RNC revisited: Amy Goodman sues our cities; RNC8 pretrials!; Peter Erlinder in Rwanda

Labor Day week – September, 2008 – marked a shameful chapter in Minnesota and Twin Cities history. First, before the first gavel fell on the Republican National Convention at St. Paul’s Xcel Center – a political cocoon for visiting conventioneers and national media, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher sought and received warrants from Ramsey District judges to launch raids on suspected disrupters of the RNC, arresting eight young self-described anti-authoritarian anarchists, members of the RNC Welcoming Committee. They had committed no crimes outright, but were accused of conspiracy to do so, based on the testimony of Fletcher’s hired undercover agents provocateur. As the eight sat stewing behind bars, St. Continue Reading

RNC8: The saga continues

Wearing the uniform of the Ramsey County Sheriff ‘s Department, Chris Dugger looks every inch a deputy, close-cropped hair, jaw cop square. A cord runs from an earpiece to the walkie-talkie he has clipped to his left epaulette. If an important call comes while he is on the witness stand, he looks ready to go. It’s Friday, May 14 in Courtroom 1080 of the Ramsey County courthouse in downtown St. Paul. Continue Reading

Democracy Now! suing local law enforcement over RNC arrests

Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman was among 46 journalists arrested or detained during the 2008 Republican National Convention, and now she’s among plaintiffs suing law enforcement in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Ramsey County as well as the Secret Service. 
The suit, filed Wednesday in United States District Court in the District of Minnesota on behalf of Goodman and Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, challenges “the policies and conduct of law enforcement during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 2008 that resulted in the unlawful arrests and unreasonable use of force against the plaintiffs,” according to the nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the suit. Goodman was manhandled during her Sept. 1, 2008, arrest, despite her protestations that she’s a journalist. Continue Reading

RNC 8 hearing packs courtroom

In front of a packed courtroom, lawyers for eight defendants arrested during the 2008 Republican National Convention argued more than a dozen pre-trial motions before Ramsey County Judge Teresa R. Warner.  The RNC 8 defendants (Luce Guillen-Givins, Max Specktor, Nathanael Secor, Eryn Trimmer, Monica Bicking, Erik Oseland, Robert Czernik and Garrett Fitzgerald) were charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage and conspiracy to commit riot.  In December, Judge Warner granted the defendants a joint trial as opposed to eight separate trials.  That decision laid the ground work for Tuesday’s marathon session. With more than 30 supporters in the gallery, and an appearance by Sheriff Bob Fletcher, the mood was quite jovial and relaxed at the beginning. As motion after motion was debated between the two sides, tensions grew.  At one point Judge Warner issued a stern reprimand to one of the defense lawyers for talking over the prosecution, An outburst of laughter and talking from some of the defendants during a particularly harsh exchange between the two sides led to Judge Warner reminding the defendants and their counsel that such actions would not be tolerated during the trial, set for October 2010. Lawyers for the RNC 8 had submitted a range of motions, most dealing with the suppression of evidence.  Additional motions alleged that prosecutors had violated the defendants’ First Amendment rights, and asked for dismissal of the case based upon discriminatory investigation and prosecution. Following an hour-long closed door discussion with counsell, Judge Warner decided that the majority of the motions would be postponed. Continue Reading

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

Lawsuits filed on RNC anniversary

Two Republican National Convention (RNC)-related lawsuits were filed September 1, adding to the list of litigation against St. Paul, Minneapolis, and various law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of the RNC.  The two lawsuits focus on mass arrests on the first day of the convention and on a house raid during the weekend before the convention. The larger of the two lawsuits involves 27 plaintiffs who were “herded up on Shepard Road between Jackson street and Chestnut,” according to Bob Kolstad, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.  The 27 plaintiffs are filing the Shepard Road class action lawsuit against the City of St. Paul and individual police defendants in the command structure who gave orders for the mass arrest  for “violating their rights under the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the complaint states.  “Our claims are that the City of St. Paul created a policy to isolate and contain potential protester that would make RNC folks uncomfortable,” said Kolstad.  He said they were seeking monetary compensation as well as an injunction from the city of St. Continue Reading

RNC Retrospective

Lawsuits filed on RNC anniversary by Sheila Regan, TC Daily Planet It happened here by Mike Hazard, TC Daily Planet Reflections on the RNC, one year later by Art Hughes, TC Daily PlanetRamsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner reflects, a year after the RNC by Karlee Weinmann, TC Daily PlanetRNC memories from jailed reporter Sheila Regan, business owner Sara Remke, St. Paul City Attorney John Choi, and council member Dave Thune by Sheila Regan, TC Daily PlanetRNC anniversary haunts DFL guv-candidate forum by Chris Steller, Minnesota Independent RNC scorecard, one year later by Sheila Regan, TC Daily PlanetRNC 8 still waiting for trial by Sheila Regan, TC Daily PlanetReflections from two of the RNC 8, one year later by Karlee Weinmann, TC Daily Planet Continue Reading