Prof. Marjorie Cohn / Global Research & Veterans Against War & St. Paul Pioneer Press – 2008-09-02 22:51:58
Police State Methods:
Preemptive Strikes Against Protest
At the Republican National Convention
Prof. Marjorie Cohn / Global Research
(September 2, 2008) — In the months leading up to the Republican National Convention, the FBI-led Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force actively recruited people to infiltrate vegan groups and other leftist organizations and report back about their activities.
On May 21, the Minneapolis City Pages ran a recruiting story called “Moles Wanted.” Law enforcement sought to preempt lawful protest against the policies of the Bush administration during the convention.
Since Friday, local police and sheriffs, working with the FBI, conducted preemptive searches, seizures and arrests. Glenn Greenwald described the targeting of protestors by “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.”
Journalists were detained at gunpoint and lawyers representing detainees were handcuffed at the scene.
“I was personally present and saw officers with riot gear and assault rifles, pump action shotguns,” said Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who is representing several of the protestors. “The neighbor of one of the houses had a gun pointed in her face when she walked out on her back porch to see what was going on. There were children in all of these houses, and children were held at gunpoint.”
The raids targeted members of “Food Not Bombs,” an anti-war, anti-authoritarian protest group that provides free vegetarian meals every week in hundreds of cities all over the world. They served meals to rescue workers at the World Trade Center after 9/11 and to nearly 20 communities in the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina.
Also targeted were members of I-Witness Video, a media watchdog group that monitors the police to protect civil liberties. The group worked with the National Lawyers Guild to gain the dismissal of charges or acquittals of about 400 of the 1,800 who were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York . Preemptive policing was used at that time as well. Police infiltrated protest groups in advance of the convention.
Nestor said that no violence or illegality has taken place to justify the arrests. “Seizing boxes of political literature shows the motive of these raids was political,” he said.
Further evidence the political nature of the police action was the boarding up of the Convergence Center , where protestors had gathered, for unspecified code violations. St. Paul City Council member David Thune said, “Normally we only board up buildings that are vacant and ramshackle.”
Thune and fellow City Council member Elizabeth Glidden decried “actions that appear excessive and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for those who wish to exercise their first amendment rights.”
“So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protestors who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do,” Greenwald wrote on Salon.
Preventive detention violates the Fourth Amendment, which requires that warrants be supported by probable cause. Protestors were charged with “conspiracy to commit riot,” a rarely-used statute that is so vague, it is probably unconstitutional. Nestor said it “basically criminalizes political advocacy.”
On Sunday, the National Lawyers Guild and Communities United Against Police Brutality filed an emergency motion requesting an injunction to prevent police from seizing video equipment and cellular phones used to document their conduct.
During Monday’s demonstration, law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. At least 50 people were arrested, including Amy Goodman, the prominent host of Democracy Now!, as well as the show’s producers, Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. “St. Paul was the most militarized I have ever seen an American city to be,” Greenwald wrote, “with troops of federal, state and local law enforcement agents marching around with riot gear, machine guns, and tear gas cannisters, shouting military chants and marching in military formations.”
Six activists remain detained after Ramsey County Judge Joanne Smith found probable cause to continue the detentions. Defense counsel have not seen any of the alleged evidence, reviewed the affidavits for the search warrants, or been able to contest the evidence presented to Judge Smith.
Bruce Nestor said the timing of the arrests was intended to stop protest activity, “to make people fearful of the protests, but also to discourage people from protesting,” he told Amy Goodman. Nevertheless, thousands of people, many opposed to the Iraq war, turned out to demonstrate on Monday. A legal team from the National Lawyers Guild has been working diligently to protect the constitutional rights of protestors.
Marjorie Cohn is president of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd), which will be published this winter by PoliPointPress. Her articles are archived at www.marjoriecohn.com.
© Copyright Marjorie Cohn, Global Research, 2008
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Tuesday Morning – St. Paul Demonstrations
Rainbow Puddle – http://rainbowpuddle.com/
i’ve been on the phone and other electronic since sunday… and am getting ‘on the scene’ Veterans reporting and thought i would share the last update:
200809.02 – 6:34 AM (St. Paul) — This is gonna have to be a quickie, as I need some protein & it’s time to figure out how to get from this hotel to Peace Park for a mellow afternoon of community and music. Had bush and his cheney boss and their brainwashed veteran-hating candidate been here, it would have been much worse.
