Anti-War groups undeterred by raids, will march Monday

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Backed by several representatives of national peace and justice groups, Jess Sundin said today that law enforcement raids on homes, confiscation of equipment and detentions that have occurred over the past few days had not dissuaded march organizers or the tens of thousands of people who plan to protest during the Republican National Convention which begins Monday in St. Paul.

Sundin, a Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War co-organizer, and representatives of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), Troops Out Now Coalition, and Latinos Against War held a press conference today to talk about the planned march and the effect of recent law enforcement activities.

“We are planning a massive, family-friendly permitted march” that will send a message to the world that Americans oppose the war on Iraq and other policy failures that have harmed the American people, she said. “We won’t allow ourselves to be frightened away.”

Sara Flounders, a spokesperson for the New York-based Troops Out Now Coalition, suggested that official reports about those targeted in the raids and their intentions shouldn’t be taken at face value. She called the searches and detentions that occurred in Minneapolis and St. Paul “provocations” by law enforcement similar to those that were orchestrated in New York prior to the 2004 Republican convention and in other cities where large protests were planned. “Provocations are an effort to stifle dissent,” she said, adding that the Twin Cities’ mayors and city councils should be alerted that city governments have been held liable in lawsuits when citizen rights of assembly and freedom of speech have not been protected.

Katrina Plotz, another Coalition to March on the RNC planner, said she had “a hard time believing” the official reports that claimed some of those detained planned to start riots or use a bucket of urine reportedly found at one of the buildings as a weapon. It’s just inconsistent with anything I have heard or seen,” she said.

George Martin, national co-chair of UFPJ, and Carlos Montes of Latinos Against War in Los Angeles, also spoke. Both stressed the relationship between the wars overseas and the economic suffering and loss of freedom in the United States.

Coalition leaders said they expect 50,000 protesters from 125 organizations from across the country as well as thousands of Minnesotans to descend on the Twin Cities to voice their opposition to Republican policies.

The march and rally on Monday will be followed by many other events organized by a wide range of groups – including truckers, veterans, artists, welfare rights organizations, and others that will take place throughout the week. International organizations including Amnesty International have also organized activities to take place in St. Paul and Minneapolis this week.

Kathlyn Stone is an independent journalist in St. Paul. She maintains a health and science news site at fleshandstone.net. E-mail stonekat@comcast.net