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actions & protests | police / legal dnc rnc protests 2008

Sadism, Cruelty, Torture In The Twin Cities: Cultural Norm For US "Law" Enforcement?

The torture, sadism, and abuse the Minneapolis Police, St. Paul Police, Ramsey County Sheriffs (and out of town departments) unleashed upon protesters, press, passers-by, and community members took place while Homeland Security and the Secret Service they control were in direct command of all area "law" enforcement and had final authority over all decisions about protests and protesters. In other words, what we saw in the Twin Cities shows us how American local "law" enforcement act in broad daylight when the Feds are on the scene and supervising their work.

Over the last week we've seen even the MSM drop the Village kewl kids pose and stand up to criticize the pervasive cruelty, abuse, and illegal use of force "law" enforcement inflicted upon the Twin Cities community.

The torture, sadism, and abuse the Minneapolis Police, St. Paul Police, Ramsey County Sheriffs (and out of town departments) unleashed upon protesters, press, passers-by, and community members took place while Homeland Security and the Secret Service they control were in direct command of all area "law" enforcement and had final authority over all decisions about protests and protesters. In other words, what we saw in the Twin Cities shows us how American local "law" enforcement act in broad daylight when the Feds are on the scene and supervising their work.

Over the last week, we had a chance to observe de facto professional cultural norms in America's local, state, and Federal enforcement. This is what democracy looks like?

What happened to people in local communities of color who weren't even associated with the protests? Here's what Rebecca Trotzky-Sirr, a fourth-year Univ. of Minnesota medical student learned when she interviewed a local resident on behalf of United Communities Against Police Brutality:

While much attention has been paid to arrests of prominent journalists & protesters harsh treatment during arrests, in the streets of St Paul many community members feel invisible as they live out the RNC protest repercussions. Undocumented families, refugees have been staying away from their homes in highly patrolled areas near downtown St Paul in fear of encountering police by accident. I visited and documented a gentleman of color who had no prior criminal history, who was detained without cause near central St Paul. During his arrest, while handcuffed he was beat by a police officer. The victim had recently had major surgery, released from hospital less than a week prior. Later, during booking, the same officer punched him repeatedly in the head and neck in front of other officers who looked on without concern. When police realized that this man was severely injured, they drove him one block away from the hospital and let him limp his way to the ER.

People of color, those most marginalized in our community, have faced severe consequences because of RNC protests. Police riled up, frustrated with protesters are taking out their anger on those without large wallets, or skin privilege.

Michael Cavlan, RN is a nurse who works on surgical trauma and burn units. I know surgical trauma nurses -- I used to work with them. The ones I knew weren't prone to overstatement: working around intense suffering makes that a very poor occupational choice. What did Michael Cavlan observe on the steets of the Twin Cities during the RNC?

Day Two

I hear "we need a medic over here" so we responded. Apparently, the police had maced a member of the "Minnesota Peace Team." These were all people marked in bright green vests, who were working with the police to contain violence. The two that were maced, full in the face were both 70 year old men. For the record, the peace teams had been very successful in de-escalating violence. I ran over and treated one and my buddy treated the other one. While I was doing so, someone from the crowd ran over and said "buddy, get out of here, I heard the cops say 'get the medic in blue.'"

I hightailed out of there, ditching my blue scrubs. Ironically, as I did so a young man has a seizure, fell and hit his head hard right in front of me. I was still a medic, just unmarked now. I and others treated him until an ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital. Again, for the record we were now getting reports that the police were specifically targeting journalists and medics all over.


At this time the police gave a dispersal order. We knew what that meant. They threw gas and concussion grenades into the crowd and then opened up with rubber bullets, wooden baton rounds, tear gas etc etc.

My team treated another young lady who had been maced in the face and delivered her to the clinic, to get cleaned up from the burning chemicals on her face, eyes, arms and clothes. By the way, this stuff hurts even when you only put your exposed skin on someone who was hit by it.


Day Three

My buddy was redeployed back to jail support while I went back to more organizational meetings. During one, I got paged. Apparently, the police had beaten two of the protesters in jail so badly that they released them. When they release people that they beat, that is bad. They asked me to come help them, as they know I am a Trauma Nurse. Then they called back and said that it was OK as a Doctor had showed up at the clinic site..


One young man had apparently just returned from serving in Iraq. I treated him after the police maced him, full in the eyes. He had been simply walking by, going somewhere. As I treated him one of the NLG lawyers came by, took his information and a picture. At this time, the wall of police opened up, a commander of some sort pointed at myself and the lawyer, took a picture of us. I thought, "oh sh*t" and myself, my son and the lawyer started to walk away. Then a group of about fifteen bike cops came after us, surrounded me and pushed my son aside. Sean went to get the lawyer to help and they apparently threatened to tase him. Thank God, I did not know this at this time.

They detained me, searched me and questioned me. Then they let me go. I took my son home and went home to bed.


We now have reports that Minneapolis has been legally put in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security.

All of our elected officials and the media have failed us. The question is, what do we do about it?