I witnessed Amy Goodman & her crew arrested yesterday. I saw cops refusing medical treatment to handcuffed prisoners bleeding from the face or arms. But that was way after the march. I saw sweating cops wielding batons half my size all too anxious to crack heads.
Veterans For Peace marched proudly behind Iraq Veterans Against the War. Michael McPhearson was awesome as our Field Leadership! Veterans kept tight and disciplined and we did our best to clear non-veterans away from our lines and for the most part, it was clear as we marched through town that this demo of over 25,000 people was LED BY US MILITARY VETERANS!
IVAW led us in chants and cadence and speaking for myself and perhaps many of the other VFP members with us, it was a very high honor to march behind our brothers and sisters in IVAW.
It is difficult to describe the feeling as thousands of peaceful activists cheered our presence, *loudly*.
We were joined by several WWII vets, one 89-year-old youth keeping pace with the ENTIRE march, another accompanied by two nieces and with a wide-brimmed hat over his ears so we could never see his face, stayed with us also for the most part.
Our spirit was high. Our message was clear and our intention clearly indicated by our peaceful presence.
I’d guess there were over 300 veterans behind us. We went through the crowd prior to leaving the rally site, several times inviting veterans and their families to march peacefully with us. Many, many did & it was fun to find out where these vets were from and hook them up with contacts from their communities.
But we had very little or no signup sheets or info to hand out. We’ll fix that next time!
For those of you not with us yesterday, you missed an incredible action. In four years I hope we convene in whatever location the next party in power chooses. We must be a presence at all national party conventions!
Police, National Guard, Fire Tear Gas into Protest Group
St. Paul Pioneer Press Staff
(September 1, 2008) — Local police and Minnesota National Guard units are using a combination of pepper spray, concussion grenades and tear gas on a group of breakaway protesters gathered on Kellogg Boulevard in downtown St. Paul. The group of about 150 protesters, many thought to be with the group “Funk the War,” had been blocking traffic for much of the afternoon.
At least one person — a young man wearing a gas mask, no shirt and a backpack — was taken into custody. He lay down on the street as a group of officers surrounded him and took him away.
Police also escorted a group of 17 mostly black-clad youth across the Robert St. Bridge in an apparent effort to get them out of downtown.
Rubber bullets were fired into a crowd at Seventh and Robert Streets. At Seventh and Jackson, police have more than a dozen people in a parking lot as police handcuff them. Police continued to spray the crowd with pepper spray. More details are to come.
The confrontations continued after a main group of anti-war protesters marching from the state Capitol peacefully reached the Xcel Energy center in downtown St. Paul earlier today.
All day, breakaway groups of protesters roamed throughout downtown, blocking traffic and breaking windows. A group calling itself “Funk the War” temporarily blocked traffic across the Wabasha Street Bridge until mounted police moved them along. Three bus loads of reinforcements joined bicycle and mounted police, gathering at Kellogg and Wabasha, wearing gas masks.
Other reports of violent confrontations and damage to property that occurred before and during the march include:
The exit at Seventh Street off Interstate 94 was blocked by a group of about 10 protesters who chained themselves together with lockboxes. The protesters said they were part of the Pittsburgh branch of the Northeast Anarchist Network. “(The purpose) was to shut down the delegates from getting to the RNC,” one said. The police have officially shut down the exit.
There have been several reports of broken windows, including at 380 Jackson Street, where masked protesters smashed windows on the back side of Galtier Plaza; at Heimie’s Haberdashery, where a glass table was turned over and smashed at Sixth and St. Peter streets; at Macy’s at Seventh and Wabasha, and at the 1st National Bank Building at Fourth and Minnesota streets, where four large ground-floor windows were broken or smashed, apparently by rocks.
There was a Minneapolis police car at Sixth and Wabasha with the windshield bashed in and tires slashed.
Numerous people have been arrested, including: Eight at the corner of Sixth and Wall streets. One threw a paintball at a cop, and the windows of two police cars were broken. Twenty protesters are being arrested at 6th and Wall in Lowertown, St. Paul. The protesters, calling themselves nornc.org, are dressed all in black and wearing bandanas across their faces. They are chanting, “We love you,” and singing as 40 police officers, half in riot gear and half bicycle officers, stand guard as more officers search and handcuff group members.
