It may have been empty and quiet inside the Republican National Convention, toned down for Hurricane Gustav's Gulf Coast debut, but outside was another story. There, Amy Goodman and two Democracy Now! producers were arrested. According to this report,
Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time.
Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfuly detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.
Democracy Now! is calling on all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. These calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman's office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0).
Whatever happened to freedom of speech, to freedom of the press??? What does this say about the political process, or about the RNC??? Is it inciting a riot to simply cover the story of lawful protests?? These same protests were safely aired by C-Span, but I guess the RNC has use for C-Span and they don't want to get rid of them just yet. What do they have against Democracy Now!? Well, probably quite a lot.
For starters, they couldn't have been too happy with this little bombshell, exposing the RNC's preparatory raids against protest groups and people "suspected" of possibly planning protests. What democracy is that, pray tell?? According to Amy Goodman's report Sunday, Aug. 31, before she herself was arrested:
As we interviewed Jon Stewart at the Minneapolis airport next to baggage claim, we got a text message that Democracy Now! videographer, filmmaker Elizabeth Press, who had arrived before us, had been arrested, or she had been detained, or she was in a house with I-Witness Video, and somehow the group was surrounded by police. That was the last details we had. We had the address of the place; they were texted to us. And we raced off.
Armed groups of police in the Twin Cities have raided more than a half-a-dozen locations since Friday night in a series of preemptive raids before the Republican convention. The coordinated searches were led by Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher but conducted in coordination with federal agencies.
Five Minnesotan activists are still detained on probable cause holds, which means they can be held for thirty-six hours without charge, excluding weekends and public holidays. According to this timeline, they won’t be released before Wednesday. The sheriff called them "criminal anarchists who are intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention.”
The raids and detentions have targeted activists planning to protest the Republican National Convention, as well as journalists and videographers documenting police actions at protests. Groups directly affected by the raids include Food Not Bombs, the RNC Welcoming Committee, I-Witness Video and Communities United Against Police Brutality.
Consider what happened to Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality, who was at the "activist convergence space" when it was raided on Sunday. As she put it:
MICHELLE GROSS: I was sitting there waiting for a meeting to happen with other legal people. We were working with a kind of a collective of legal people, and we were waiting to have a meeting. And I was literally just sitting there drinking some water and relaxing, when, you know, these Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department people came blazing in, screaming “Get on the floor! Get on the floor!” and waving guns at everybody in their faces.
And they basically—at the time, I quickly thought and opened up my video camera and hit my record button and started recording the scene. Then, because they were, you know, waving guns in my face, of course, I had to hit the floor, but I kept my camera recording the whole time.
After being held for 45 minutes and released, she found her home and car had been broken into - I repeat, broken into - and "all her documents thoroughly searched." Is this unlawful search and seizure? Is this not what the Constitution is supposed to guard against? Are these not police state tactics? Is it not ironic that she is being unlawfully searched and attacked by police because of her open stance against police brutality? Who is asking why? Where is the outrage??
But on Saturday others were also detained: DN!'s Elizabeth Press and I-Witness Video founder Eileen Clancy, whom Amy Goodman found handcuffed and detained in the backyard of their home.
EILEEN CLANCY: They’ve been detaining people for days around here. And they photographed us. They look through our materials. They copy our materials and don’t return them to you. And then you’re merely detained, so you don’t have the same situation where you have police officers swearing out affidavits, which we could prove was false. This seems to be a new technique.
Amy Goodman also mentioned that people are not taking this abuse without self-defense:
The National Lawyers Guild and Communities United Against Police Brutality filed an emergency motion Sunday asking Judge Mark Wernick to grant "injunctive relief to prevent police from seizing video equipment and cellular phones used to document their conduct.” The groups sought a temporary restraining order on police to stop them from illegally detaining journalists and confiscating equipment.
According to Bruce Nestor from the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who was interviewed by Goodman,
The raids were carried out by Sheriff Bob Fletcher, who had been arguing for months that there needed to be a stronger law enforcement response, and he was being told that wasn’t necessary. And so, he sent his officers in, after doing intelligence gathering and infiltrating these groups.
And then, really what he did is he took common household items that you would find in any home in Minnesota—a hatchet, rope, glass bottles and rags—attached the label “anarchist” to the people who are living in the homes, and then raise this public fear that the anarchists were threatening violence, public disorder. But really, it’s taking a common household item, something you’d find anywhere, calling it an edged weapon and then attacking people for their political beliefs, that then is used to generate this public fear and keep activists detained, as you said, through Wednesday at noon.
