Journalists’ RNC suit charges ‘deliberate intimidation’ by law enforcement


Law enforcement at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul two summers ago engaged in a “deliberate policy of intimidation,” according to the complaint filed yesterday as part of the lawsuit by Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! journalists against Twin Cities-area law enforcement and the Secret Service

Obtained Wednesday by the Minnesota Independent, the complaint (below) charges Minneapolis, St. Paul and Ramsey County law enforcement, as well as Secret Service agents, with “engaging in warrantless arrests, unlawful detentions, and unlawful seizures of their persons, all without adequate justification or cause; engaging in unlawful seizures of property; using unreasonable, unnecessary, and excessive force; and interfering with their rights as members of the press under the United States and Minnesota Constitutions.” It recounts the arrests of Goodman and DN! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar on Sept. 1, 2008. All three were credentialed media at the RNC, wore press passes visible on their bodies, and verbally announced to arresting police that they were members of the press, the complaint states – none of which had any effect on law enforcement officers.

Here’s how Salazar’s arrest, which was captured on video widely circulated on the internet, was described in the document:

“[Uniformed officers] violently pushed Ms. Salazar into a parked vehicle and then shoved her off her feet and onto the ground as they shouted, ‘on your face.’ After Ms. Salazar was forced to the ground, her camera was knocked from her hands and fell some feet away. Ms. Salazar was then forcibly held face-down on the pavement. Ms. Salazar could feel one of the Roe defendants pushing her into the grown with his boot or knee pressed into her back, while another Roe defendent was grabbing her leg, trying to drag her…. Ms. Salazar saw that a pool of her blood had collected on the pavement where her face had been.

“As a result of these Roe defendants’ actions, Ms. Salazar suffered lacerations and injuries to her face, leaving her bloodied, bruised, scratched, and in pain”

Afterwards, when the handcuffed Salazar asked for her press credentials to be placed around her neck, police told her that “it was better if she held them out of sight, and that otherwise they might be taken away, or words to that effect.”

Similarly, Kouddous, although verbally identifying himself as a member of the press and offering no resistance, was “forcibly slammed him against the wall” and officers were described as “pushing him against the wall and kicking and/or punching him in the chest and back.” When hauled off in a bus for detention, he was told he faced a felony riot charge.

Goodman was arrested when inquiring about her detained producers. At one point, as she announced, “We are press, we demand to be released,” an unidentified Secret Service Agent approached her adn Kouddous, took their RNC press passes and said, “You’re not going to need this today.”

Goodman’s equipment was confiscated, and no receipt was given to document the seizure. She was issued a citation for “interference with a peace officer and obstruction of a legal process.”

There won’t be action on the suit for at least 30 days, says Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Anjana Samant. After yesterday’s filing in federal court here in Minnesota, what happens?

“Now we wait for the defendants to file an Answer in which they must admit or deny the allegations in the Complaint,” she said in an email to the Minnesota Independent. “Alternately, they may try to file a motion to dismiss the case before filing an Answer. Either way, their filing will not happen for at leaste another 20 days, if not longer.”

She said the timing of the suit – a year and a half after the incidents at the RNC and coinciding with the trial of the “RNC 8″ – had to do with the serious consideration that comes with mounting such a legal effort.

“While some time has lapsed since the incidents, the decision to engage in any kind of litigation is not made lightly,” she said. “After weighing our options, our clients decided  that filing a suit was the most effective way to vindicate their rights and ensure that police encroachment on the rights of journalists to gather news is not repeated.”

Indeed, the plantiffs state in the preliminary notes in the suit that despite fear-inducing treatment by law enforcement, they won’t stop covering such events.

They “intend to return to Minnesota to cover future newsworthy events, including both small- and large-scale protests,” according to the complaint. “Plaintiffs also intend to cover similar protests and gatherings throughout the United States as part of their journalistic activities” and “fear that they will be subjected to similar unlawful actions by federal and/or local authorities, including Defendants, as they conduct their job duties in the future.”

View the complaint: