RNC 8 will be tried together

Fifteen months after their arrests, the eight activists accused of plotting to violently disrupt the 2008 Republican National Convention finally have an idea of how their pending trial will take shape. In line with the hopes of the RNC 8, it will be a single trial – not eight separate proceedings, as the state had initially planned. 
Each of the RNC 8 defendants faces two felony charges: conspiracy to damage property in the first degree and conspiracy to riot in the second degree. Previously, prosecutors added terrorism enhancements to the charges under the controversial PATRIOT Act. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office has since dropped those charges. The defendants have advocated for a joint trial since the beginning, despite the state’s warnings that it could be cumbersome and logistically problematic. Continue Reading

RNC 8 return to court

Thirteen months ago, the Republican National Convention came to town, carved an indelible scar on the Twin Cities and left. It’s likely also left the average Minnesotan’s mind after this long, and certainly littered streets and broken windows have long been returned to order. Many of the criminal cases stemming from the protests have, too, been resolved. But Thursday morning, eight activists, and a horde of dozens of supporters, headed to the Ramsey County District Courthouse. The RNC 8, arrested preemptively before the RNC and accused of plotting to violently disrupt the convention, felt as if their day in court inched that much closer. Continue Reading

Reflections from two of the RNC 8, one year later

A year ago, eight activists were detained in Ramsey County. Officials said they were protecting the public by holding the so-called RNC 8, who allegedly plotted to violently disrupt the Republican National Convention. But the anarchist activists, who were all released shortly after the convention last September, still await trial. For various reasons (their first judge recused himself for undisclosed reasons, their current judge has been tied up in a murder trial, terrorism-related enhancements to their charges were dropped), their pending courtroom battle is on hold – expected to start in the early part of 2010, instead of this fall as some initially predicted. In a way, as they wait to hear whether jurors see their side, the accused activists’ lives are also on hold. Continue Reading

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner reflects, a year after the RNC

It’s been a year since the Republican National Convention descended on St. Paul, bringing with it hordes of protesters and police whose clashes erupted into several incidents still working their way through the courts.From criminal charges filed against activists arrested before the RNC to civil suits seeking damages for excessive police force, and a variety of circumstances in between, a log-jammed legal system is still working toward justice in many RNC-related cases. As far as what, exactly, justice means in these cases – that all depends on who you ask. Originally, this story was meant to include several officials’ reflects on last year’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, St. Continue Reading

Neighborhoods to select community engagement reps June 16

After heated debate and significant changes, the contentious elections process for selecting neighborhood representatives for the city’s newly created Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission (NCEC) seems to have settled into a workable compromise.The NCEC will fill its eight open seats — reserved for elected resident representatives — in a one-night-only June 16 election at Van Cleve Park, 901 15th Ave. SE, at 6 p.m. A candidates’ forum will take place beforehand. The fully seated commission will hold its inaugural meeting June 23. (Links to information about the NCEC, candidates and June 16 elections are at the end of this article.)
The 16-member commission will act as an advisory board for the city’s community engagement activities, including reviewing neighborhood plans and making recommendations to the City Council, mayor and city departments on community engagement practices, principles and funding. Last September, the City Council voted to transfer community engagement from the existing Neighborhood Revitalization Program(NRP) to the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations Department — a larger process that was contentious in its own right, with a contingent of neighborhood-level activists in opposition. Continue Reading

RNC 8 protests Susan Gaertner

On Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner’s birthday Tuesday evening, she held her first fundraiser for her 2010 gubernatorial bid.Outside, the RNC 8 — a group prosecuted by Gaertner’s office for conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism — and the Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure, formed in response to mass protester arrests at the Republican National Convention. They sang, danced and spoke against Gaertner’s campaign. A police presence grew to more than 20 as the crowd of protesters swelled to about 100. Police twice threatened to arrest the protesters for unlawful assembly if they didn’t clear sidewalks, but the crowd stayed mobile. Eventually, tensions between the crowd and police dissipated, though police stayed stationed at the building’s entrance. Continue Reading

Longtime legislator, U professor Allan Spear dies

Allan Spear, a former University history professor and longtime state senator, died unexpectedly Saturday evening. He was 71. For nearly 30 years, until 2000, Spear legislated on behalf of the Minneapolis campus area. When he announced that he was gay in a 1974 interview with the Minneapolis Star, Spear became the first openly gay state legislator in the country. Meanwhile, he also taught history and left an indelible mark on many students, among them Vice President for University Services Kathleen O’Brien. Continue Reading

Report suggests SAT, ACT scores less important

The ACT and SAT entrance exams keep students stressing and guessing, wondering if they’ll get a score good enough to get into their college of choice.And for years, the tests have had admissions counselors wondering whether they’re worth all the trouble. But a report released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling this week suggests the tests don’t predict student success accurately enough to make them worth it. Several smaller schools around the country have made reporting such test scores optional, virtually eliminating the ACT and SAT from the admissions process. That plan negates the score disparity between the less affluent and wealthier students, who have access to test preparation and greater opportunities to retest for better scores, said David Hawkins , director of public policy and research for the association that issued the report. Hawkins also served as a liaison to the commission of college admissions staff who convened to discuss the topic. Continue Reading

Activists: “We still live here”

For three nights last week, Mina Leierwood was a polar bear. She, along with more than a dozen other individuals and groups, were players in a production at the Bedlam Theatre that encouraged proactive and creative reflection on the contentious and clash-heavy Republican National Convention. Dressed in a white, furry suit with a painted white face and a black nose, Leierwood acted out what she called a polar bear’s fantasy. As a big-haired, fur-coat-clad rendition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin emerged from the tiny Bedlam Theatre backstage, Leierwood — the polar bear — grinned and winked at the audience. She lured in the caricatured Palin, promising oil, and pounced, surfacing with a bloody arm in her mouth to audience laughter and applause. Continue Reading

Agents of change

In the coming weeks, a special CD sampler will find its way to prominent mailboxes across the state and even to the nation’s most prestigious address at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.
That is, if the group of kids who spent their Wednesdays at the Brian Coyle Community Center this summer calling for change in their community get their way. The dozen-or-so kids, ages 11–14, took to the microphone alongside leaders from the Minneapolis nonprofit Project Legos, which urges the youngest members of society to act as “change agents” by raising awareness of problems and shifting paradigms to solve them. For this group, that meant recording a CD of spoken-word ballads in which the kids, in their own words, talked about the dark side of their community in the hope that their poetry sets something in motion to quell crime in the area. Project Legos organizes programs educating kids about social issues in their lives, ranging from bullying to projects like the recent one at Brian Coyle Community Center. Continue Reading