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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

G.O.People’s Congress meets in Beijing, Minnesota

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 2nd, 2008

Amy Goodman and Two Democracy Now! Producers Unlawfully Arrested at RNC (Democracy Now! press release via Alternet) —

Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar have all been released from police custody in St. Paul following their illegal arrest by Minneapolis Police on Monday afternoon. All three were violently manhandled by law enforcement officers. Abdel Kouddous was slammed against a wall and the ground, leaving his arms scraped and bloodied. He sustained other injuries to his chest and back. Salazar’s violent arrest by baton-wielding officers, during which she was slammed to the ground while yelling, “I’m Press! Press!,” resulted in her nose bleeding, as well as causing facial pain. Goodman’s arm was violently yanked by police as she was arrested.

Massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis (Greenwald, Salon.com) —

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than “fire code violations,” and early this morning, the Sheriff’s department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Federal government involved in raids on protesters (Greenwald) —

…the raids were specifically “aided by informants planted in protest groups.” Back in May, Marcy Wheeler presciently noted that the Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force — an inter-agency group of federal, state and local law enforcement led by the FBI — was actively recruiting Minneapolis residents to serve as plants, to infiltrate “vegan groups” and other left-wing activist groups and report back to the Task Force about what they were doing. There seems to be little doubt that it was this domestic spying by the Federal Government that led to the excessive and truly despicable home assaults by the police yesterday.

Some piece of paper

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. […]

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Gustav is not the story, Palin’s teenage daughter’s baby is not the story. Even Palin is not the story compared to this: jackbooted thugs are roughing up protesters and journalists at the GOP convention in St. Paul, and searching and arresting them without reasonable cause.

And this is part of a pattern — and not some dated one from the bad old days immediately after 9/11, but an ongoing one no longer excusable (if it ever was) by the fears of those days. In Maryland, in 2005-2006, the Maryland State Police infiltrated and surveilled anti-death penalty and anti-Iraq war groups with no reasonable basis for doing so. Note not just the risible “Terrorist” part of the “Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force” name, but also the “inter-agency” description; recall the potential data sharing aspect of the Maryland story — “Case Explorer” — and wonder if records of the people unjustly surveilled will ever be deleted from federal, state, and local law enforcement databases.

We just got through weeks of tut-tutting about China doing this to its dissidents and journalists.  Either we’re a nation of hypocrites, a nation of sheep, or a nation of citizens with inalienable rights. Time to choose.

=====
UPDATE, 9/2: Ongoing RNC coverage at the Uptake.org, which has distributed video cameras to people who are recording and uploading reports to the site; reports locations are visible on a Google map of the city. (Via Jane Hamsher at “firedoglake,” whose post “The Revolution will be Twittered” lists other groups doing innovative coverage and monitoring of the RNC and local police actions.) See also Matt Stoller’s coverage at OpenLeft: “Gotham City is Safe From the Protesters.” Orin Kerr (“Volokh Conspiracy”), on the other hand, argues the police raids this weekend weren’t out of line because of the stated intentions of the “RNC Welcoming Committee.”  But National Lawyer’s Guild lawyer Bruce Nestor sees it differently:

…according to the Hennepin County Jail records they’re being held on probable cause. Which means no formal charges have been issued. No complaint has been reviewed or signed by a prosecutor or a judge. But the police have detained these people. They can be held on probable cause until Wednesday at 12 noon. In my view this is a preventive detention action by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s department. It’s designed to keep people off the streets. It’s designed to scare people from participating in protest activity . […] Look if this raid was warranted people would be arrested on criminal complaints.

UPDATE, 9/3: See Nell Lancaster’s post “Conventional crackdown” for more. Nell:

The counter-terror targets: us. We commit conspiracy to riot by planning to assemble. Sure, you might insist it will be peaceable, but the security forces’ infiltrators have a different story to tell. And look: guys in masks smashing stuff, proving it’s just like they say.

UPDATE, 9/4: See also a guest post at “Making Light” by Elise Matthesen: “Who are these people?”

4 Responses to “G.O.People’s Congress meets in Beijing, Minnesota”

  1. Nell Says:

    Great post, Thomas. I’m going to update mine with links to yours (this and the most recent one about the tear gas attack on the subdued demo).

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Thanks, Nell. As you see, I’ve updated this one with a link to your post and that great closing point.

  3. newsrackblog.com » Blog Archive » “The License Plate is Just the Beginning” Says:

    […] primary or secondary purposes: Events this year, connected to the Republican national convention in St. Paul, MN, have shown once again* how some local police will sometimes use a variety of surveillance tactics […]

  4. newsrackblog.com » Blog Archive » The September 24 FBI ‘material support’ raids Says:

    […] that convention, mentioned at this blog and elsewhere, seemed to me at the time a veritable negative showcase of police surveillance, infiltration, and […]

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