[Protesters in handcuffs after a Fletcher raid in a backyard in Saint Paul. -- img. fm. Strib]
This is an email from a friend of mine, who has been working for the last six months with RNC protesters as part of his PhD:
I've been getting a lot of emails from folks in the dept wanting to know what's going on. As many of you are aware, I've been doing ethnographic research on social movement organizations who are protesting the RNC. I've been immersively working with one group, the RNC Welcoming Committee, and having extensive interactions with two others, the Coalition to March on the RNC and End the War and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. As some of you are probably aware, on Friday evening the convergence space in St. Paul that was being rented and operated by the Welcoming Committee was raided by riot police who kicked in the door with automatic weapons drawn, forced the 60-70 activists inside to the floor, cuffed them, then proceeded to confiscate all of the banner-making supplies, movement literature (including 5000 dollars of special newspapers that had been printed to distribute at the RNC and 2000 copies of a radical magazine from the UK that had just arrived via Fed Ex). Over the course of several hours the cops interrogated, photographed, ran warrant checks, and eventually, one by one, released everyone who was inside. They ended up closing down the space for a code violation. The next morning when the code inspector arrived (after considerable political pressure being put on the city by Councilor Thune) he found no basis for closing the space.More info on this story, including lots of video, over at The Uptake.
Yesterday morning was one of escalation and terror. The Ramsey County Sheriffs Dept. along with SPPD, Homeland Security, and the FBI raided four private houses. At 8am sharp dozens of cops in SWAT gear violently broke down the door of my friend Nathanael's house. Approximately a dozen activists were staying there from out of town for the RNC. They were awakened (after having been up until the early hours working on a press response to the convergence space raid) literally, with automatic rifle barrels in their faces. They were pulled out of bed, bound with plastic zip ties and forced to lie face down for more than and hour. Several core members of the Welcoming Committee lived in that house and they were all arrested on charges of 'probably cause; conspiracy to riot, and conspiracy to destroy property'. The cops stole more literature from that house, all the computers and electronics devices and took anything that could possibly be used as a weapon or device for civil disobedience. This included taking the recycling bottles, rags from under the sink, and kerosene from the landlords old garage, alleging that they were for molotov cocktails, an old set of snow tires from the garage are allegedly a stockpile for burning in the streets, several buckets of what the cops described as urine and feces to be used to throw on police are actually the grey water recycling system that they've set up to be more eco friendly (they set up the sink so it drains into a bucket, then use the water from the bucket to flush the toilet). The police cite the presence of an axe and a machete as weapons (how many of you have such implements?), even though they were found near the woodpile in the backyard where I've sat with them and had campfires at night. In short, this was totally politically motivated and ridiculous. However, it being a holiday weekend, any arrests for alleged crimes beyond petty misdemeanors will not even arrive in court until Wednesday at the earliest. This means that whether or not any charges stick these folks who have been organizing resistance to the RNC for two years will be in jail the entire time it's going on.
Four other houses were raided yesterday, dozens of activists were detained. In all, six core members of the welcoming committee were arrested on conspiracy charges, the remaining members of the organization have dispersed. Out of town activists at the convergence space have formed an ad hoc committee and sub committees to self organize the functions once taken on by WC members.
After seeing reports of my friends being brutalized, abducted off the street by SWAT teams, and generally intimidated and threatened I've decided to go out of town for a day or two. The cops had warrants for core WC members, and it does not appear at this point that I am in danger. As of right now I'm unsure of how to operate and conduct the participant observation I had planned for tomorrow. It is very likely that any other people connected with the WC that are encountered by police during the protests will be opportunistically arrested and charged with felonies.
Given the shocking level of police repression (check out twin cities indymedia and the site of the coldsnap legal collective for up to date details) I cannot in good faith ask other grads to carry out the observations that we had discussed during tomorrow's protests. If you do go down there be careful. The march should be safe, but the other protest activities after the march, the blockades, may be very volatile.
If you are concerned about this enormous police over-kill please contact mayors Coleman in St. Paul and Rybak in Minneapolis, demand an end to this witch hunt. The people who were arrested were some of the kindest, gentlest, most dedicated activists I've ever met.
Stay safe in the police state.
It sounds like Ramsey Co. Sheriff Bob Fletcher is calling the shots on this, as some of the SPPD interviewed in the Uptake vids stated. Who is he? Here are some details:
- Sheriff Bob Fletcher's cronies: guilty, guilty (MNPost)
- Bob Fletcher's "push the boundaries" style (Strib)
- Petition drive to oust Bob Fletcher (MPR)
- Tons of salacious internet-esque inneuendo at (BobFletcherExposed)
This kind of goon squad behavior shouldn't be taking place in Saint Paul. Let's hope the Sheriff's office doesn't escalate the situation over the next few days. (Hell, Bush isn't even going to come to Saint Paul anymore, anyway. I think he's sending Michael Brown to give his speech.)