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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Police raid RNC protest sites in Twin Cities


David Joles, Star Tribune
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.

21 Comments:

Blogger Bob said...

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."

Said Thune: "Unless they come up with anthrax or weapons of mass destruction, I think they came up short."

Later Saturday, Fletcher described in a news release the items seized during the raids, which included a variety of "edged weapons"; glass bottles, rags and flammable liquids; "Old tires (for burning)," a gas mask and "Empty plastic buckest cut and made into shields."

The RNC Welcoming Committee denied criminal intent and described the police actions as "violence" that is a sign of more extreme police measures to come.

Three people were arrested and detained for probable cause conspiracy to commit a riot following a raid at 3240 17th Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

Ten other people in the house were processed and released after about 90 minutes, said Bruce Nestor of the National Lawyers Guild.

Nestor said the warrant used to search the home was identical to two others for searches at homes at 3500 Harriet Av. S. and 2301 23rd Av. S. in Minneapolis. One man was arrested at the 23rd Avenue S. house, and a fifth arrested at an "undisclosed location," according to the Ramsey sheriff's office.

Nestor said the the warrant used to search the 17th Avenue house also matches the one used to raid the former theater in St. Paul that is the organizing site of the RNC Welcoming Committee.

Nestor said he has not seen documents that support a reason for searching any of the locations, but that the warrant, signed by a judge on Friday, seeks multiple items, including electronics and MP3 players, rags, jars, Molotov cocktails, communication between RNC Welcoming Committee members, urine and feces.

Those arrested could be held through the weekend, Nestor said. A judge will review their case within 48 hours. Nestor said the conspiracy to commit a riot charges are vague.

"This is a charge that police use for preventive detention," he said. "It requires that no actual criminal act be committed and borders on criminalizing political advocacy."

Nestor did not know whether the three were members of the RNC Welcoming Committee.

Meanwhile, the group decried the Friday night raid on their organizing site as unwarranted, as evidenced by the lack of arrests after at least 50 people were detained. The group decried law enforcement's tactics, particularly because children and the elderly were present while the group was watching films and sharing food before the doors were broken down.

"The police may claim that the raid was executed according to protocol - however, the violence inherent in this action may only be a hint of the violence to be expected on Monday and beyond, and is only a hint at the violence perpetrated daily by the police," the group's statement read.

"(By) Looking for items found in any twin cities house like jars, paint, and rags, this attempt to portray us as criminals and destroy our credibility has already backfired as evidenced by the masses who have come to support us." the RNC Welcoming Committee said in a statement late Friday.

An attorney for protesters said Ramsey County sheriff's deputies and St. Paul police officers handcuffed at least 50 people and made them lie on the ground for an extended period. The raid happened Friday night around 9 p.m. at the former Smith Theater on St. Paul's west side.

Thune estimates that about 100 people were in the theater and detained. He said deputies knocked down the door using a police battering ram and then deputies went in with guns drawn, forcing people to the ground.

The group says they are now accused of a fire code violation and the theater was boarded shut on orders of Fletcher. This last action also upset Thune, who said the sheriff had no authority to order city staff to keep people out of a building.

Thune said he would be working with city officials today to re-open the building. Demonstrators said later Saturday that the building was being re-opened.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Matiatos said...

"Criminal enterprise" ? Hey, start handcuffing code enforcement employees and city officials. RICO.

The real criminal enterprise.

They are raiding the wrong folks !

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Matiatos said...

Malicious Prosecution if these folks are exonerated.

Buckets of urine ? Maybe code better get over there and check to see if the toilets are working.

Better yet,tear the house down!

If the toilets don't work, that would explain the gas masks !!!


Jeff Matiatos

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NAZI Police State tactics, but I doubt if it will suprise anyone here very much. With what we've seen the city do the last 2 years, this is par for the course for them.

What actually suprises me is Thune standing up for what's right for a change.

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did talk to Thune on this and that list of stuff that the sheriff has came from all of the raids and that includes several homes and their garages. (gas, nails, bottles, bolt cutters in a garage what a shock...) That stuff was not in the old Mason Hall on Smith that Thune was ticked about.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SO the city's leadership orders a hit on the protestors and Thune chickens out. What the hell kind of leader is Repke? He's afraid of his own shadow.

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Bill Cullen said...

I am all for protesting and I hope they are successful at getting across their message to the rest of the world.

