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Free the St. Paul 8 and all political prisoners!

These are video segments from a press conference hosted by members of the RNC Welcoming Committee and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. Several police agencies, ramrodded by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s department, staged massive pre-emptive raids against houses where activists were staying and against the RNC Welcoming Committee’s convergence space. Many of the imprisoned protesters continue to be held without charges. Many have been abused by their jailers, including a woman being knocked to the ground and dragged by her hair, several protesters being denied prescription or over-the-counter medications for serious medical conditions, and a 19-year-old activist named Elliot Hughes, who was beaten and tortured for over an hour because, according to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s department, he was being verbally disruptive.

Ramsey County prosecutors have formally charged eight members of the Welcoming Committee with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism. If convicted, the St. Paul 8 face up to 7 1/2 years in prison. Affadavits filed by police informants who infiltrated the Welcoming Committee allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates to the RNC, attack police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. These allegations have not been corroborated by any physical evidence or any other evidence independent of the testimony of police infiltrators. Members of the RNC Welcoming Committee held a press conference together with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign in order to respond to these charges and to discuss violence against imprisoned protesters by police and jailers.

In related news, William Gillis is my fucking hero.

See also:

Emergency action alert: Twin Cities protesters imprisoned without charges; human rights abuses in Ramsey County jail. Free all political prisoners!

Folks,

I received a message this morning from ALLy Soviet Onion. If you are in the Twin Cities area, please join the vigil outside of the jail. If you are not, please call to demand the release of all protesters being imprisoned without charges and respect for the human rights of all prisoners.

Incidentally, since yesterday, the total number of people arrested has now risen to over 800.

From the Coldsnap Legal Collective, Sept. 2nd, 2008:

Over 300 protesters, bystanders, media, and medics arrested at RNC

Two minors sentenced to 30 days in adult jail

St. Paul, MN ?? Two days into the Republican National Convention (RNC), more than 300 people have been arrested, including at least 120 people for felonies ?? mostly the notoriously vague charge, conspiracy to riot. With no provocation, police have indiscriminately used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and chemical irritants to disperse crowds and incapacitate protesters. Police appear to be specifically targeting videographers documenting these police abuses. In response, lawyers have filed a federal restraining order against such conduct.

By the end of the day today, only 12 people had been arraigned. Many arrestees are refusing to provide identification, in order to call attention to what they consider trumped-up charges and to collectively bargain. These tactics are designed to protect the most vulnerable people in jail, and take a page from the history of labor solidarity, said Rick Kelley of Coldsnap Legal Collective, an activist-based legal collective supporting the arrestees. Based on the vagueness of their charges and the program of police intimidation currently underway, these individuals understand how they will fare if they don’t stick together. The court has been imposing the maximum bail of $2,000 for misdemeanor defendants.

In an unusual court decision, Ramsey County Judge Paulette K. Flynn today convicted two minors of criminal contempt for refusing to provide their identity. The two minors were then sentenced to 30 days in an adult jail facility. This decision undermines one of the most fundamental human rights concepts in the justice system, to protect the rights and safety of children, said Jordan Kushner, Mass Defense Committee Chair of the National Lawyers Guild’s Minnesota chapter, and an attorney for one of the minors. This shows the willingness of the courts to go to any length, including sacrificing the most important due process rights, to answer to the political pressure to persecute activists.

Many arrestees are also being denied medical attention. One arrestee with hemophilia and another with asthma are being denied their prescription medication. An arrestee with a broken finger is being refused medical care, as is a person who has been coughing up blood. An anemic woman reported to Coldsnap today that she passed out for 20 to 30 minutes due to iron deficiency and was told that she could not receive iron because it was a prescription medication, and because she refused to identify herself. Iron is in fact an over-the-counter supplement. The same anemic woman reported seeing a Sheriff knock another woman to the ground and drag her out of the room by her hair. Just because people have been jailed does not mean their health should be put in jeopardy, said Kelley. This is a matter of compassion and basic human rights. An unknown number of arrestees are also engaging in a hunger strike to put pressure on the jail to provide needed medical attention for other prisoners.

Under Minnesota law, detainees must be released after 36 hours if the court fails to review and affirm probable cause for their charges. This 36-hour period will expire at noon on Wednesday.

From Soviet Onion:

This report was released by Coldsnap on Tuesday the 2nd. It’s now Thursday the 4th, and protesters are still being held without affirmation of probable cause.