There have been several reports of tires slashed, including on an SUV, on a coach bus near the Garden Hilton and on a FOX 9 TV truck. The driver of the FOX van chased the protesters on foot but didn’t catch them. Downtown resident Chrles Burmann, 53, watched the incident near Wabasha and Seventh street. “It brings back a lot of memories from the ’60s,” he said. “He just slashed these guys’ tires — it’s a little uncalled for.”
Before the march even began, police fired tear gas into a group of people wearing black clothing and bandanas over their faces. The group had blocked John Ireland by Kellogg and walked down the middle of the road to Twelfth Street, tipping a dumpster as they went.
They pulled traffic signs down and threw them in front of police squad cars. Police in riot gear then fired the tear gas at St. Peter and Exchange at about 1:35 p.m.
One protester was asked: “Why are you doing this?”
“You’re writing about it, aren’t you?” he said.
As groups gathered in different areas of downtown St. Paul before the anti-war march began, there was a confrontation between police and a breakaway group of protesters at the intersection of Seventh and Minnesota streets in downtown St. Paul.
Police attempted to direct the crowd up Seventh Street, and protesters attempted to push through police barricades heading down Minnesota.
Shoving ensued, and police discharged a pepper-spray-like substance into the crowd, and held the intersection.
The crowd paused and played music and danced in front of cops, while those who were hit with pepper spray laid down on sidewalks and had their eyes flushed. At least one member of the press was also hit.
Police pushed the crowd up West Seventh armed in riot gear carrying sticks.
As a group of marchers passed the Dorothy Day Center near Seventh Street and Main, they formed a “pit” and began dancing in front of the Center.
When protesters arrived at the main protest area near the Dorothy Day Center, they were met with supporters of the war in Iraq, who carried “Victory Over Terrorism” signs.
The counter-protest was led by Joe Repya, a 62-year-old retired US Army lieutenant colonel and RNC delegate who volunteered for active duty at age 58.
There were some verbal confrontations, but for the most part the mood of the crowd remained buoyant, dancing to music blasting from a portable speaker.
“They were throwing a lot of words at us,” Repya said. “Nothing I’d repeat in front of female company.”
Protesters wore a variety of garb, from colorful, almost clownish outfits to black bandanas over their faces. Cops wore gas masks and moved down Seventh Street on bikes and horses to push the crowd forward before the breakaway group separated into smaller groups and spread throughout downtown, often running.
Some protesters let out the air in government vehicles, and police seemed to allow them to roam.
Joe, a member of D.C. Students for a Democratic Society, was a part of the breakaway group, which seemed to be led by an impromptu dance and protest organization called “Funk the War.”
“They’ve disrupted the lives of so many people, Iraqis, New Orleaners, they didn’t help them. The least we could do is disrupt their day for a couple of hours,” said Joe, who declined to give his last name.
“The cops are being very aggressive,” he added. “Hopefully, they’ll let us keep practicing our free speech.”
Marcus Washington, a freelance videographer wearing a “Media” badge, said cops sprayed him with pepper spray twice at Seventh and Minnesota streets.
“I grabbed my press pass, a walked forward with my camera toward police just to film them and they maced me,” said Washington, shirtless and whose face was streaked with a liquid used to flush the pepper spray. “I got delerious and blind and fell over. … It’s still burning because I shaved my head and I have tattoos.”
On Seventh Street near Main, eleven local citizens, clad in bright yellow bibs, assembled themselves with a goal of preventing violence by inserting themselves between cops and protesters. They were mostly middle-aged adults and they talked with authorities to let them know their purpose. They wore armbands that say: “I will not hurt you.”
There was a report of tear gas being sprayed into the crowd at Seventh Street and Cedar.
At Eleventh Street and Minnesota, a group of 30 – 40 people, one of whom said they “are with a group of fellow citizens of America practicing Democracy,” wandered in front of cars driving on the street in what appeared to be an attempt to disrupt traffic. About 50 riot police followed the group as it continued to move toward the Capitol.
Reporters witnessed members of the group slash the tires of a FOX news van and let air out of the tires of government mini-vans.
The same group of about 100 people wearing black formed a blockade at Sixth and Cedar streets and overturned traffic routing signs and newspaper boxes and threw them across the road. Traffic is blocked on many downtown streets.
