5 arrested, dozens detained in pre-RNC raids
Activists planning protests around the Republican National Convention say they are being targeted in a heavy-handed attempt to chill dissent after police arrested five people, detained dozens of others, and seized computers and protest guides in raids Friday night and Saturday on private homes and the major meeting center.
The "RNC Welcoming Committee," an organization of dozens of activist groups and individuals from around the country, has been planning demonstrations for over a year at the convention. The largest, which activists said could draw up to 50,000 people, is scheduled for Monday, the opening day of the convention.
At around 9:15 p.m. Friday, Ramsey County sheriffs and St. Paul police officers kicked in the door of a former theater in St. Paul that the group had rented as a central planning office, said Lisa Fithian, a nonviolence coordinator working with the protesters. They ordered the 50 people inside onto the floor, where they were handcuffed, photographed and asked for identification, then had their possessions searched.
Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald reports his personal perspective and eye-witness account.
That sounds like what it was: a cry for help from a hostage. Hours later, the Police finally obtained a search warrant -- for the wrong house, one adjacent to the house where they were being detained -- and nonetheless broke in, pointing guns, forced them to lay on the floor and handcuffed everyone inside (and handcuffed a National Lawyers Guild attorney outside). They searched the house, arrested nobody, and then left.
Any rational person planning to protest the GOP Convention would, in light of this Government spying and these police raids, think twice -- at least -- about whether to do so. That is the point of the raids -- to announce to citizens that they best stay in their homes and be good, quiet, meek, compliant people unless they want their homes to be invaded, their property seized, and have rifles pointed at them, too. The fact that this behavior is producing so little outcry only ensures, for obvious reasons, that it will continue in the future. We love our Surveillance State for keeping us safe and maintaining nice, quiet order.
"They will not crush our spirit," said one activist. (MSNBC article)
But the MSNBC article deletes the facts that this is the work of the FBI, Sherriffs, and local police, including several who infiltrated the group, and made arrests without warrants (for the wrong house, then after the arrests), including members of the media and a lawyer.
Streaming video on the scene HERE.
Updates on IndyMedia, Feministing.org, and blog posts from detainees - basically forced into house arrest- here at IWitness video Blog.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has further details:
At least five suspected leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee, a self-described anarchist group, were taken to the Hennepin County jail, and another was being sought, said Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.
On Saturday afternoon, he displayed a number of the confiscated items: a gun, throwing knives, a bow and arrows, flammable liquids, paint, slingshots, rocks and buckets of urine.
"We know these things were going to be used as weapons," Fletcher said, a charge protesters and their advocates vigorously disputed.
Even in my most hardcore activist days, I always found "anarchists" to be pests. They burned flags, deliberately caused disruption, and incited violence amid peaceful protests in which I participated, both in New York and San Francisco.
Still, these thuggish tactics show the state of mind common in America. It shows how a rightwing government crushes dissent and civil rights. Now, even the most peaceful protest will be suspect. Equal blame for over-reaching authorities and eccentric anarchists?
There will be protests, and they will be infiltrated with government provocateurs aiming to stir more violence and justify government violence in return. It won't be pretty.