Could a roundup of anti-RNC activists be on tap for this weekend in Minneapolis?
Days ahead of the Republican National Convention, members of activist groups are feeling the heat from authorities. A number of high profile police interactions this week are underscored by reports of police visiting activist gathering spots and engaging in intimidating behavior.
It raises the possibility that activists could be detained this weekend and prevented from exercising free speech at the RNC.
Bruce Nestor of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild says, “I am fearful of the 36-hour hold in Minneapolis.”
Nestor is referring to the Minneapolis Police Department policy of holding detainees for up to 36 hours before charging them with a crime. One rumor circulating in activist circles is that Minneapolis cops will sweep up a number of “usual suspects” this weekend. Owing to the fact that the 36-hour policy does not apply on Sundays or holidays (such as Labor Day on this coming Monday), the clock would not start on those holds until next Tuesday morning–meaning that anyone detained late in the day on Friday could be held until midday next Wednesday, when the convention is more than halfway over.
One event this weekend that bears watching is the monthly Critical Mass taking off from Loring Park on Friday evening. The ride will mark the one year anniversary of mass arrests by the Minneapolis Police Department, and of the 19 arrestees not one was convicted, although two did pay minor traffic fines. Because of video by citizen journalists, accounts by police were directly contradicted in court.
Could police nab activists there to prevent them from protesting at the RNC?
“I haven’t heard anything about any organized targeting, but with individual officers, preventive detention is not out of the realm of possibility,” says Nestor.
St. Paul attorney Gena Berglund said that more likely, the police will be engaging in intimidating behavior. “Generally, in the past, police officers target convergence space, spaces where activists tend to gather before big events,” according to Berglund. “The police don’t really do anything but ask a lot of questions and say things like ‘We are watching you and we know you are with this group or that group or you know this person and this person is on our list.’”
And it is already occurring. “We have also seen visiting by police officers of individuals at their homes and businesses in an attempt to intimidate,” said Berglund.
Police searched the apartment of one protester after appearing with a warrant — though all they took was a map of St. Paul) . The Glass Bead Collective visited the RNC convergence space to film for their documentary just hours before their cameras were confiscated by police. While they were there, police showed up to ask questions at the convergence space and “look around.” When Glass Bead members turned on their cameras, the police quickly left.
“Whether there will be actual arrests [this weekend], I don’t know,” she said. “But it wouldn’t be inconsistent with what police have done in the past.”