Police were briefed prior to bike protest

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The trial of University student Augustin Ganley, who allegedly assaulted a police officer during an August Critical Mass bike protest, continued Wednesday with revelations that police were briefed on the presence of anti-Republican National Convention activists and warned to expect trouble.

Minneapolis police Sgt. David Stichter testified he was put in charge of a police task force for Critical Mass about two days before the Aug. 31 ride.

Stichter was briefed by his superior, Lt. Bret Linback, that there could be participants from a group of anti-RNC activists called the RNC-Welcoming Committee. He was also told that the ride could involve “property damage or assaultive behavior,” Stichter testified.

Although the protest was normally accompanied by three officers, the new task force consisted of three uniformed officers in squad cars, three intelligence officers in an unmarked car, two officers from Ramsey County and two officers in a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter, Stichter testified under defense cross-examination.

Stichter testified the formation of the task force was directly related to problems officers encountered during the July Critical Mass ride, which he said involved confrontations between bicyclists and drivers.

Jury selection was completed Tuesday afternoon. Hennepin County Judge Jack Nordby postponed the prosecution’s witnesses until Wednesday.

The second prosecution witness was Minneapolis police officer Richard Lillard, who was involved in three initial confrontations involving a masked bicyclist who repeatedly stopped abruptly in front of squad cars, Lillard said in court.

The situation escalated when a rider was arrested, he said. This led to a confrontation between Ganley and Lillard, where 20 to 30 protesters surrounded the arresting officers and chanted, “Let him go. Let him go,” as Lillard shoved Ganley out of the way, Lillard said.

Lillard interpreted the protesters’ tone and proximity as threatening, though no protesters physically or verbally threatened him, Lillard testified.

Lillard ordered Ganley’s arrest, Lillard said.

Ganley was “playing rabbit,” Lillard said, stepping forward three or four times even though Lillard warned him to leave or face arrest, something which should have – but didn’t – appear in his original incident report, Lillard testified.

The final prosecution witness, Minneapolis police officer Craig Williams, was Ganley’s arresting officer. Responding to a “help call,” he noticed Ganley and Lillard in a confrontation, Williams testified.

Williams grabbed Ganley by his backpack and arm and pushed him away from the scene, Williams testified.

After a confrontation, in which Ganley allegedly swore and punched Williams in the right arm, Williams told Ganley he was under arrest, Williams said. After an initial struggle, in which Williams alleges Ganley tried to flee, Ganley was handcuffed and put in the back of the squad car.

Ganley faces jail time of up to two years and three months in jail.

The defense will offer its witnesses on Friday, and Nordby said the trial may run until Monday.

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