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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Spring Riot at U Sparks New Questions about 2008 RNC Protest

Category: RNC
Posted: 04/26/09 12:49, Edited: 04/26/09 12:50

by Ross Rowley

So the Minnesota Daily as well as Esme Murphy on WCCO are reporting a "Spring Jam Party Riot" last night at the University of Minnesota in Dinkytown. Apparently hundreds of drunken college students were involved. According to news reports, the police responded in riot gear and in force to a bonfire party in the middle of the street. Police fired chemical weapons and rubber bullets into the crowd and into houses, in all probability part of the arsenal left over from the RNC last September. The students threw rocks and glass bottles back at the police. At least seven students were arrested.

How much property damage resulted from last night's spring student "riot"?! Did the damage equal the statutory minimum of one thousand dollars' worth? If that's the case, will the rioters be charged under " Minnesota 's Patriot Act" with "furtherance of terrorism"? Will these college students be also charged with felony assault and threatened with prison sentences of 10 to 15 years?

Who will pay the damages after lawsuits are filed for injuries suffered by students and bystanders hit by police canisters and rubber bullets and from property owners whose homes may have been damaged. Did the Mayor in this case not have the foresight to obtain insurance?

Reflecting back to the RNC, we were told by Ramsey County Sheriff Fletcher that "dangerous anarchists" (not ?real college students?) controlled the streets for 2 1/2 hours during the opening hours of the RNC. How many fires did the RNC protesters set? How many rocks and bottles did they throw? How does the property damage at the RNC compare with last night's?

Certainly the authors of the ?Heffelfinger-Luger Commission? did not even attempt to answer the questions of how much damage actually occurred at the RNC. Will the media in the Twin Cities do its job to finally answer some of these hard questions?
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Susan Gaertner: Justice? or Political Expediency?

Category: RNC
Posted: 04/09/09 21:01

By Dave Mindeman

?Under the circumstances, the terrorism charge just complicates the case." --Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, press release, April 9th, 2009.

A few months ago, I had a sit down interview with Susan Gaertner regarding the RNC issues. In that interview she kept pointing out that she was "compelled" to make the "terrorism" charges in this case because the law required it.

Yet, today she wants those charges summarily dismissed because they are a "complication". I have a feeling that we are being politically "handled" by the Ramsey County Attorney. I also have the notion that the RNC-8 trial is sinking into the realm of simple political expediency rather than seeking justice.

These young people are facing serious charges. They have a trial that, depending on the outcome, will change their lives. Yet, why does it feel like they are being used as political pawns?

The entire law enforcement reaction during the Republican National Convention was an overreach, a blustery power display, an authoritarian facade. It was a blatant put down of legal dissent and I have the feeling most of those in authority know it.

Yet, to justify these actions, legal sanctions had to be applied. The costs and methods have to be reasoned and this public "show trial" seems to be the answer.

This has been a messy public display from the get go. An out of control police commissioner....a massive security expense.... and pre-emptive tactics meant to target "illegal" activity. But what illegal activity was that, really? A broken window? A conspiracy to network dissenters?

For Susan Gaertner, this is getting to be an embarrassment. Maybe it is not one of her own making, but she has become an all too willing partner in it.

As Ramsey County Attorney, she should have chosen more wisely. Maybe there was pressure from higher ups or within the police department to ramp up these charges. Maybe. But, despite her previous pleas to the contrary, it was her discretion....her decision.

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner may be able to weather the storm...but Governor Candidate Susan Gaertner may have a more difficult time.
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Dismiss All Charges against the RNC 8

Category: RNC
Posted: 04/09/09 20:35

by Ross Rowley

Today Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner dismissed the counts charging the ?RNC 8? with conspiracy to commit riot ?in furtherance of terrorism?. To quote the County Attorney ?s press release: ?We believe the terrorism charges would have been a distraction at trial. Dismissing those charges will help us focus on the core illegal conduct that occurred.?

How time changes everything. The initial police conduct during the weekend prior to the RNC in Saint Paul , the pre-emptive raids on the ?Welcoming Committee? convergence center and activists? houses yielded nothing to support Sheriff Fletcher?s later professional law enforcement assessment that ?this town would have been destroyed?. Yet the pre-emptive (Bush Doctrine) arrests were made possible because of this very idea that ?terrorism? was involved, that the Welcoming Committee was a group of such dangerous anarchist kids that the police needed to act before they actually did anything. As a rule, law enforcement waits until a person actually commits a crime before making an arrest. So if you break a window, you get charged with breaking a window. If you block an intersection, you get charged with blocking an intersection. It?s the behavior?not the talk?that matters and normally evidence is needed identifying the crime and the culprit. In other words, the police don?t usually act pre-emptively because they need some proof.

Pre-emptive aggression, whether conducted by the military or by law enforcement, is only possible and will only be accepted if we as a people are scared enough. And of course we had been scared of these ?patchouli oiled protesters? for quite some time. Columnist Katherine Kersten, KTLK talk show host Chris Baker, and Sheriff Fletcher himself were very busy telling us about how violent the Republican National Convention could become. For as long as a year before the convention we had been hearing the drum beat of worst case scenarios, what happened in Seattle and why ?we can?t let it happen here?. Let?s just hand out the ax handles and machine guns and ?mow?em down baby? was amongst radio host Baker?s incitements, beginning in April of 2008, a full five months before the RNC. We couldn?t have rules when dealing with terrorists.

So what did these pre-emptive raids find? Very little. Were there stockpiles of weapons? No. Was there evidence that the activists could have effectively shut down the RNC? No. Even Sheriff Fletcher at the time was disappointed in the results. The Pioneer Press quoted the Sheriff as saying this: (what was discovered in the raids) ?is only a portion of what is out there.? Yes, indeed, to shut down the convention, one would certainly need more than what the Sheriff?s men found in the houses they raided. Sheriff Fletcher was right. And did the police find more out there? No, not really. I think they could have found more bricks, rocks and nails of some sort at my house.

So, let?s end where Susan Gaertner wants us to: the core illegal conduct. Where is it? The RNC 8 were in jail during the convention. They did nothing. The raids found nothing to suggest anywhere near a conspiracy to shut down the convention. The prosecutor?s dismissal of charges involving furtherance of terrorism is a start. She ought to go a step further and dismiss all charges.
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