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. Paul from engaging in this type of behavior in the future.
“Everybody’s story is different,” said Kostad. “Some people were just rounded up, others were subjected to pepper spray, some were detained, and other were held for 72 hours.” Each category of defendant will be seeking different amounts of monetary damages, which, if successful, will tap into the $10 million insurance policy the city took out prior to the RNC in preparation for this type of lawsuit. According to Kolstad, “The fact that [law enforcement] forced the RNC organizing committees to take out that policy indicates they had an intent to violate people’s right to maintain the order they wanted.”
If you were arrested on Shepard Road and are interested in discussing your experience, you can call Bob Kostad at 612-870-7410, or you may email email@example.com. The Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure (CRASS) also has an information and resource page for folks who are interested in small group or class action lawsuits.
The other lawsuit, filed by Sarah Coffey, Kris Hermes, and Erin Stalnaker, is seeking monetary damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief against the City of St. Paul, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, among other individual law enforcement agents for the house raid that was conducted at their place of residence at 949 Iglehart Avenue in St. Paul on August 30 of last year. The owner of the property, Mike Whalen, filed his own lawsuit some months ago.
The suit filed today alleges that law enforcement agencies “conspired before the protests to conduct raids on several houses in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area,” according to Kris Hermes. “We believe the aim was to intimidate activists from expressing their First Amendment rights,” he said.
A press release about the lawsuit states that “At approximately 11 am on August 30th, 2008, a Wisconsin Sheriff and an FBI agent came to 949 Iglehart Avenue in St. Paul on the pretext of looking for a resident of the neighboring home.” When the officers were told they had the wrong address, they left only to return several hours later with weapons drawn, despite not having a warrant. The occupants of the house refused the police entry, but were detained. Eventually the police broke into the home through a locked attic door, according to the press release. “Nothing illegal was found, no one was arrested and no property was seized,” the press release states.
Hermes said the police produced a warrant “after the fact,” while the 10 occupants were being detained.
In addition to monetary damages, the amount yet to be determined, Hermes said “Mainly we’re seeking to stop the type of preemptive activity that police engaged in from future events.”
In addition to the lawsuits filed Tuesday, a whole host of other lawsuits have already been filed or are in the process of being filed. The CRASS press packet includes updates on both court cases against protesters and litigation against municipalities and law enforcement agencies. From their packet, here’s a list of pending lawsuits:
Shepard Road 9/1 Mass Arrest
Marion Avenue Bridge 9/4 Mass Arrest
Mass arrests at 9th/Temperance and 7th/Jackson on 9/1
Betsy Raasch-Gilman: suing over Sheriff Bob Fletcher’s noncompliance with statutes
Keith Smith: juvenile beaten by police 9/1
Michelle Gross: president of Communities United Against Police Brutality illegally strip-searched after videotaping inside raid on convergence center, 8/29
Mike Whalen: owner of house at 951 Iglehart , raided with improper warrant
Elliot Hughes: beaten unconscious in jail, 9/1 (video of Hughes’ testimony)
Mick Kelly: shot with rubber bullet from 10 feet on 9/4
Wendy Binion: journalist arrested by riot police on 9/2 (text of civil complaint)
Jason Johnson: tased while held on the ground on 9/2
Glass Bead Collective: filmmakers harassed, equipment seized by Minneapolis Police upon arrival in Minneapolis 8/27
Sheila Regan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.