In the days leading up to the Republican National Convention, a series of police raids led by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office resulted in the arrest of eight people for allegedly conspiring to disrupt the political gathering. On Wednesday the individuals were each charged with a single count of “conspiracy to commit riot in the second degree in furtherance of terrorism.” The criminal complaint details a far-ranging plot by members of the RNC Welcoming Committee that included plans to kidnap delegates, attack cops with urine and molotov cocktails and ultimately bring the convention to a halt.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. A ninth individual was also arrested earlier this week and is named in the criminal complaint, but has not yet been charged. All but the latter suspect have been released on $75,000 bail.
Yesterday afternoon attorneys for the alleged co-conspirators held a press conference to rebut the charges. They portrayed the allegations as a trumped-up plot hyped by confidential informants who had a financial incentive to exaggerate the potential violence. “The most outrageous allegations made by the authorities are not supported by any evidence other than the statement of the confidential informants,” said attorney Bruce Nestor. “They’re not supported by the evidence seized.”
In one instance, for example, officers seized what was purportedly a police shield and cited it as evidence of the group’s ill intents. “We have the Sheriff displaying a single plastic item that he claims was a shield, as if one shield was going to protect demonstrators from 3500 armed riot police who have projectile-tear-gas weapons,” said Nestor.
The trio of lawyers also charged that police are utilizing terrorism fears to circumvent First Amendment rights. “All they do is they label people as terrorirsts and anarchists, and at that point what people are actually saying and the content of their views has no meaning anymore,” said attorney Jordan Kushner. “What they do is they dehumanize people, they stigmatize them and in the process cut off what they’re saying.”
Kushner compared the case to the treatment of the Chicago Seven in 1968 — all of whom were ultimately acquitted of conspiracy charges. “Of course that made complete fools out of the government,” he said. “When the evidence comes out in this case it’s going to be the same thing. It’s going to be about politically opportunistic, abusive, cynical people in power who are abusing the law to suppress political dissent and suppress political organizing.”
Three of the defendants — Luce Guillen-Givins, Robert Joseph Czernik and Max Jacob Specktor — were present at the press conference but did not answer questions from reporters. However, two of the defendants’ parents did comment on the charges.
Mordecai Specktor, father of Max (pictured together) and editor of the American Jewish World newspaper, stated that his son was held in solitary confinement for two days before being released on bail. “The criminal complaint here is farfetched, overblown, outrageous,” he said. “I encourage all the journalists here to look into the specifics of this complaint and see where the truth really lies.” Specktor then put his arm around his son. “This is your domestic terrorist,” he said. “Take a good look. I don’t believe it at all. Give me a break.”
The other defendants are Nathanael David Secor, Erik Charles Oseland, Garrett Scott Fitzgerald, Monica Rachel Bicking and Eryn Trimmer. [TC Daily Planet note: A ninth defendant, Carrie Feldman, was arrested on September 3 and was still in custody at the time of the press conference.]