About 2,000 protesters waved peace sign flags and rallied at the state Capitol ahead of the march to the site of the Republican National Convention. Hundreds of police wearing bulletproof vests and carrying batons stood by.
The crowd was far short of the 50,000 that organizers had hoped to attract, but officers in riot gear were stationed along the route of the march to Xcel Energy Center. Police initially estimated the crowd at 10,000, but then revised it sharply downward an hour later.
An anarchist group known as the RNC Welcoming Committee had worked for months on strategies to disrupt the convention. Despite preemptive police searches over the weekend that resulted in six arrests, the group issued a statement Monday saying it was “moving forward with a national call to crash the convention.”
The group was not formally involved in Monday’s march, which was organized by a coalition of antiwar groups.
Police said they were prepared for anything.
“We will not tolerate lawlessness in the city of St. Paul,” St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington said. “If you come here to throw rocks, if you come here to throw Molotov cocktails … we will stop you.”
At the rally, speaker after speaker called for an immediate end to the war and more spending on domestic needs, such as providing health care and fixing crumbling bridges.
At the capitol, a group of 200 or so college-age people holding a banner that read “Students for a Democratic Society” began walking the route before the set time of the march. Many wore bandanas around their faces, bracing for the possibility that police would use tear gas.
They soon stopped in front of a couple dozen counter-protesters who were holding signs that read “Victory over terrorism.” The students played the song “Like a Virgin” and performed the “Electric Slide” dance in front of the counter-protesters.
Immigrants, labor groups, veterans, student groups and others gathered for the rally, which was to walk about a mile and a half from the Capitol to the site of the convention and back.
At the rally, a 25-foot-long ice sculpture rose 3 feet in the air and spelled “Democracy.” Some protesters flew kites, waved American and peace-sign flags and carried homemade anti-war signs.
Peace activist Steve Clemens, 47, from Minneapolis said he was disturbed by the number of police.
“But we can’t control that,” said Clemens, who had already been arrested once _ for crossing into a restricted area during a march Sunday.
Alan Rybak, a real estate agent from Lakeville, Minn., stood along the protest route carrying a sign that read “Support Our Troops.”
“I’m here to support our troops and to tell (protesters) to get a job and go home,” said Rybak, a Republican Party activist.
Monday’s larger rally went ahead even as the GOP curtailed the day’s official activities because of Hurricane Gustav.
Police executed a series of raids in the days leading up to the march. One of the six arrested over the weekend on probable cause of conspiracy to commit a riot was released Sunday, according to attorney Bruce Nestor. No charges were filed against the woman, 23-year-old Monica Bicking. The other five remained jailed, possibly until Wednesday, Nestor said.
In the raids, police seized materials including knives, axes, bomb-making materials, maps and anti-war literature.
One man was briefly detained by police Monday morning after a smaller march by about 100 veterans opposed to the Iraq war. Wes Davey, 59, a retired first sergeant from St. Paul, said he was willing to be arrested for his cause. Police first said Davey had been arrested, but spokesman Pete Crum later said he wasn’t.
Police Arresting and Beating the PRESS at RNC
* MSNBC Articles
At least four journalists were among those detained, including Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke and Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, a nationally syndicated public radio and TV news program. Goodman was intervening on behalf of two producers for her program, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, when she was arrested, said Mike Burke, another producer.
St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh said Rourke was held on a gross misdemeanor riot charge. Goodman was arrested on a misdemeanor charge, Ramsey County sheriff’s spokeswoman Holli Drinkwine said. Neither Walsh nor Drinkwine had information on the other two journalists.
CNN: “St. Paul police said 130 of the 284 arrested were being held on felony charges. The rest were charged with various misdemeanors.”
Videos from RNC Protests Show Police Brutality
• Anti-War Protester Who Offers Flower to Police Pepper Sprayed
• Amy Goodman Arrested at RNC
• Black Block and Fund-war snake marches
Mon, 09/01/2008 – 20:19.
Videos I shot today by Nick Cooper
• Protesters making barricades:
• Cop car window smashed:
• Activists knock down sign, cop picks it up:
• Rude mechanical orchestra:
• Taking a dumpster:
• 2008 RNC : Protester arrested for “falling” off his bike
Submitted by Joe Veen (not verified) on Mon, 09/01/2008 – 23:04.
BTW, If anyone needs a higher quality version of this video for legal defense, etc… let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org