portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

actions & protests | police / legal

RNC AFTERMATH - Continued Struggle - Part II

Minneapolis
Interview with Rick, Member of the Cold Snap Legal Collective
09/21/2008
K - I was calling specifically to get an update on the situation - after the RNC. I just interviewed someone who mentioned the police continue to stalk houses and visit people, is this true?

R - Yes. My understanding is that there have been eight visits to people's homes from the Ramsey County Sheriff's department, all of them associated with the RNC Welcoming Committee. Who were the folks targeted with the most serious of the felony charges in the run-up to the actual RNC. So those have been transpiring over the last few days. There's actually a meeting going on right now to discuss that situation and tactics to deal with it. But yea, that is true, at least eight, to my understanding.

K - Are they long visits, short visits, what's the nature of the visits?

R - Well, every single person, at least as far as I understand it, has refused to say anything, and asked them to leave, which they did. The intention seems to be more sort of run of the mill blanket intimidation. Just to let folks know that the Ramsey County Sheriff's office is still paying attention. Nothing has shaken out because I don't think conversations were even had, except to ask them to leave, but their presence is still being known. It seems to be the point.

K - According to the person I just spoke with, when he was being held in a police car for questioning, they believe that the police have been documenting their every move through the use of a number of cameras placed throughout the city.

R - This was in one of the houses in the last couple of days?

K - This was possibly September 11th.

R - Okay, I'm not aware of that actually. But, not surprising.

K - Do you have any update on the situation regarding journalists being released on all charges?

R - Frankly only what has been reported in the mainstream press. The claim is that all charges are being dropped against journalist who where detained, which I suppose we're suppose to feel grateful for. But, beyond what's been reported I don't have much more information than that. It's actually not clear to me what constitutes a journalist, according to the state, as far as charges being dropped. I know clearly they're talking about AP reporters and mainstream outlets, I'm not sure to what degree that actually applies to Indymedia Journalists and lots of information hasn't really been made available yet as far as I know.

K- Have there been any updates in the last week or so that you feel would be important to reveal to the public?

R - What we've been doing and a lot of other support networks have been doing, is just trying to build up the infrastructure to have solidarity actions, and keeping everybody in the loop as we move forward. A lot of people haven't even received their court dates in fact, most people outside of first appearances and arraignments, so, it's really sort of in the organizing phase of how to approach that, an then to move on from there.

K - People are as far as I understand, people are being prosecuted legally for actually making plans to put up barricades? [1]

R - The conspiracy charges had to do with various modes of disruption and had yet to transpire, sort of discussions about ways to disrupt the RNC through direct action techniques. I don't know that barricades were specifically mentioned in any of the affidavits. They actually mentioned larger, terrorist related phrasings of what they said they were going after folks for. But, yea in general, disruptive activities are being viewed as felony conspiracy charges, to incite a riot.

K - To incite a riot. I was curious about how this relates to prior court cases, how this relates to for instance, the whole tactic of building barricades and functioning in a protest situation are quite universal. Say in Germany, they just had a huge protest with barricades all over the city. [2]

R - The RNC-8, the people specifically targeted under essentially terrorist tactics are charged with felony "Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism" is the legal language. It is actually, I believe it is the first use of terrorism charges related to protest activities at least in Minnesota, if not on a wider scale than that. That's kind of a terrifying overreach on the part of the authorities. I don't think barricades were specifically mentioned in that, but really it's conspiracy in and of itself is a way to justify preventative detention, and the use of terrorist charges implies a sort of chilling fact on people's ability to even discuss civil disobedience and direct action.

K - Discussing Civil Disobedience and Direct Action. It's pretty incredible that people are being charged at all for this kind of behavior, much less the big conspiracy thing. Any precedent regarding conspiracy? [3]

R - There are others in the collective that know more about the legal precedents.

K - Are you going to be posting a note about the meeting today on your site?

R - Just visit coldsnaplegal.org, there hopefully will be something up there about what transpired today and there's a lot of background stuff that's available there as well.

K - What's next?

R - The big thing we're doing also is that we're trying to raise funds for things like travel funds to get people back here so that they can fight their charges. And there actually are two individuals still in custody, on these charges, that we're trying to bail out, starting tomorrow. One of them is being held sort of independently on immigration and customs charges, so that's going to be pricey. And there's going to be a lot of need for legal funds down the road as well. So that's another thing we're working on.

K - Another person had mentioned that the Minnesota Community had been hit very, very hard throughout all of this. Are you a Minnesotan?

R - I am. I'm a resident of Minneapolis.

K - How do you feel about that?

R - Actually I have very two-sided emotions about all this. On the one hand, it's been sort of staggering to watch all of this unfold in your own backyard. There are a lot of local people who were swept up in this, whether they were part of the radical community or just part of the larger community in the Twin Cities. But on the other hand what we have seen, is a really incredible growth of solidarity and activism within this community. I think it's been kind of a galvanizing experience. And, there's a lot more people who are politically active than there were before. So, I think there is sort of an equal and opposite reaction principle going on. They wanted to clamp down and shut this all down and actually I think the reverse is going to happen. I think we're going to be stronger going forward.

Notes:

[1] The discussion has mostly been about plans to "blockade streets". Though plans to "create human barricades" were mentioned as a reason for preemptive arrests. It appears that the main source of barricade construction was in fact, the police.

References:
09/05/2008, Democracy Now interview with Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.

09/04/2008, "When Protest Is Terrorism: RNC 8 Charged as Terrorists Under State Patriot Act", article by Bruce Nestor, President of Minnesota Chapter of National Lawyers Guild.

Additional: The very first barricades were introduced via the French Revolution on the "Day of the Barricades", 12 May 1588, and have been included in most protests the world over ever since.

[2] Germany -- Tens of thousands of Cologne residents took to the streets Saturday (that would be more a lot more protestors than at the RNC) in Cologne to protest the Grand European Anti-Islamic Congress. Some 3,000 police (same number of police for the RNC) only intervened when protestors set fire to barricades.

References:
09/20/2008, "Street clashes erupt in Germany" by BBC
09/20/2008, "German citizens protest against anti-Islam congress in Cologne" by Yahoo News.

[3] Costa Ricans -- with a historical commitment to civic responsibilities and national institutions -- believe that to strike, not only is it LEGAL to embrace this right, that under certain circumstances it is their civic duty to do so: to hold a sustained general strike, with constant marches, blockades, and traffic stoppages.

References:
09/30/2007 -- I was a journalist in C.R. when over a million people participated in three weeks of protests against the privatization of the state-run telecommunications and electricity company. My daughter, eleven years of age at the time, was instructed not to bring her books to school, but to wear her school uniform and be prepared to actively participate in democracy by joining the peaceful strikes.

09/30/2007 -- The most resent massive march of 100,000 in San Jose was the latest in demonstrations, strikes, highway blockades, and other actions against CAFTA in Costa Rica. Global Exchange and Upside Down World.