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Violent Police Deny Free Speech at RNC

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Jodin Morey

The following describes my experience as a protester being mistreated by the St. Paul police during the RNC. My name is Jodin Morey, and I'm a Cofounder of Impeach for Peace\. The police abuse I'll describe includes the use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and batons.

Here's a video account of my story:
[[VID1]]

I joined the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign in a march from Mears Park On September 2, 2008 at 4 p.m. Having heard that some peaceful protesters had been arrested the day before, I was concerned about joining this march. I had been the one to reserve a one-hour slot on the protest stage at 1 p.m. on the following day. National speakers had come from around the country (Ray McGovern, John Nichols and Debra Sweet from the World Can't Wait). The St. Paul Park and Rec. had made it clear the stage would only be available if I were physically present with my driver's license at the time reserved. I therefore had decided to join the march with the idea of being extremely cautious to avoid any interactions with the police that could result in my arrest.

I was dressed as a Guantanamo Bay detainee to protest the denial of habeas corpus as a human right. There were speeches that went on for a very long time. The organizers spoke about human rights and the need for housing, education, and health care. There was a scuffle between the police and some of the protesters during these speeches, but I was not in a location to see what occurred.



Before we began the march, the main organizer had each of us raise our right hands and repeat after her that we would behave peacefully and non-violently. She also stressed that this was important because there were children in the march, and some of them were hers. I saw the organizers intercept some people wearing black bandanas over their faces and black clothing and told them they were welcome to join the march but only if they promised to be peaceful and non-violent. They told the leaders of the march that they were going to be peaceful.

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The march then began, and it was extremely long. It felt as if it were about a five-mile march. All along the march we were shouting slogans like, "Stop the war on the poor," "If they say cut back, we say fight back," and others. We went by the St. Paul Capitol where we stopped and invited people who were rallying there to join us. (I found out later that these people were gathered to listen to the band Rage against the Machine). We then continued to the Xcel Energy Center. The march came to a halt in the free speech zone just outside the Xcel Energy Center. For those of you unaware, the free speech zone consists of a tall fence separating the public from the Xcel Energy Center in front of which is a buffer zone populated by riot police in front of which is another high fence.

[[VID3]]

Next, the lead organizer got on the shoulders of another marcher and through a bullhorn announced to the protesters that she was going to deliver a citizen's arrest to the doors of the Xcel Energy Center for crimes against humanity. She made us raise our right hands again and promise that we would stay right where we were and to be peaceful. Everyone I could see raised their hands and repeated the promise back to her.

Then she went to the free speech gate that separated us from the front doors of the Xcel Energy Center. She spoke through her bullhorn to the nearest police officer, who was dressed in riot gear.

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She told that officer that she wanted to deliver a message to the people at the RNC. She told the officer she was not violent. She expressed that she did not want him to shoot or taze her. She expressed that she wanted to deliver her message to the delegates and was looking for his help in doing that. She suggested to the officer that he could deliver the citizen's arrest, or that he could escort her to the RNC, or that he could bring someone from the RNC to receive the arrest warrant from her. But, of course, the police officer on the other side of the gate refused to respond at all, and she settled on just placing her message through the gate and asking the officer to have someone come and get it.

She informed the officer that it was only a piece of paper and an American Flag so that the officer wouldn't confuse her actions as anything but peaceful. Prior to sliding the citizen's arrest through the gate, she asked the police officer if it was ok that she slide the message through the fence, but he did not respond. She delivered the citizen's arrest and then she left the gate and the march was apparently over at that point.



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