In response to the anemic woman’s denial of medication, fifty of the other women being held with her have begun a hunger strike in solidarity.

Coldsnap legal has also reported that within the jail, trans-folk in particular have been denied their phone calls, and are being placed in cells opposite the gender they identify with and in which they do not feel safe.

In addition, there are unconfirmed reports of ICE agents intimidating detainees with foreign-sounding names.

What you can do:

Right now there is a constant 24-hour vigil outside the Ramsey Co. jail house at 425 Grove St., St Paul, near the intersection of Grove and Lafayette St. Despite continuing harassment from riot police outside the jail, we are providing support and services to our friends and community members as they are released. In order to have a round the clock presence, we need lots of people to come hang out and help out at the jails. If you are interested in getting on the outtake schedule, please email Lindsey at lindshives@gmail.com. Otherwise, just show up and bring your friends! We’ll be there 24 hours throughout the RNC, starting Friday night after critical mass.

Out-of-towners can still help us put pressure on the assholes responsible by calling their offices and demanding an end to these practices:

  1. Immediate medical attention. [Jail staff are reportedly lying about medical attention being given, so don’t believe them if they say it has]

  2. Arrestees to be allowed to meet in group(s) with their lawyers.

  3. Dismissal of all charges.

  4. Release of minors from adult jail.

  5. Ensure trans folks have access to phones, attorneys, and are held with the gender group of choice

Direct your complaints to:

  • Mayor Chris Coleman, (651) 266-8510
  • Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, (651) 266-9333
  • Ramsey County Chief Judge Gearin (particularly important due to the courts being late in reviewing their charges), (651) 266-8266
  • Head of Ramsey County Jail Captain Ryan O’Neil, (651) 266-9350

See also:

This is what a police state looks like. (Part 2 of ???)

Show me what a police state looks like…

This is what a police state looks like!

August 30

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.

. . . In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as “Do you have Terminator ready?” as they lay on the floor in handcuffs.

. . . There is clearly an intent on the part of law enforcement authorities here to engage in extreme and highly intimidating raids against those who are planning to protest the Convention.

— Glenn Greenwald, Salon (2008-08-30): Massive police raids on suspected protesters in Minneapolis

August 30

This is Eileen Clancy, one of the founders of I-Witness Video, a NYC-based video collective that’s in St. Paul to document the policing of the protests around this week’s Republican National Convention.

The house where I-Witness Video is staying in St. Paul has been surrounded by police. We have locked all the doors. We have been told that if we leave we will be detained. One of our people who was caught outside is being detained in handcuffs in front of the house. The police say that they are waiting to get a search warrant. More than a dozen police are wielding firearms, including one St. Paul officer with a long gun, which someone told me is an M-16.

We are suffering a preemptive video arrest. For those that don’t know, I-Witness Video was remarkably successful in exposing police misconduct and outright perjury by police during the 2004 RNC. Out of 1800 arrests, at least 400 were overturned based solely on video evidence which contradicted sworn statements which were fabricated by police officers. It seems that the house arrest we are now under and the possible threat of the seizure of our computers and video cameras is a result of the 2004 success.

— Eileen Clancy, I-Witness Video Blog (2008-08-30): i-witness video emergency press statement from the RNC

August 30

The work of the I-Witness Video collective was interrupted this past Saturday, August 30, 2008, when St. Paul police detained 7 members of the group (along with an assortment of other individuals) for several hours. The NYC-based video collective is in St. Paul to document the policing of the protests at the Republican National Convention.

The incident began in the late morning when an FBI agent and a Wisconsin Deputy Sheriff showed up on the doorstep of the house in which members were staying (on Igelhart St.), interrupting a collective planning meeting. The officers left after a short conversation with members through a locked front door. Two hours later, around 30 police surrounded the house. Two people who left the house were detained in handcuffs; several others, who were inside, were told that if they left, they would be also be detained. Around the same time, three other I-Witness Video members who had left the house on bikes and two others who were riding in a car across town were also detained by police.

Two hours later, after the search warrant arrived, police at the Igelhart Street house stormed in, pointing an automatic handgun at the people inside. They handcuffed all the individuals inside, collected their personal information, and corralled them in the back garden. While police held the media activists and their friends there, members of the media, who had gathered in an adjoining backyard, interviewed I-Witness Video member Eileen Clancy from behind a fence. After completing their search, the police finally uncuffed everyone and departed. Within about two hours, the other I-Witness Video groups–who had been detained on bikes and in a car, all of whom also had their identifications verified and had undergone searches of various kinds–were also released.

