Fletcher in a statement. "These acts include tactics to blockade and disable delegate buses, breaching venue security and injuring police officers. They have recruited assistance in their criminal conspiracy from other anarchists groups throughout the country. Through their plans and actions they have exhibited a blatant disregard for the law and the safety of others."

The statement said the items found in the searches included:

Materials to create "sleeping dragons" (PVC pipe, chicken wire, duct tape), which is when protesters lock themselves together

Large amounts of urine, including three to five gallon buckets of urine

Wrist rockets (high-powered slingshots)

A machete, hatchet and several throwing knives

a gas mask and filter

Empty glass bottles


Flammable liquids

Homemade caltrops (devises used to disable buses in roads)

Metal pipes


Bolt cutters

Sledge hammers

Rapelling equipment

Kryptonite locks

Empty plastic buckets cut and made into shields

Material for protective padding

An Army helmet.

The five people being held at the Hennepin County jail are under arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to commit civil disorder and conspiracy to damage property.

Arrested at the 17th Avenue home were Monica Rachel Bicking, 23, Erin Chase Trimmer, 23, and Garrett Scott Fitzgerald, 25, Nestor said.

Nathanel David Secor, 26,was arrested at the 23rd Avenue South home.

Erik Charles Oseland, 21, was arrested an undisclosed location, the sheriff's office said.

"Conspiracy to riot was the charge used against the Chicago Eight in 1968 as part of a politically motivated prosecution," said Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. "It is a charge that is essentially used for preventive detention."

A St. Paul building leased by The RNC Welcoming Committee, Where A Search Warrant Was Executed Friday Night, Is being turned back over to the property owner, the mayor's office said this afternoon.

An inspector from the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections secured the former theater on the city's West Side after fire code violations were found during the search, said Bob Hume, Mayor Chris Coleman's spokesman. The violations included a boarded-up fire exit and "sleeping pads everywhere," Hume said.

The building was secured, pending notification of the property owner, which has happened, Hume said.

No one was arrested after Friday night's search, but five arrests were made today.

People planning to protest at the Republican National Convention and St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune are calling the actions a preemptive strike before the RNC, which starts Monday.

St. Paul's mayor said this afternoon that free speech rights are separate from criminal behavior.

"We have worked very, very hard to make sure we've protected people's right to exercise free speech," Coleman said. "To pick up a protest sign, that's fine. If you're here to pick up a brick or some other instrument there's a problem."

Thune said he called city officials seeking an explanation for why the building, which appeared to be up to code and had a valid lease, was being boarded up at the request of the Ramsey County sheriff's office. Thune said Saturday afternoon that the building has been reopened.

"I don't know what happened with the boarding, but they've corrected it, and I'm grateful to our folks at DSI (Department of Safety and Inspections) for seeing the mistake."

Thune has been concerned about the conduct of authorities in the last 24 hours regarding activists.

"This is all about free speech," Thune said. "It's what my father fought in the war for. To me, this smacks of preemptive strike against free speech."

Friday's warrant was executed at 627 Smith Ave. in St. Paul about 9:15 p.m. The building is a former theater that the RNC Welcoming Committee is renting. The sheriff's office said St. Paul police assisted in the search.

Members of various protest groups targeted in last night's raid held a press conference today to express their anger and frustration.

The raid was an effort to "derail RNC protest organizing efforts and to intimidate and terrorize individuals and groups converging in the Twin Cities to exercise what are supposed to be their basic civil rights," RNC Welcoming Committee member Tony Jones read from a statement.

"We will not be intimidated," Jones exclaimed.

The group is demanding re-entry into the convergence space and a guarantee against future raids, the return of all property seized and an end to the "harassment and surveillance."

After reading the statement, Jones refused to answer media questions, saying RNC Welcoming Committee members won't talk until they've had a chance to meet with each other.

There will be another press conference this afternoon at the former Smith Theater, the site of last night's raid. Representatives of other protest groups, such as the Poor People's Economic Rights Campaign, spoke out against local police at the press conference.

Cheri Honkala, who's participated in other RNC protests, such as in New York in 2004, compared the St. Paul raid to "terrorism."

"We, just like the Republicans, have the right to free speech," Honkala said. One speaker, who said she does not belong to any protest group, but lives in St. Paul and has been helping visiting protesters, said the raid on the convergence center was unprompted and that the people there had done nothing wrong.

"The place they raided last night, they were showing documentary movies to twenty-somethings in a clean, alcohol free zone after dinner," Nanette Echols said.

"Today is the biggest day that people are arriving, and we have no place to welcome them," she said, choking up.

Dozens of people are being arrested in Minneapolis ahead of the Republican National Convention, apparently in a pre-emptive attempt to stifle protest and independent media coverage.

The people arrested appear to fall into two general group, liberal protestors and video bloggers.

The New York Times reports “Dozens Detained Ahead of Convention“:

On the weekend before the Republican National Convention, law enforcement agencies detained dozens of people and issued a series of search warrants aimed at groups believed to be organizing demonstrations while delegates and Republican officials are in town.

On Friday night the Ramsey County sheriff’s department, accompanied by the St. Paul police, detained people inside a building here that was being used as a headquarters to plan protests.

“They handcuffed all of us, said Sonia Silbert, 28, from Washington. “They searched everyone.