If there was a public outcry which is probably unlikely, knowing the American sheep on their way to the slaughter, I suppose the RNC people will say it was all the idea of one rogue police chief, and they had nothing to do with it. So note that there are Federal agents involved.
As Bruce Nestor added,
They did the same thing in the house raids in south Minneapolis. They broke down doors, even though these were knock warrants, meaning they were supposed to knock and announce themselves. I was personally present and saw officers with riot gear and assault rifles, pump action shotguns. The neighbor of one of the houses had a gun pointed in her face when she walked out on her back porch to see what was going on. There were children in all of these houses, and children were held at gunpoint. Everyone was forced to the floor and handcuffed and then detained for about an hour, while they were processed out, and then individuals were released.
It was really an overwhelming show of force, again, designed to heighten public fear to do two things: to make people fearful of the protests, but also to discourage people from protesting. I think it’s somehow designed to say, you know, don’t take to the streets, because this could happen to you, or you could get caught up in this, and therefore, don’t get involved. And that’s why they have that level of force involved.
A former FBI agent, when asked by Goodman about these tactics of sometimes detaining people without arrest, etc, stated:
What it actually is supposed to be is in a major event, such as the RNC, the FBI is really to take the lead on the counterintelligence aspect, which, of course, if there was a true threat—let’s say there was a domestic terrorism group, which is—this is what we’re talking about. We’re talking about at the very most nonviolent civil disobedience. So the confusion with true intelligence for a terrorist threat is quite enormous.
And so, when you start this word “preemptive,” and now, unfortunately, it seems to have migrated to domestic law enforcement.
People put this—they try to say, well, security, we must sacrifice civil liberties. They think of it as a tradeoff. And it is absolutely not true. Our security does depend on good police work. And so, when police do this, and they go against their own community policing model, they actually so distrust, so that if they do want to ask a question of someone next time, let’s say, there is a true threat, somebody may say, “I don’t want to talk to you. I know what happened last week when you handcuffed people incorrectly.” This is just sending a very bad signal to police work.
In other words, security in a police state is very bad, because suspicion takes over from the rule of law, and all safeguards essentially go to hell.
Meanwhile, back as the RNC gets underway, Siun at Firedoglake reports was live in Saint Paul to describe the Heavy Hand of Police:
RUBBER BULLETS FIRED AT 10TH/ST PETER BLACK BLOC. 1 PROTESTER DOWN. national guard also coming to scene reportedly with concussion grenades and smoke.
Legal observers from the Cold Spring Legal collective have been arrested – these are the folks trained to watch for police problems.
Tear gas and water cannons is use as well.
Update at 11:04 pacific -Reports coming in via indymedia twitter:
COPS ARE INDISCRIMINATELY USING TEAR GAS AND PEPPER SPRAY AT 7TH AND MINNESOTA STREETS. HELP NEEDED ASAP: WATER, MEDICS. JOURNALISTS GASSED
Also reports of police horses being used against marchers.
Update at 10:41 (pacific) Lindsay just saw 12 bicycle cops ride past in gas masks - and there are reports that "Justice Department officers directing riot police on 6th St to "get ready" are popping up on the Indy tweets.
Lindsay, Glenn and Jane are out in St. Paul getting the story from the ground as the RNC starts up – and we’ll be bringing you continuing news throughout the day.
A large march to the Excel Center is beginning in about an hour and folks are rallying now – undeterred by the police raids you’ve already seen reported here. As Matt Stoller notes, the RNC is meeting in their very own Green Zone while the pepper spray and arrests have already started in the streets of St. Paul today.
So just who are these people and why are they gathering in the streets to march on the RNC?
Well, there's the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War. Pacifist groups. People who actually dare to exercise their Constitution-given rights to protest the failed policies of the Republican party, the same policies that have given us the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, mass surveillance on the American people, torture, Guantanamo prison, prison ships, and that Alcatraz in the Indian Ocean, Diego Garcia.
People like Amy Goodman, a well-respected and well-known journalist who should certainly pose no threat to the Republican Party or any other party - had they not lost their minds. Goodbye, Constitution? What does this say about the GOP and its policies? If you're thinking of hiring John McCain for President, well... take a look at the GOP store window, their convention. Is this the future you want for America?