During the raids, members of I-Witness Video managed to send out several email and text messages to supporters, legal support, and press. In response, hundreds of people called the office of the St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Among those individuals detained was Democracy Now! producer Elizabeth Press, who had her camera with her throughout the incident. This morning, Democracy Now! ran a news segment on the many preemptive raids that police have launched against activists in St. Paul this month, including the raid that I-Witness Video suffered on Saturday.

This was a clear effort to intimidate and undermine the work of I-Witness Video–a group that was remarkably successful in exposing police misconduct and outright perjury by police during the 2004 RNC. Out of 1800 arrests made that week, at least 400 were overturned based solely on video evidence which contradicted sworn statements by police officers.

— Rachel Mattson, I-Witness Video Blog (2008-09-01): I-Witness Video Members Detained En Masse by St.Paul, Minnesota Police in Advance of the 2008 Republican National Convention

September 3

At about 2:45 this past afternoon (Sept. 3), police wielding batons and a battering ram entered the professional office building on Selby Avenue in St. Paul where I-Witness Video is renting work space.

Geneva Finn, an attorney with the National Lawyer’s Guild went to head off the police. After the police left, she made this statement at an impromptu press conference on the street:

A few minutes ago, one of our legal observers called me to the door. I saw the St. Paul police unloading a bunch of equipment from their cars and they saw me at the door. They saw me at the door, they motioned me forward. I came forward to their cars. They told me that they had reports that somebody was holding somebody hostage in the building, that there had been a kidnapping. They told me that somebody, an undercover had told them, that the anarchists were holding people hostage in our building.

I work for the NLG [National Lawyers Guild] here, we have, we’re working at one of our lawyer’s offices, I said, “Is it in our law office?” They said “No, it’s upstairs.” They then came into the building with me, I showed them what was going on upstairs. They did a pull-up on the frame of I-Witness’ door, looked in, saw that there was people in there, nobody was being held hostage. I then asked the police to leave, since no one was obviously being held hostage here, and they refused. Eventually their head sergeant came here, and decided that they could leave the building.

Anarchists taking hostages? Kidnapping?

This is extraordinary, folks. The St. Paul police came after us with unfounded allegations that we were engaged in criminal behavior. This harassment has interfered with our ability to do the work of documenting the policing of protests that we have come to St. Paul to do. They were able to put pressure on the landlord to do something that they could not force under the law. We were informed that, as a result of all of the commotion, our landlord wanted us to leave the premises immediately.

We packed up our belongings as quickly as possible and were welcomed at the offices of Free Speech TV in St. Paul, for which we are deeply grateful.

— Eileen Clancy, I-Witness Video Blog (2008-09-04): St. Paul Police use bogus “hostage” claim to seek entry to I-Witness Video office

While reporting from a protest at the Republican National Convention, Utne Reader intern Chelsey Perkins captured footage of police launching gas canisters at protesters and chasing them down the banks of the Mississippi river in St. Paul. . . .

Having seen protesters and police clash in the distance, Perkins asked an officer how to get away from the conflict zone. She was directed toward a river walk with a large group of people including both protesters and bystanders. The police followed closely behind, until multiple groups of officers on bikes, horses, and on foot surrounded and detained everyone in the area.

Once surrounded, Perkins was told to get on the ground with her hands on her head. Some of the people were placed in plastic cuffs, and a large bullhorn announced that everyone in the area was under arrest. Members of the media were eventually told to leave, because the area was deemed a ??crime scene.? Perkins tried to explain that she was a member of the media, but without credentials, she was unable to leave.

After some 45 minutes of being detained, Perkins was told that she was no longer under suspicion and could leave if she wanted. When she agreed, she was surrounded by a group of police who escorted her away from the area.

— Bennett Gordon, Utne Blogs (2008-09-01): RNC: Police Tear Gas and Arrest Protesters

Before the protests, police from several different government agencies repeatedly used hyperviolent paramilitary SWAT assaults in order to harass, intimidate and disrupt protest groups even though there was absolutely no evidence, other than wild speculation, that anyone posed a threat of violence against the cops sent to serve the warrants, and even though no crime had yet been committed. The cops attacked not only protest groups but also journalists. Then, once the demonstrations had begun, heavily-armed riot cops repeatedly surrounded nonviolent protests, attacked them with batons, ordered them to disperse and then blocked off all possible routes of exit, and fired tear-gas cannisters into crowds of retreating protesters and bystanders.

