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Preemptive Strikes Against Protest at RNC

By       Message Marjorie Cohn       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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In the months leading up to the Republican National Convention, the FBI-led Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force actively recruited people to infiltrate vegan groups and other leftist organizations and report back about their activities.  On May 21, the Minneapolis City Pages ran a recruiting story called "Moles Wanted." Law enforcement sought to preempt lawful protest against the policies of the Bush administration during the convention.

 

Since Friday, local police and sheriffs, working with the FBI, conducted preemptive searches, seizures and arrests.  Glenn Greenwald described the targeting of protestors by "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."  Journalists were detained at gunpoint and lawyers representing detainees were handcuffed at the scene. 

 

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"I was personally present and saw officers with riot gear and assault rifles, pump action shotguns," said Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who is representing several of the protestors.  "The neighbor of one of the houses had a gun pointed in her face when she walked out on her back porch to see what was going on.  There were children in all of these houses, and children were held at gunpoint." 

 

The raids targeted members of "Food Not Bombs," an anti-war, anti-authoritarian protest group that provides free vegetarian meals every week in hundreds of cities all over the world.  They served meals to rescue workers at the World Trade Center after 9/11 and to nearly 20 communities in the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina.

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Also targeted were members of I-Witness Video, a media watchdog group that monitors the police to protect civil liberties.  The group worked with the National Lawyers Guild to gain the dismissal of charges or acquittals of about 400 of the 1,800 who were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.  Preemptive policing was used at that time as well.  Police infiltrated protest groups in advance of the convention.

 

Nestor said that no violence or illegality has taken place to justify the arrests.  "Seizing boxes of political literature shows the motive of these raids was political," he said.

 

Further evidence the political nature of the police action was the boarding up of the Convergence Center, where protestors had gathered, for unspecified code violations.  St. Paul City Council member David Thune said, "Normally we only board up buildings that are vacant and ramshackle." Thune and fellow City Council member Elizabeth Glidden decried "actions that appear excessive and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for those who wish to exercise their first amendment rights."

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"So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protestors who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do," Greenwald wrote on Salon.

 

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. An updated edition of her book, "Drones and (more...)
 

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