This is your Op Ed Journalista and Street Medic, Michael Cavlan reporting from the occupied Twin Cities.

What did the Northstar Health Collective learn and see in the Twin Cities during the RNC?

On Monday evening, two clearly marked providers, giving care to a paraplegic, were forcibly thrown to the ground by police and arrested. Explained Sean P. McCoy, a U.S. Navy Veteran and trained EMT:

"My medic partner and I were treating a handicapped male in a wheelchair for pepper spray to the face at the parking lot of Jackson Street. In the process of treating the patient, we were surrounded by several police officers in riot gear and forcibly thrown to the ground and told we were under arrest. We were then forcibly removed from our patient, handcuffed, and forced to lay face down on the ground while the officers proceeded to cut our bags off of us and remove all of our medical gear by dumping it on the ground."

Mr. McCoy was held for over 55 hours in Ramsey County Jail, and, like many other protesters, locked in his cell for over 23 hours a day.

What did the Portland Street Medics encounter in the Twin Cities?

Four members of the Portland Street Medic Collective who had travelled to the RNC to provide medical care to the radical community were arrested on 9-1-2008. All are now released pending court dates in October.

Before the arrest, the medics were following an unpermitted march around the outskirts of the boundaries of the Excel Center. The march stayed mostly to sidewalks and utilized several pedestrian trails.

After heading nearly a mile down a bike trail with a river on one side and an unpassable bank on the other side of the road, protesters found themselves under fire from police chemical weapons, having never received an order to disperse. The protestors and the medics fled back up the bike path while the onslaught of chemical weapons and differently-lethal weapons continued behind and next to the fleeing crowd. Police in riot gear ran past the tail end of the running group, continuing to launch weapons into the crowd, forcing those at the back to run through the already dispensed weapons.

The four medics helped with the evacuation of at least five patients, including one with a broken hand from being hit with police weaponry, one with an injured ankle from being hit with police weaponry who needed physical support to walk, and one who was blinded by pepper spray. This assistance left the medics at the very back of the crowd and among the worst victims of chemical weapons as they fled the scene.

At the corner of Ontario and Shepard the crowd was trapped in a park by lines of riot police and all people in the park, including those holding tickets to a concert and attempting to utilize the pedestrian bridges to get to the concert, were arrested. Those with misdemeanors were released later that night, while those being held on felonies were in jail for 48 hours.

Three of the Portland Medics, David Drew, Jr, Tracy Maier, and R. Westlund are charged with Misdemeanors in the 1st degree of "presence at an unlawful assembly and refusing to leave." They face 90 days in jail and fines up to $1,000. The fourth, A. Oliver Hayes, is charged with a Gross Misdemeanor in the 3rd degree of rioting, and faces one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

How do "law" enforcement under Fatherland Homeland Security/Secret Service command behave towards people in the the Twin Cities?

This is from Portland Street Medics who weren't arrested:

Later in the week, a group of six medics, three of them from Portland, were again the targets of police misconduct. A group of 350 people were being detained and preparing to be arrested on a bridge. The group included some legal observers from the NLG and 12 Street Medics. Medic Dispatch received news that the legal observers in the group had been released prior to the arrest, so the six medics headed out to see if they could negotiate with the police for the release of the medics.


Upon arrival at the scene one of the Portland Medics spoke with an officer and received a phone number for "Watch Command" to begin negotiations. On the first phone call, the medic explained the job of the medics and explained that they were asking for the release of the medics detained on the bridge. The medic gave WC their full legal name and offered to provide proof of credentials as an EMT. WC offered to give the request to the commander at the scene and then call the medics back.

After a reasonable amount of time, the medic called WC back to check on the status. WC questioned the location of the medics, and the medic confirmed that they were at the scene of the arrest before ending the phone call to wait for further news.

The medic attempted to speak with two officers on scene, but neither would produce a supervisor to do the negotiations. Moments after the second attempt, while the Medic Liaison was making another call to WC, one of the Portland Medics was pulled out of the crowd of observers and drug into the street by four police officers. The medic's pockets were searched while the medic stated, "I do not consent to this search." While still searching this medic, the commanding officer led four more officers into the crowd and pulled out the Medic Liaison, who had been on the phone moments before. The first medic was released back into the crowd after their pockets were searched.

The second medic was questioned as to why they were carrying a backpack and hip pack. The medic explained their status as an EMT and allowed officers to take their registration card as proof. Officers explained, "You reached your hands in your pockets, and that makes us nervous, so now we have to check what you're up to." The medic repeatedly denied consent for the search but officers began opening the medic kits regardless. An officer asked, "Where did you get all this stuff? Did you steal it off the ambulance?" The medic responded, "I'm not going to answer any more of your questions until I speak to my lawyer." The officer replied, "In that case, you can pick your own shit up off the ground," and began opening ziplock bags and dumping medical supplies on the ground.