Remember that so-called electoral democracy ?? in fact, nothing more than an imperial elective oligarchy ?? never means that we (meaning you and I and our neighbors) are respected as sovereign individuals or left alone to manage our own affairs. What it means is that a highly organized, heavily armed elite insists on the privilege of “representing” us, ruling over us, and ordering us around, on the excuse that, once every several years, we are given some minimal opportunity to select which of two tightly regimented political parties will take control of the ruling apparatus. It is, in other words, not freedom, but rather a Party State, in which we are given only the choice of which of two bureaucratic political parties might control our lives and livelihoods, with their authority supposedly justified by the ritual of elections and the mandate of popular sovereignty. And if the people (again, meaning you and I and our neighbors) should dare to think that we might challenge the authority of the regime supposedly “representing” us, you??ll find that it??s the people that go out the window, not the rigged electoral system or the parties?? grasp on the authority supposedly derived from those people.

More to come.

This is what a police state looks like (part 1 of ???)

Show me what a police state looks like…

This is what a police state looks like.

Local events have been keeping me away from blogging about the raids, round-ups, and paramilitary assaults on protesters in St. Paul. I’ll be posting more and saying some more about this soon. In the meantime, though, you need to see these videos. Remember that so-called electoral democracy — in fact, nothing more than an imperial elective oligarchy — never means that we (meaning you and I and our neighbors) are respected as sovereign individuals or left alone to manage our own affairs. What it means is that a highly organized, heavily armed elite insists on the privilege of representing us, ruling over us, and ordering us around, on the excuse that, once every several years, we are given some minimal opportunity to select which of two tightly regimented political parties will take control of the ruling apparatus. It is, in other words, not freedom, but rather a Party State, in which we are given only the choice of which of two bureaucratic political parties might control our lives and livelihoods, with their authority supposedly justified by the ritual of elections and the mandate of popular sovereignty. And if the people (again, meaning you and I and our neighbors) should dare to think that we might challenge the authority of the regime supposedly representing us, you’ll find that it’s the people that go out the window, not the rigged electoral system or the parties’ grasp on the authority supposedly derived from those people.

More to come.

Summit crashing of the Libertarian Left: bringing market anarchy to the Twin Cities RNC Welcoming Committee

A call to action from Soviet Onion on the a3-discuss listserv:

Hello everyone, my name is Soviet Onion. I’m a big proponent of Agorism, left-libertarianism and market anarchism, and a partisan to liberty in general. I’m also a concerned one. Radical libertarianism, as a social movement, still barely exists. Our present state of affairs seems to be one of isolation and atomization, even at the local level. Whatever activism does take place mostly piggybacks on whatever political reformism the Libertarian Party or assorted small government conservatives are involved in (seen by partyarchs as the alternative to doing nothing). We’ve seen this recently with the Ron Paul phenomenon.

You’ll have to excuse this young anarchist, but this all seems terribly inappropriate. For a libertarians, and libertarian anarchists especially, political success is less of matter of directing the state toward certain favored ends and more a matter of blocking it from wreaking more evil. Directly and immediately. The point is not to scribble libertarian amendments into the Constitution but to make un-libertarian laws unenforceable, to make civil society ungovernable. With that in mind, and to kick start some much needed organization, I propose that we converge on the coming Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The anarchist Welcoming Commitee has been organizing a series of actions for over two years. Their primary of objective is to halt the convention before it begins by blockading the major streets and bridges around the Xcel Energy Center, sealing it off before the delegates arrive. A detailed account of this strategy, and the reasons for selecting it, can be found here. Those concerned about the residents’ welfare should note that the Feds are shutting down the city anyway, so a blockade won’t cost merchants and residents any business or block any movement that hasn’t already been taken from them by the Republicans. The only people we’d be impeding are the delegates.

Summit hopping has it’s secondary benefits, as the social anarchists have noted over the years.
One of which is that it allows activists from distant locations to meet and devolop a geographic sense of each other. As a currently dispersed and highly atomized tendency, there’s nothing we need more. The Twin Cities will make an ideal focal point for that, do our part beside other members of the RNC Welcoming Commitee in disrupting the political class, to distribute and disseminate agorist ideas at the convergence spaces, and as an opportunity for members of our currently far-flung milieu to meet and communicate face-face. Even if the proposed blockade fails, going there together would be a boon to ourselves.

