Twin Cities officials respond to RNC tension


Various Twin Cities elected officials have responded to the raids leading up to the RNC, as well as the protests and police actions throughout the convention. In a written statement Minneapolis City Council members Cam Gordon and Elizabeth Glidden urge the use of nonviolent practices to resolve RNC related tension; Representative Keith Ellison speaks with journalist Amy Goodman about the treatment of journalists by Minneapolis and Ramsey County Police officers; and St. Paul Council member Dave Thune reacts to the Ramsey County Sheriff raids in St. Paul the weekend preceding the RNC.

Cam Gordon and Elizabeth Glidden, Minneapolis City Council Members

Statement on Recent Law Enforcement Actions Targeting Protest Organizers

On Friday August 29th, a large, peaceful Critical Mass bike ride occurred in Minneapolis where protesters, passersby and police conducted themselves in a civil and respectful way – a hopeful beginning to the Republican National Convention and related protest events, marches, and citizen journalism.

On Friday evening and Saturday morning, homes in Minneapolis and a place of assembly in St Paul were raided by law enforcement; residents were detained and property seized. These actions were initiated, to our knowledge, by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. Although we do not have the information available to law enforcement, we are concerned that the level of force used during these raids does not appear to match the alleged threat posed. The seizure of the Earth Activist Training Permaculture Demonstration Bus (Permibus), young activists pulled over in their van at Lake and 11th Ave and detained by law enforcement with weapons drawn, and other reported events are actions that appear excessive and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for those who wish to exercise their first amendment rights.

During the challenging days ahead we urge a focus on creating a secure atmosphere of nonviolence that will allow and encourage people to participate in political speech. While violence and property damage by protesters or others should not be tolerated, neither should there be a chilling effect on free speech. We have been contacted by many who are concerned that their home or meeting place may be at risk because they are on an email list, attended a workshop or meeting, or helped feed and house out-of-town activists. We thank our Minneapolis police and others for their hard work to prepare for this momentous event and know – as evidenced by the Critical Mass ride this past Friday – that they are well able to keep the peace and respect first amendment rights of nonviolent protesters.

Let’s send the right message – with a focus on maintaining order and peace while creating a safe space for free speech and political expression. We encourage all residents and visitors to feel safe and welcome to express themselves and hope that everyone will show up on Labor Day at the State Capital to make their voices heard.

Cam Gordon
Minneapolis City Council Member, Second Ward
612 296-0579

Elizabeth Glidden
Minneapolis City Council Member, Eighth Ward
612 673-2208

Representative Keith Ellison

On September 2nd, Representative Keith Ellison spoke with Amy Goodman on her radio show, Democracy Now

Amy Goodman: It was Minneapolis police, by the way, who arrested us, even though we’re here in St. Paul. Why is that?

Rep. Keith Ellison: Well, because they brought in probably a number of jurisdictions to help their complement of officers who would try to do policing activity here for the RNC. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they have other jurisdictions besides Minneapolis. Might have a number of suburban districts and maybe even some from further away than that.

Amy Goodman: And, of course, National Guard.

Rep. Keith Ellison: Yeah, no doubt about that. Secret Service.

Amy Goodman: And is there a fusion center here in the Twin Cities?

Rep. Keith Ellison: You mean, a coordinating center? Yeah, I’m quite certain there is. I can’t give you details on that, because, quite frankly, I thought that it was going to be a relatively routine situation. But when you see some of the footage that I saw, it was anything but routine. It looked quite extraordinary, to tell you the truth.

And when you hear about journalists getting arrested, it’s very disturbing. I mean, the news gatherers — how can the people know, if they don’t have news gatherers to gather the news and show them? But when those folks are being intimidated and even roughed up, it’s pretty — it actually is a threat to democracy and the First Amendment.

Amy Goodman: Right, we don’t know if the Associated Press photographers have gotten out, if the Pepper spray videographers have gotten out. Even the New York Post guy, we don’t know what happened to him at this moment. And, of course, there are many, many people who are on the streets who get rounded up just by virtue of being there. When they move in with such a fast pincer move from all corners and surround a block — this was basically a parking lot — there is nowhere to go.

Rep. Keith Ellison: Right. There’s nowhere to go. And, of course, they know that, as well. It’s not like they haven’t mapped out the whole area and don’t know exactly what forces are moving in which directions. They do know. And, of course, it’s pretty clear that Nicole and Sharif were making their status as press widely known, and it was easy to hear it; you know, clearly on the tape, it was easy to hear. So that’s pretty disturbing to me, and I’m actually pretty upset about it.

Amy Goodman: So you weighed in last night as they were in jail. You called the police commissioner.

Rep. Keith Ellison: I called and let them — just provided the information. You know, this is who you have. This is the deal, stuff like that. So, you know, I just think it’s important to make sure that when journalists are trying to do their work, that they are allowed to do it.

Amy Goodman: This is only the second day, and, in fact, the Republican convention was not in even full gear because of Hurricane Gustav yesterday, though the protests in the streets were. You’ve got a number more days. What is the plan for the city?

Rep. Keith Ellison: Well, you know, that’s what I’m trying to find out right now. I mean, before, quite frankly, I was perfectly content to allow the police to do the work they were doing, and I’m just going to go do the work I do. But now, I do have a new — an urgent curiosity to find out what the plan is. When are massive uses of force going to be deployed? What circumstances will trigger them? Have we looked — have we recognized the fact that we can actually cause more trouble than what would otherwise happen, when we bring forth this massive use of force as we saw on the tape? And so, I’m concerned about it. I think overreaction is as bad as under-reaction, and what I saw on that tape was pretty disturbing.

Dave Thune, St. Paul City Council Member

St. Paul city council member Dave Thune observed the raid on the Convergence Center at 627 Smith Avenue, which is in the district he represents. He pointed out irregularities in the seizure and boarding up of the building, noting that the city inspector who was on 24/7 call had not been called by police.

“This is not the way we do things in St. Paul,” Thune said. “I don’t want the city to get sucked into something the sheriff’s office is concocting. The timing is very suspicious.”

On Saturday morning, Thune told the Star Tribune: “”This is not the way to start things off. … This is sending the wrong message. Regardless of how you feel about these people…they had a right to be there.”