A copy of a warrant at one house said the police were authorized to look for a laundry list of items, including fire bombs, Molotov cocktails, brake fluid, photographs and maps of St. Paul, paint, computers and camera equipment, and documents and other communications.

Attorneys for the National Lawyers Guild said the people who were detained and photographed included local residents as well as visitors in town to demonstrate at the convention.

Bruce Nestor, a lawyer at one house, said three people there were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit a riot.

“In my mind it’s a classic preventive detention charge, Mr. Nestor said.

He said the authorities were permitted to hold those they arrested without charging them for up to 36 hours — excluding weekends or holidays — in essence detaining them for the length of the convention.

Eileen Clancy blogs at iWitness, a group of bloggers that “uses video to protect civil liberties.” She discusses their experiences in this statement:

Live from the I-Witness Video Residence

Posted by Xeni Jardin, August 30, 2008 9:43 PM permalink

Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com reports that protesters in Minneapolis, where the Republican National Convention will soon begin, have been subjected to massive, pre-emptive police raids. Those arrested include members of Food not Bombs, and a group calling itself the "RNC Welcoming Committee," and a group that uses video to protect civil liberties by documenting police activity at first amendment events. Snip:

[They 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.

Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly. Posted below is the video of the scene, including various interviews, which convey a very clear sense of what is actually going on here.

In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant.

They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as "Do you have Terminator ready?" as they lay on the floor in handcuffs. The 10 or so individuals in the house all said that though they found the experience very jarring, they still intended to protest against the GOP Convention, and several said that being subjected to raids of that sort made them more emboldened than ever to do so.

Massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis. Glenn's post includes videos. One of them is embedded here, below, "from the house that had just been raided."

Glenn's Salon item also points to blog posts from the targeted protest groups, including this one from I-Witness. This group previously "videotaped police behavior at the 2004 GOP Convention in New York and helped get charges dismissed against hundreds of protesters who were arrested." The post excerpted below was published while the police raid was happening today:

The house where I-Witness Video is staying in St. Paul has been surrounded by police. We have locked all the doors. We have been told that if we leave we will be detained. One of our people who was caught outside is being detained in handcuffs in front of the house. The police say that they are waiting to get a search warrant. More than a dozen police are wielding firearms, including one St. Paul officer with a long gun, which someone told me is an M-16.

We are suffering a preemptive video arrest. For those that don't know, I-Witness Video was remarkably successful in exposing police misconduct and outright perjury by police during the 2004 RNC. Out of 1800 arrests, at least 400 were overturned based solely on video evidence which contradicted sworn statements which were fabricated by police officers. It seems that the house arrest we are now under and the possible threat of the seizure of our computers and video cameras is a result of the 2004 success.

Federal government involved in raids on protestersSalon - 9 hours agoA man whose sister was one of those arrested at one of the raided houses in Minneapolis yesterday emailed me a photograph of her and her friend who was also ...

Houses raided, 5 arrested; critics decry crackdownPioneer Press, MN - 19 hours agoDavid Bicking, of Minneapolis, said his daughter and her boyfriend were among those arrested. Monica Bicking has devoted herself to standing up for her ...

Police in Minnesota actually arrest and charge some people with ...Wired News - 17 hours agoAt 8 am today, the sheriff's office executed search warrants at three Minneapolis homes - 2301 23rd Ave. S., 3500 Harriet Ave. and 3240 17th Ave. ...

It can't happen here? It already has...Twin Cities Planet, Minnesota - Aug 30, 2008We can pressure both city councils in Minneapolis and St. Paul into passing resolutions authorizing the arrest of Bush Administration officials complicit in ...

Mpls. Police make first convention-related arrestKAALtv.com, MN - Aug 26, 2008Less than a week before the start of the Republican National Convention, police have made their first convention-related arrest. Minneapolis Police had ...

The crack-down on demonstrators continuesMinnesota Independent, MN - Aug 30, 2008... three were arrested at the 17th Ave S address and one arrest is being reported at the 23rd Ave S address, home to Minneapolis chapter of Food Not Bombs. ...

Police overreaction continues at Republican gatheringExaminer.com - 11 hours agoThree videographers who document police activities were detained and their cameras confiscated in Minneapolis, and an activist said he was "viciously ...

Minneapolis cops confiscate camerasMinnesota Public Radio, MN - Aug 26, 2008Vlad Ceichberg says the officers detained the men but did not arrest them. However, he says the officers took some of their cell phones, a computer hard ...

Police State RNC: A Nun and Eight Others Swept into Unmarked Van by Cops in Minnesota By Lindsay Beyerstein, FiredoglakeAbuse of "probable cause holds" shows the importance of habeus corpus protections. Read more

Urgent! Defend Freedom of Speech and Assembly at the RNC!

Stand Against Police Repression!

Sign the online petition to send a message to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Police, Bush, Cheney, McCain, RNC, the Minneapolis and St. Paul City Councils, the Minnesota Gov., Congressional Leaders and the media to end the police violence against RNC protesters IMMEDIATELY! http://www.troopsoutnow.org/rnc08protestrights.shtml

For updates from the streets of Minneapolis-St. Paul, see http://dncrnc.wordpress.com.

There is a great deal to be concerned with in this post. (Ed.)