However, I also believe that political parties have a right to gather and have their voice heard too. I have to laugh at these punks who hide behind their right to free speech as a reason to interfere with other law abiding citizens who are trying to do just that. Hypocrits.

If all these different police agencies felt an invention was justified, I must believe their was some good information.

We will know very soon the protesters real intentions. To inform the world of their views or disrupt. Which do you think it is?

Bill Cullen.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Bil Cullen said...

Chuck,

Did you watch the video from St. Paul police? Click on my name to see it.

Some of the items found:

book:"An arachists cookbook Receipes for disaster"

Stuff to blow tires out.

Gas masks

buckets of urine

Throwing knives

Slingshots

Instructions for Moltav cocktails

Common stuff in your garage? I have none of this stuff... Never have. Just a peaceful group wanting to get their message out, right?

Bill Cullen

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, its not 'city officials'. Its one county official that made this happen- Sheriff Bob Fletcher. The city had no clue about this raid on protesters. With no arrests and over 100 detained and now the place is back open its clear this was b.s. and another publicity tactic by Bob Fletcher to get the news off his deputies being convicted of corruption and the probe widening to him.

Watching this whole build-up there has been cooperation between the city cops, FBI, Secret Service and other area cops helping out. Guess who was the only cowboy saying we needed more police and tougher restrictions? Your Nazi Sheriff. He refused to be a part of the team and decided to go out and make headlines for himself.

I can't wait for the day when they frog-march his ass out of the Sheriff's Office.

He's a corrupt disgrace and you guys should be focused on where the evidence is more obvious.

Five people arrested out of over 100 handcuffed and detained?

Fletcher and Gaertner needs to go ASAP!

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful, you'll have this comment section full of kiss-assers like that Krenik guy and Fletchers deputies.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Bill and none of that stuff came from the Smith Street location where the hundred of people were detained.

All of it came from houses and garages.

All I am suggesting is that the raid on Smith Street was insane.

I have no idea if there is any there, there on the individual houses, but gas can, bolt cutters, nails are hardly criminal offenses.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do any of you here expect any different from Bob Fletcher with the national media on him?

He's a crook with about five months to go.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Repke I have never heard Thune standing up for property rights when Dawkins and Kelly wanted to"GET INSIDE".Yeah your code enforcement cops were ordered to get inside Repke and we didn't hear a peep from you.


Repke whats good for the goose is good for the gander.



Tim Ciani

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim, WTF?

Either you believe in privacy or you don't.

You must be a disciple of Fletcher and approve of these NAZI tactics, you seem to like assuming people are guilty before court.

You're one stand up guy.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'm with Tim on this one. No one in the last couple of years have given two hoots that St. Paul was frocing their way into people's homes against the occupants wishs and then fabricating city inspection reports in order to carry out illegal activities. Now when it starts happening to others, all of a sudden people are crying foul? What was good enough for yesterdays victims is good enough for the people of today who stood by and said nothing.

2:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, should we keep ignoring these violations?

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Tim your wrong again.

I have said about 6,000 times here that Thune is the closest to your views about property management and maintence and "grandfathering" than anyone else on the council.

When "historic" buildings come up in Ward 2, Dayton's Bluff, Summit U, Thune has regularly argued in favor of keeping the buildings.

But, Thune did the smoking ban and gay right ordinance so all of you ass holes have your heads so far up your ass about those issues that you don't even pay attention when someone supports your possition.

One that I know of that Thune stopped the demo crew for 2 years was on Cliff Street... the place still never got fixed and got demo'ed but he held them off for 2 years giving extention after extention while the neighbors complained.

I still got the $100 to Bob's favorite charity if anyone can find me an address in Ward 2 where someone wanted an extention to delay a demo and Thune didn't approve it at least once.

Dave doesn't want the cops in your bedroom unless you invite them in....

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Horny said...

If shes a good lookin cop and naked, she can come in my bedroom.


Horny.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheriff's investigation: Anarchists discussed kidnapping delegates
By Emily Gurnon and Mara H. Gottfried
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 09/03/2008 08:14:49 AM CDT


RelatedRNC Welcoming Committee
Read the full affidavitA year ago, the Ramsey County sheriff's office began looking closely at a group called the Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee.

What it found, according to an 18-page search warrant application and affidavit, led to weekend raids on two Minneapolis homes and a temporary St. Paul office for the self-described anarchist group.

