RNC settlements rolling in

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The settlements involving activists protesting the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 2008 keep coming in. We reported May 26 about a trio of activists receiving $50,000 in a negotiated settlement of a case stemming from the warrantless raid on their home. This week, Mick Kelly, who was shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet on the fourth day of the RNC, settled for an undisclosed amount. Kelly stated that a portion of the settlement will go toward his legal fees, and $5,000 will be donated to the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.  Also this week, the American Civil Liberties Union’s case against the Ramsey County on behalf of six activists whose First Amendment-protected materials were seized from the RNC Welcoming Committee’s Convergence Space and three homes in raids ordered by former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher settled for $27,000 to be paid to the plaintiffs. 

Mick Kelly has been in the news recently because his home was raided on September 24 and he recently discovered that the FBI accidentally left telling documents in his apartment. After this fall’s raids, he was subpoenaed to testify before a Chicago grand jury, but refused to testify. 

On June 1, Kelly received a settlement as a result of a lawsuit filed because he was shot in the stomach while protesting the RNC. 

“The settlement represents a partial victory,” Kelly said.  “What we were trying to do is push back.  What happened to me was wrong.”

Kelly had hoped to delay the settlement of the case in order to subpoena Karen Sullivan, the undercover FBI agent who Kelly hoped could “shed some light about people being targeted by the FBI.” Sullivan had been attending meetings about the RNC protests and was present the day Kelly was shot.  The judge in the case ruled against subpoenaing her. 

Kelly said the amount of the settlement was confidential.  His lawyer, Ted Dooley, will get a portion of the settlement.  “I’m fine with that,” Kelly said.  “He deserves every penny.”

Kelly did say $5,000 of the settlement will go to the committee to Stop FBI Repression, of which Kelly is a member.

Kelly said that, unfortunately, things have been escalating for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.  Activist Carlos Montes, who was named in the search warrant for the September 24, 2010 raid, recently had his home in Los Angeles raided and was asked questions about the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

While Kelly has a lot on his plate (he also edits Fight Back News and works as a cook at the University of Minnesota), he believes this week’s settlement illuminates the injustice that occurred when “people came out to speak for peace and justice.” 

Just a couple of days after Kelly’s settlement was announced, the ACLU announced that six activists it was representing received $27,000 in a case that involved the First and Fourth Amendments.  The plaintiffs include Nathan Clough, Andrew Fahlstrom, Vincent Collora, Scott Demuth, Celia Kutz and Alexander Lundberg.

ACLU’s Teresa Nelson said the case came about after the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office “boxed up any scrap of paper they could find” at the RNC Welcoming Committee’s Convergence space and at the three activists’ homes.  Some of the materials that had been available at the Convergence space included “The Struggle is Our Inheritance: A History of Radical Minnesota,” “Anarchy: A Pamphlet,” “a guide to 2008 antiRNC organizing,” and “Need to Know Basics: Coldsnap Legal Collective’s Minnesota Legal Primer for the RNC.”

The sheriff’s office also took books and personal papers from activist Scott Demuth, and then used entries in his journal to deduce that he was connected to animal rights activist Peter Young.  DeMuth was later subpoenaed and charged with the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a charge which was dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to reduced charges. 

Nelson said ACLU’s case was based on the First and Fourth Amendment.  “The seizure violated the Fourth Amendment,” Nelson said.  “When you seize materials, the law requires them to be reasonable and pursuant to a warrant.  When you’re talking about First Amendment materials, the law calls for scrupulous exactitude.  You can’t take more literature than is necessary.”  ACLU argued that the sheriff’s office took the materials in order that they not be distributed during the convention, she said.

Two years after the raid, the materials still have not been returned.  The settlement stipulates they must be given back within 45 days. 

Nelson said the ACLU is troubled by the trend in the last 10-15 years of pre-convention raids on activists.  She hopes the settlement will be a cautionary tale for law enforcement officers in the future.  “We want them to recognize they can’t just go in and seize literature they don’t want on the streets.”

Plaintiff Andrew Fahlstrom said that it was great that Ramsey County Sheriff’s office “has to pay up to one small piece of their responsibility during the RNC.”  Though in the grand scheme the amount is small, he said, “I’m happy that in this one case they had to pay.” 

Fahlstrom was a member of the RNC Welcoming Committee, but wasn’t one of the eight arrested members who were initially charged with terrorism before the charges were dropped.  “Bob Fletcher saw specific people as having different roles.  He arrested the ones he was the most afraid of.” 

Today, Fahlstrom is busy being a father, and living in a house that he collectively bought with a group of people.  “I guess I’m a little jaded,” he said.  Still, he’s happy that the group will be able to do some good with the money by donating it locally.  $10,000 of the money will go to the ACLU, he said, and $15,000 will go to the six plaintiffs, who plan on donating to social justice causes. 

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