Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Police Raids on Protesters Mark Start of RNC

Police Raids on Protesters Mark Start of RNC

Christopher Kuttruff

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Days before the start of the Republican National Convention, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the FBI raided houses of protesters suspected of "conspiring to riot." While only a few individuals were eventually arrested, several dozen were detained, searched, and questioned.

According to witness accounts, on Friday and Saturday, 20 to 30 officers raided at least three different locations and confiscated laptops, political literature, and personal journals of the individuals there.

Bruce Nestor, a Minnesota lawyer from the National Lawyers Guild, is currently representing one of the protesters and noted to Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com that "conspiracy to commit riot" in this context "basically criminalizes political advocacy." He stated that the allegations to justify the raids are "hardly ever used in state court."

State and federal officials assert that the arrests are an attempt to pursue "anarchists" and are justified. Many legal experts, activists, and community members, however, argue that the actions by state and federal officers are unwarranted and are a repression of free speech and peaceful organization.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher showcased a variety of confiscated items that he stated "were going to be used as weapons." This allegation was vehemently disputed by protesters and legal advocates.

The half dozen who were arrested are currently being held for "probable cause" reviews. The county is permitted to hold them without formal charges for up to 36 hours.

State and federal officers have focused especially on any involvement with The RNC Welcoming Committee, which has been actively coordinating protests and expressing its anti-authoritarian positions.

While officers are claiming to crack down on these "anarchist" groups, none of the individuals arrested or detained have been charged with any crime.

Protest groups are hoping for demonstrations from 50,000 protesters by the time the RNC begins this Monday.

Several individuals present at the raids said in video interviews that the raids were an attempt to intimidate individuals from participating in larger demonstrations Monday at the RNC. They remained determined, though, that more people would see the events and become more motivated to get involved.

Rachel Niehorster, an 18 year-old resident of one of the house's raided, said during an interview with reporters: "We all do have our own political beliefs, but none of them, I would say, threaten or endanger anybody. If they think that this is gonna stop us from going out of fear, or doing anything out of fear ... it's just gonna fuel any rage that we have."

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