Eight months ago, this call was placed on the LeftLibertarian2 listserve by William Gillis, exhorting us to join the opposition:

Hey folks, my name’s Will and I’m a big fan of Agorism, the Libertarian Left and Market Anarchism in general. I’m also founding member of the RNC Welcoming Committee (a broad, non-sectarian coalition of anarchists and anti-authoritarians in the Twin Cities working to give the Republican Party a Minnesota-nice welcome to our state).

For over a year now we’ve been working to facilitate a diversity of tactics by Anarchists in responding to and overshadowing the Republican National Convention being held next year in St. Paul. The convention is a big propaganda show and it’s important that anarchist voices are distinctly represented in the opposition. On the one hand whatever we do it’s a sure thing that anarchists from around the country will flock to the Twin Cities with the intent of pulling militant and dramatic direct action. On the other hand we have to live here and it’s not enough simply to disrupt the political class, we have to sustain long-term projects towards autonomy and self reliance in or communities. In part that means counter-economic organizing to create an infrastructure for the anarchist response, but it also means respecting every perspective and not trying to impose one set of solutions. We’re a diverse bunch of primitivists, insurrectionaries, individualists, class-war reds, cyberpunks and generally uncategorizable anti-authoritarians. (You can read our broad points of unity here <http://www.nornc.org/who-we-arepoints-of unity/> and be sure to check out the definition of capitalism.)

A recently formed national network called Unconventional Action has called for a specific strategy of Direct Action to block off the Convention on the fist day and ideally prevent any delegates from arriving. But regardless of whether we succeed in denying the Republicans access to our city (a city whose government has rolled over and coughed up millions of tax dollars and public property for this charade) it’s important that we eclipse the convention. The plan is to have plenty of events simultaneously and beyond direct resistance demonstrate to the world by example how a better world is possible. In doing both we’ll crash their little staged show!

Even if it’s Ron Paul at the podium instead of Giuliani, it’s vital that the political class is not afforded a moment or an iota of legitimacy.

Beyond direct action (whether it be conventionally non-violent & passive or involving the aggressive rejection of oligarchical property’s legitimacy) it’s important to use this opportunity to build our movement, both within and without. The Welcoming Committee has been doing serious work and the 08 RNC is gearing up to be a major event in activist history. That we Anarchists are the ones best prepared and most visible of everyone organizing for the RNC (while the various liberal and socialist groups are still floundering) speaks volumes.

While I can’t presume to personally speak for the Welcoming Committee, a Libertarian Left presence at the counter-convention would be fondly appreciated. Any support you’d like to individually or collectively (A3! ) contribute would be absolutely wonderful. Whether it’s just a statement, participation in the actions (agorist affinity groups?!), a separate project, setting up a symposium during the festivities, propping up a book cart in front of a convergence space, or lending some mutual aid and helping us build the infrastructure needed to feed, shelter (etc) the thousands upon thousands of anarchists descending on our fair cities. (Black Markets can also be Gift Economies… hint, hint)

When I was in Seattle in ’99 there was one loud guy shouting above the din of the crowd that the WTO was impeding Free Trade and globally raising cost-of-entry to the market, and that was it’s crime! That one crazy guy had something of an effect upon me. Imagine how great it would be if there was an entire bloc of them! ;)

This is our Call To Action: http://www.rncwelcomingcommittee.org/2007/09/30/crash-the-convention-2008-call-to-action/

Please take a look at it and consider participating however you feel comfortable. I guarantee you’ll have a friend in the committee.

-William Gillis
http://williamgillis.blogspot.com/

Transport and housing lists will available on the Welcoming Committe website, but won’t be fully fleshed out about until a month beforehand… sorry, that’s the best they can do. The good news is that for anyone under 25 and vaguely student-ish, Macalester SDS can provide literally unlimited space (bring a sleeping bag and maybe a tent, whatever you need to be comfortable). Registration is ongoing at http://minnesotasds.org/.

Those who are interested are invited to head over to this thread on the newly formed LeftLibertarian forums, where we’ll discuss the tactics, group organization and ideal placement within the greater range of activities. Even if you’re unable to come, you’re still welcome to drop by and help us plan.

Give it some thought. If you know anyone else who might be interested, please pass the message along to them. I’ll also be posting this message on some of the more public market anarchist venues.

I look forward to hearing from you all.

Laissez-faire,
Soviet Onion

Update 2008-05-28: Soviet Onion adds some more notes on the action and some important links in comments below.

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