During the search, officers repeatedly made threats about possible criminal charges against the medic, including "medical terrorism." Officers dumped the entire contents of both medical kits on the ground, purposefully stepped on the equipment, read all the aftercare flyers and made threats about "testing the pepper spray" on this medic, and searched the medic's body and clothing three separate times in an extremely rough and inappropriate manner. After running the medic's ID through the system, the officers ordered to medic to clean up all the supplies, and accused the medic of littering when a small packet of vitamins was overlooked on the ground. Once the supplies were repacked, the medic was free to go.

These police actions were not based on any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. The police were targeting the medics who were attempting to liaise with commanding officers and harassing them in order to reduce their power and prevent further negotiating tactics.

Just a few rogue cops who don't believe in negotiation? Nope.

Twin Cities "law" enforcement now storms into meetings between residents and elected political leaders.

A peaceful meeting of lawyers with the Mayor of Minneapolis to discuss the police-incited riots and the way peaceful protesters and journalists have been treated is broken up by cops in FULL RIOT GEAR.

This is what democracy looks like?

Over the course of this week, we at FDL, visitors to the Twin Cities, and local residents have seen and read of "form-letter" warrants used as an excuse for search-and-disrupt missions against food providers, legal collectives, videographers, political organizers, and journalists. We've learned about "snatch squads" kidnapping residents from the streets.

We've even seen video and read witness' accounts of torture under cover of authority by uniformed "law" enforcement officers.

To put it bluntly, uniformed "law" enforcement in St. Paul and Ramsey County:

* torture with electroshock weapons (Tasers)
* torture with chemical weapons
* stomp on a young man's chest
* cruelly (perhaps fatally) deny medical care to a victim spitting up blood (the fancy medical name is hemoptysis) from thoracic trauma
* respond to calls for food with torture by beating, Taser, and chemical weapons: the same chemical weapons known to cause respiratory arrest and death in victims with pulmonary disease. "Spitting up blood" is a symptom of pulmonary disease so severe as to require emergency medical evaluation.
* then tie up the victim in "restraint chairs" known to exacerbate pre-existing breathing difficulties in some victims of thoracic trauma.

The Ramsey County Jail officials did this in plain earshot of other detainees: that's a pretty strong sign they don't see anything to hide. Which-when one's been doing the same thing over and over for years-is a common assumption.

To sum up, over the last week we've seen and read as local "law" enforcement under the direct control of Fatherland Homeland Security (via their obedient partisan instrument the Secret Service) deploy the techniques for abuse of power and political repression we once were taught were solely the trappings of authoritarian police states.

Like those Cold War opponents we Americans were told were so loathsome we'd be better off blowing up the world than submitting to such tyranny.

And now - in the Twin Cities - we just saw the Bushies deploy the same evils Radio Free America once promised Eastern Europe's people the American people would free them from.

Eastern Europe (or much of it) now has their freedom. We have the Bushie authoritarians, and a "law" enforcement culture that accepts sadism, cruelty, and torture as routine...even with the whole world watching.

And elections are eight weeks away.

What are we going to do? What are you going to do?

Further Reading (h/t Yarrow)

Ramsey County's Contempt For Justice: Tell Them To Stop The Torture And Restore The Rule Of Law
Eight RNC Protesters Face State Terrorism Charges
The Deeply Broken American Police System
Former FBI Agent and ACLU Counsel: St. Paul Police Behavior Is 'Frightening'
Activist Groups Deplore Police Brutality During RNC
Police Gas Docile Crowd Outside the RNC
Live from the Streets of St Paul: Tear Gas and Horses
Media Misconstrue Peaceful RNC Protest
How The Secret Service Turned Into the Stasi
At Least 284 RNC Protesters Arrested
Video: Amy Goodman's Arrest
Amy Goodman Arrested - UpTake Team Avoids Arrest, Tear Gas Being Used On Children
Violence Breaks Out At RNC Protest in Minneapolis (VIDEO)
Voices from the Streets of St Paul
Breaking: Pepper Spray and Rubber Bullets in the Streets
So Who are These Oh So Scary People in the Streets of St. Paul?
Connecting the Dots on the Minnesota Police State
BREAKING: FBI, ATF, and St. Paul Police Massing at 1162 Juliet Ave.
Bringing the War Home?
Two Of Today's Nine Arrestees Released As NLG Attempting To Have Judge Rule On Probable Cause For The 6 Arrested Yesterday
Breaking: As Police Mass Downtown and 9 More People Are Arrested, Legal Groups File Emergency Motion to Stop Cell and Camera Seizures During RNC
Habeas Corpus in Ramsey County, MN
Press and Politicians Silent in the Face of the RNC Police Harrasment and Snatch Squads Speaks Louder Than Words
The History of Breaking Up Protests Before They Can Happen, How Cops Have Spent Years Squashing the Right to Assembly and Free Speech
St. Paul or Beijing?
RNC Stasi Sweeps: A Bob Fletcher Special?
6 People Charged and Cops Seizing Computers, Because Computers=Bombs, I Guess
More Protesters Arrested in the Twin Cities
Inside an RNC Raid
VIDEO: "Food Not Bombs" Protesters Raided in Minneapolis

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