Police presence rattles medical professionals volunteering to help out during RNC.


A training session for doctors, nurses, and other help professionals came to an abrupt halt Saturday when police entered the building. The Northstar Wellness Collective rented space in a church on the 600 block of Jackson St. in St. Paul to aid protesters and others during the Republican National Convention.

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“About the third hour of the training, one of the organizers came in and said the police were there and said we should leave if we didn’t want to have any interaction with them,” said Bharati Acharya, a licensed psychotherapist from Minneapolis. “So we left.”

The group formed to provide support such as first aid, crisis services, counseling and even acupuncture to people requesting help. The training included advice on receiving clients, maintaining confidentiality and dealing with the type of physical or emotional strain they might be seeing during the political event, Acharya said.

“Sometimes things get a little heated (during protests),” she said. “Sometimes some people might have a past trauma that might be triggered.”

About 15 people were in the training session.

“It’s ironic because we had just discussed whether the Wellness Center would be targeted for a police raid,” because of their implicit support for those speaking out against the convention.

“I don’t support illegal activities. I don’t participate in illegal activities,” Acharya said. “As far as I know, there was nothing illegal going on there.”

Acharya said it’s the first time she’s volunteered to work with a group like the Northstar Wellness Collective. “I feel strongly about supporting people” who exercise their civil rights she said. It’s an ethic she inherited from her parents and grandparents who worked to gain India’s independence from British rule.

The group’s web site maintains the collective is “safe from RNC raids,” that saw six people arrested and the seizure of documents and equipment from residences in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Organizers say the center intends to start providing free healthcare for convention protesters and participants alike as planned September 1st.

But Acharya is not sure she’ll be there. “Whether I feel comfortable going back is something I’m still sorting out,” she said.

Art Hughes is a free-lance journalist in Minneapolis. Reach him at arthughes1@comcast.net