Minnesota Prosecutor Petitioned by Thousands to End Persecution
What do 17,000 members of the Duluth Central Labor Body; the "Minnesota 8" sixty-year olds whose Vietnam draft resistance experiences were commissioned into a 2008 "Peace Crimes" play; over 3000 people from all over the world (many of whom not only signed an on-line petition but also wrote small essays about the need to protect Constitutional rights and freedom in their comments); and nine "Americans Who Tell the Truth"--painted as part of an educational art project all have in common? All strongly support the right to dissent and specifically the eight young organizers of RNC protest actions who were pre-emptively arrested before the Republican National Convention and then later charged under Minnesota's version of the Patriot Act with "incitement to riot in furtherance of terrorism."
On Sept. 1, 2008 Minnesota police use industrial size pepper spray guns on peaceful protestors practicing their First Amendment Rights to peacable assembly, association and speech.
While there was a common conclusion communicated via yesterday's petition delivery to Ramsey County Prosecutor Susan Gaertner, a variety of reasons and perspectives were brought forward on why dissent needs to be protected and why pre-emptive arrests and prosecuting these young people as "terrorists" is wrong.
In the early 20th century (circa 1917), about twenty states, including Minnesota, passed "criminal syndicalism laws" (like the one below) to put more pressure on labor organizers and others who would commit civil disobedience or other "disorderly" political activities.
185.06 POWER OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT OR COURTS NOT CURTAILED UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS; CRIMINAL SYNDICALISM.
Nothing in sections 185.01 to 185.06 shall hamper or curtail, or in any manner take away, the power of the executive department, or of the courts, where there is threatened any irreparable injury to business or property by reason of violence, threats, or other unlawful acts, or where criminal syndicalism, or the acts constituting the same, are involved; and criminal syndicalism is hereby defined to be the doctrine which advocates crime, sabotage, violence, or other unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial, social, or political reform.
Before 1940, the law was frequently used to put Industrial Workers of the World organizers and publishers in jail in Minnesota. Then the 1917 law sat unused for decades, until January 1986, when the Hormel Local P-9 strike led to the police chief of Austin and the county sheriff holding union members on "criminal syndicalism," in order to undermine the union's plan of peacefully blockading the Hormel plants.
After the Austin situation, labor and college students worked long hours at the Minnesota Legislature to get the "criminal syndicalism" law overturned. So it's not surprising that a Minnesota labor union is among the loudest now crying foul as union members recognize the enormous similarity between the old "criminal syndicalism law" and the Minnesota Patriot Act's "enhancement for terrorism".
Duluth Central Labor Body's Resolution
Resolution in Support of the RNC 8 and Stating that the Anti-Terrorism Act
Should be Repealed
Whereas, a free society is one in which people can organize collectively to
improve their lives without fear of persecution by their government; and
Whereas, the labor movement has historically suffered state intimidation and
repression in our efforts to organize working people, including the
unconstitutional arrest of labor organizers and publishers of union papers
under "criminal syndicalism" laws of the first half of the 20th century;
Whereas, changes to the Minnesota criminal code under the so-called
Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002 threaten political speech by defining acts that
"further terrorism" so broadly as to encompass civil disobedience designed
to "disrupt or interfere with the lawful exercise, operation, or conduct of
government, lawful commerce, or the right of lawful assembly," including
strikes, blockades and other union actions to defend workers' rights; and
Whereas, the first criminal charges under this law were filed by Ramsey County
prosecutors in September of 2008 against organizers of Republican National
Convention protests in St Paul (known as the "RNC 8"), with no evidence that
the defendants committed any act of violence;
Therefore, be it resolved that the Duluth Central Labor Body stands in
solidarity with the RNC 8 and goes on record as opposing the
politically-motivated terrorism charges filed against them; and
Be it further resolved that the Duluth Central Labor Body goes on record as
opposing 609.714 of the Minnesota criminal code ("CRIMES COMMITTED IN
FURTHERANCE OF TERRORISM") and calls on Minnesota state legislators to work
for the repeal of this law;
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