A parade of protesters and people caught up in RNC street arrests passed through Ramsey County courts on Tuesday and Wednesday, with on-line court records showing 134 people charged by 10 p.m. on September 3. (See NEWS YOU CAN USE | Finding court records.) Dozens of people were released without charges or on citations requiring them to return to court on misdemeanor charges in the future.
Out of the 300-plus arrests, only 21 resulted in felony charges, according to an article in the Minnesota Independent. Eight of those were people charged as members of the RNC Welcoming Committee face charges of Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism. The terrorism enhancement charge, which allows for a 50% increase in the riot charge penalty to 7 1/2 years, is characterized by their attorneys as “what appears to be the first use of criminal charges under the 2002 Minnesota version of the Federal Patriot Act.” According to National Lawyers Guild president Bruce Nestor:
“These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism. This both trivializes real violence and attempts to place the stated political views of the defendants on trial. The charges represent an abuse of the criminal justice system and seek to intimidate any person organizing large scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil disobedience.”
The National Lawyers Guild denounced the conspiracy charges:
The criminal complaints filed by the Ramsey County Attorney do not allege that any of the defendants personally have engaged in any act of violence or damage to property. The complaints list all of alleged violations of law during the last few days of the RNC — other than violations of human rights carried out by law enforcement — and seeks to hold the 8 defendants responsible for acts committed by other individuals. None of the defendants have any prior criminal history involving acts of violence. Searches conducted in connection with the raids failed to turn up any physical evidence to support the allegations of organized attacks on law enforcement. Although claiming probable cause to believe that gunpowder, acids, and assembled incendiary devices would be found, no such items were seized by police.
Other news of arrests and charges made or dropped:
• Two University of Kentucky journalism students and their professor were released without charges after being teargassed and arrested while filming protests;