According to the document, investigation learned:


The self-described anarchist group — whose main goal was to "crash" the Republican National Convention," according to its Web site — traveled to or communicated with affinity groups in 67 cities to recruit members and raise money.

Group members discussed the possibility of kidnapping delegates, blockading bridges, using liquid sprayers filled with urine or chemicals on police and throwing marbles to trip police and their horses.

At an "action camp" held from July 31 to Aug. 3 in Lake Geneva, Minn., one member talked of concealing inside giant puppets "materials" that could be used on the street. Others discussed the need for Molotov cocktails, paint, caltrops (devices used to puncture tires), bricks and lockboxes for protesters to lock themselves together.

Erik Oseland, one of the six group members arrested here, produced a video called "Video Map of the St. Paul Points of Interest." It included such major companies as Travelers Insurance and Qwest, hotels such as the Embassy Suites and the Crowne Plaza. Also included: the Pioneer Press building.

The main sources for the information were "regular surveillance" of the group and three people who posed as members — two informants and an undercover investigator. The informants monitored e-mails and conversations.

Geneva Finn of the National Lawyers Guild, which represents many of those arrested, said it was hard for her to weigh the evidence in the affidavit because "it's all based on the testimony of people who are not identified, and that's a real problem."

Police and the Sheriff's Department characterized the anarchists as troublemakers who had come from other cities and states to disrupt the convention.

"Yesterday, there was a group of people, not the protesters ... but a group of criminals who came here with a very express goal and intent," St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington said Tuesday. "They came here to try to stop the convention, to crash the gates, to stop the buses and the delegates. ... They failed."

Many of the people arrested during violence Monday on the convention's first day were listed in the Ramsey County Jail log as John or Jane Doe because they wouldn't disclose their real names.

The people who did identify themselves came from at least 19 states, the jail log showed. Sheriff Bob Fletcher said most of the felony arrests were anarchists from elsewhere.

Only one person, Vernon Alexander Rodrigues, 22, of Mt. Eden, Calif., was charged with a felony, obstruction of legal process, in Monday's protest activities.

He made a first court appearance Tuesday afternoon, during which prosecutor Mark Hammer said Rodrigues had originally told police his name was Jesse Sparkles. Several other protesters also gave that name, Hammer said.

Amy Goodman, host of the independent news program "Democracy Now!," questioned Harrington about why police arrested her and two of her producers. The producers had been reporting on Monday's arrests when they were swept up in the arrests themselves, she said.

She rushed from interviews with delegates at the Xcel Energy Center when she heard the producers had been arrested and were bloodied, Goodman said. She said she asked officers why the journalists were being detained, and they arrested her.

Goodman was cited for obstructing legal process; the producers were arrested on suspicion of felony riot.

"What is your policy with the press?" Goodman asked Harrington. "How is the press to operate in this kind of environment?"

Harrington said "if there's an unlawful assembly or we're in the midst of a riot," police announce loudly that people need to leave the area.

"If reporters fail to do that, if they are in the midst of the riot, we can't protect them," he said. "It would be very difficult for us in a moment of that kind of chaos to be able to make those kind of fine distinctions."

The ACLU and the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild also criticized the police response to the protesters.

ACLU of Minnesota Executive Director Chuck Samuelson said he believes an excessive number are being charged with serious felonies such as conspiracy to commit riot.

Of the 284 arrests Monday, 130 were made on suspicion of felonies and 51 on gross misdemeanors. Samuelson said that in similar mass arrests during demonstrations, two-thirds are charged with misdemeanors.

Representatives of the Welcoming Committee gave a brief statement during a Tuesday news conference in which they applauded the skirmishes downtown, but did not take credit for them.

"We understand that it must be intimidating to see people organizing for themselves around the idea of mutual aid and solidarity, but in doing this we are actively creating the world we want to live in," said Rose DeBarr of the Welcoming Committee.

In related action Tuesday, Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled that a group could not get literature, buttons and other protest materials released after they were seized in the weekend raids by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department.

Albert Goins, an attorney with the Minnesota ACLU, said there was an "extremely strong" possibility Gearin's decision would be appealed to federal or state court.

Jason Hoppin, Jessica Huang and John Brewer contributed to this report. Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522 or egurnon@ pioneerpress.com. Mara Gottfried can be reached at 651-228-5262 or mgottfried@pioneerpress.com.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a bunch of scumbags! I hope authorities throw the book at these assholes.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're talking about the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, I couldn't agree with you more.

3:18 PM  

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