On Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner’s birthday Tuesday evening, she held her first fundraiser for her 2010 gubernatorial bid.
Outside, the RNC 8 — a group prosecuted by Gaertner’s office for conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism — and the Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure, formed in response to mass protester arrests at the Republican National Convention. They sang, danced and spoke against Gaertner’s campaign.
A police presence grew to more than 20 as the crowd of protesters swelled to about 100. Police twice threatened to arrest the protesters for unlawful assembly if they didn’t clear sidewalks, but the crowd stayed mobile.
Eventually, tensions between the crowd and police dissipated, though police stayed stationed at the building’s entrance. No one was arrested.
Before the dance party, five members of the RNC 8 held a news conference to endorse Gaertner for governor, saying they “could think of no better birthday present for [their] favorite prosecutor and politician.”
They also unfurled a large check — a 2-foot-by-6-foot banner — made out to Gaertner’s campaign for “Eight [dollars] and no sense.”
Many times over, protesters wished the DFLer a happy birthday using a megaphone.
But from outside the Minneapolis Club downtown, the protesters’ message was clear: drop the never-before-used felony charges against the RNC 8.
They say Gaertner sanctioned the trumped-up conspiracy charges for the eight protesters for political reasons, to bolster her resume amid a gubernatorial bid.
But it’s a more effective political move for the RNC 8 than it would be for Gaertner, University of Minnesota-Morris political science professor Paula O’Loughlin said.
“I don’t think it would benefit her politically to be pursuing the RNC 8 for political reasons,” O’Loughlin said. “Members of the Minnesota public, at least as it was shown in the press, seemed to be fairly sympathetic to the protesters.”
Plus, it’s still early in the 2010 governor’s race, she said.
“The battle for governor has just begun and that situation is so fluid,” O’Loughlin said. “There’s so many other factors involved at the point.”
Gaertner did not comment for this story, but Phil Carruthers, director of the prosecution division of the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office , said charges against the RNC 8 are valid.
“A judge signed the complaint so it means the judge found that there was probable cause, so there’s a legal basis to charge the cases the way they were charged,” he said. “As to how it will turn out, we’ll just have to see.”
And whether or not rallies put pressure on prosecutors, protesters are committed to making their case — and likely benefitting from it.
“What the RNC 8 is getting out of this is they’re getting attention to their cause,” O’Loughlin said. “Otherwise they were fading into the woodwork.”
That’s something they don’t plan to do.
As Tuesday night’s rally drew to a close, RNC 8 member Rob Czernik sang “Happy Birthday” to Gaertner from outside her party, and pledged to hold similar events at the candidate’s future campaign functions.
It’s an effort to keep attention focused on the case, and ultimately get charges wiped away,
RNC 8 member and University of Minnesota student Max Specktor said.
“I know that if we keep fighting these charges,” he said, “they should get dropped.”