Saturday, September 06, 2008

More police state tactics at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

I was a bit hesitant to write about this at first. I have written a number of posts at this blog about how I see this country turning into a police state, right under our very noses, while we all chatter on about the evils of same-sex marriage or whether or not Barack Obama is actually the Anti-Christ. I feel I have said what I think about the subject, and anything more is just repeating myself. Plus, I don’t really like to think of myself as some sort of “Boy Who Cried Wolf”.

However, I have read a number of blog articles about the heavy handed police tactics, aided by the FBI, in St. Paul. Protesters were arrested, rather violently. Houses were descended upon by police in battle gear in what is being called “pre-emptive raids” to arrest potential protesters. Reporters with valid press creditials were arrested for just trying to report on what was going on. This account of the arrest of Democracy, Now’s Amy Goodman, from, is pretty chilling.

ST. PAUL -- Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar have all been released from police custody in St. Paul following their illegal arrest by Minneapolis Police on Monday afternoon.

All three were violently manhandled by law enforcement officers. Abdel Kouddous was slammed against a wall and the ground, leaving his arms scraped and bloodied. He sustained other injuries to his chest and back. Salazar's violent arrest by baton-wielding officers, during which she was slammed to the ground while yelling, "I'm Press! Press!," resulted in her nose bleeding, as well as causing facial pain. Goodman's arm was violently yanked by police as she was arrested.

Goodman was arrested while questioning police about the unlawful detention of Kouddous and Salazar who were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were arrested on suspicion of rioting, a felony. While the three have been released, they all still face charges stemming from their unlawful arrest. Kouddous and Salazar face pending charges of suspicion of felony riot, while Goodman has been officially charged with obstruction of a legal process and interference with a "peace officer."

When you read Goodman’s description of what really transpired, it seems to me obvious that the police were either completely out of control, or had been ordered (most likely by the FBI or some higher state or national authority) to be extremely heavy handed. How can you throw an unarmed woman to the ground, to the point it draws blood, while the person is screaming that she is with the press? I rather doubt Nicole Salazar, producer, was really engaged in “felony rioting”. And the whole thing is on video, of course, available at Democracy, Now! There are many other stories from people who were first hand witnesses of what really went down. This was a widespread police action that was planned ahead of time.

Here is a bit more from Cliff Schecter, posting at FireDogLake.

“Hundreds of demonstrators” on the final night of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Approximately 250 people were arrested shortly before John McCain took to the stage to accept the presidential nomination. That's in addition to the 422 people who had already been arrested earlier in the week.

Riot police held approximate 300 people, including journalists and observers for nearly an hour on an overpass spanning Interstate 94. Police instructed the crowd to get on the bridge, then announced that everyone on the bridge was under arrest.

The Joint Information Center offered conflicting accounts about the status of the assembly permits for last night's gatherings. When I called at 4pm, a spokesman told me that the organizers of the March were slated to march from the capitol, through downtown, around the xCel Center and back to the capitol and that the protest was set to go until 7pm.

By 5pm, CNN was reporting that the cops on the ground were telling protesters that their permit had expired. According to some reports, Sheriff Bob Fletcher announced that he was rescinding permits at news conference late Thursday afternoon, but when I called to confirm, the Joint Information Center told me that no permits had been revoked.

Journalist Paul Demko was briefly arrested and flex cuffed on the bridge. By Thursday, the police had learned that it's bad PR to arrest journalists and protest observers along with demonstrators. Mind you, they still cuffed them, but they segregated them and let them go early.

According to one theory, the group on the bridge was a breakaway from a separate gathering, which was not permitted to march through downtown--hence the arrests on the bridge.

Police used tear gas, concussion grenades and pepper spray to control the crowd.
The RNC took out a $10 million insurance policy to pay off police brutality settlements. This is the first time party host committee agreed to take out such a policy. I wonder how high their deductible is.

How is it that police in this supposedly free country can break in to houses, even if they have warrants, on the expectation that someone may be involved in future protests? Arresting observers and reporters along with protesters? That is insane. And it is equally insane that the national media isn’t making a story of this. And the fact that the RNC took out an insurance policy to pay off police brutality settlements is a very weird thing. Either they knew something was probably going to happen ahead of time, or it gives a very disturbing statement about this country, in that police brutality is something which an organization can protect itself against, by taking out insurance!

“Pre-emptive raids?” You have got to be shi**ing me. The Stasi would be proud.

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