“Weapons and devices?” Conflicting accounts from sheriff, lawyers


A look over the inventory receipt for the raid at 3240 17th Avenue (hat tip TC Indy Media) reveals that the most of the items the police seized out of the the home as “evidence” are things that could bet could be found in nearly any home: a pack of staples, laptop computers, bike locks, cell phones, a storage device, a computer hard drive, curtain rods, a checkbook.

For a complete list of articles on the RNC, go to our RNC 2008 page.

Police searches turn up weapons and devices to disrupt traffic
by Anna Pratt, Minnesota Independent

Between the four property searches conducted by authorities in prep for the RNC in Minneapolis and St. Paul this morning and last night, some members of the anarchist group called the RNC Welcoming Committee were found to be in possession of weapons and other devices that are used to disable buses, and five people have been arrested, the PiPress reports.

Here’s a rundown of the items seized by police during the searches, according to a prepared statement that is referenced by the PiPress:

* materials to create “sleeping dragons” (PVC pipe, chicken wire, duct tape) to bind people together
* large amounts of urine, including three to five gallon buckets of urine
* wrist rockets
* a machete, hatchet and several throwing knives
* a gas mask and filter
* empty glass bottles
* rags
* flammable liquids
* homemade caltrops (devises used to disable buses in roads)
* metal pipes
* axes
* bolt cutters
* sledge hammers
* repelling equipment
* Kryptonite locks
* empty plastic buckets cut and made into shields
* material for protective padding
* an Army helmet

The police also took what they call “propaganda literature,” like leaflets and other information material. The only questionable items found at the home was a rifle barrel, throwing knives, and caltrops. Yet Alex, who lives at the home, says police claims that these items were evidence of conspiracy to riot is ridiculous.

“It was a rifle barrel that was in a hutch on the stairwell landing. It was really old and rusty, and it was here since we moved in. If you shot anything out of it, you would probably kill yourself. Plus, the rest of the gun is missing! What could anyone do with that thing?”

Alex says the raid and gathering of gear like computers and digital cameras was part of a larger mission by Ramsey County and the Minneapolis Police Department to sqaush protests at the RNC. “These are all amazingly kind people who are just trying to fight something unjust,” he says. “What of these things is evidence to incite a riot? It’s absurd.”

As for the throwing knives, homeowner Monica Bickling’s attorney says they are legal, and that no one had any intention of using them against anyone. “I can guarantee you no one was planning on using throwing knives at the demonstration. No one thinks that is a way to create attention for the issues. This is a political protest, and the issues at hand are most important. I challenge [Ramsey County Sheriff] Bob Fletcher to show me one instance in the last 20 years where anyone has used throwing knives at a demonstration. It’s ridiculous.”

The 37 caltrops found in the garage of the home, tiny nail-like devices used to stop traffic or puncture wheels, are also not evidence or conspiracy to commit a riot, Nestor says. For one thing, there were only 37 of them, hardly enough to stop much. “Did they have some devices to try to block traffic? Maybe so,” Nestor assert. “But does that mean they should be arrested on conspiracy charges? Not at all. This was intended to halt the protests.”

Twenty-three-year-old homeowner Bickling remains in Hennepin County jail on charges of conspiracy to riot. No formal charges have been made, and Nestor says the police are holding her and others as a means to impede RNC peaceful protests scheduled for Monday using intimidation tactics and incite fear in others by calling those arrested “criminal anarchists.”

“The timing of this is another example of motivation behind the raid,” Nestor says. “This has been an ongoing investigation,” he says. “If they have evidence of a criminal act then they should charge them, not hold them for 36 hours, which for in this case is four and half days.” The MPD can hold suspects for up to 36 hours before charging them with a crime, but the 36-hour hold does not include weekends and holidays. That means Bickling could remain in jail without any formal charges filed until Wednesday afternoon.

At least one person, the neighbor of Bickling, a longtime Powderhorn resident who says the tenants are good kids who care about issues, isn’t intimidated by the sweeps. She created a homemade sign this evening for any officers driving by. Using a marker and paper, she placed it over her Barack Obama yard sign: “We are NOT intimidated,” it reads.

National Lawyers Guild dondemns fabrications of Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher and preventative detention arrests
National Lawyers Guild Press Release

The Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild condemns the coordinated raids carried out by Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher against citizens planning to engage in demonstrations at the Republican National Convention.

The primary prop used by Sheriff Fletcher in his afternoon press conference, where he displayed items seized in three early morning raids conducted in south Minneapolis, were three buckets of alleged urine. As shown by inventory sheets left by law enforcement, these buckets were seized at 2301 23rd Avenue South in Minneapolis, MN. Two buckets contain grey water and were being used to flush toilets, to conserve water, in the upstairs bathroom. Both were identified in the inventory as “unidentified liquid.” The third bucket, as shown by inventory sheets, was seized from illegal apartment over a garage in the rear. This apartment has been occupied for several years by a person unconnected to the house occupants or the RNC. No bathroom was in the illegal apartment and urine was collected in a bucket. This was listed as “unidentified yellow liquid” in the inventory sheets.

Bruce Nestor, chapter President of the Minnesota National Lawyers Guild, was present at both locations during the execution of the search warrants. “Police seized political literature, cellphones, computers, cameras, personal diaries, and many common household items such as paint, rope, and roofing nails. These items are present in almost any home in south Minneapolis and are not evidence of a crime,” said Nestor. “Seizing boxes of political literature shows the motive of these raids was political. Sheriff Fletcher has staged a publicity stunt, violated constitutional rights, and misrepresented what was seized during the raids,” he said. Another raid was carried out the evening before on a political meeting hall in St. Paul. Inventory sheets for that raid show that no contraband items were taken. Literature, computers, maps of St. Paul, and banners were the vast majority of the items seized.

In addition, during the raids, four persons were arrested without arrest warrants or formal charges. They are being held on probable cause holds for “Conspiracy to Commit Riot,” which will allow their detention until Wednesday, September 3, 2008, at noon. Two other persons were also arrested without warrants, off the streets of Minneapolis, one after she addressed a mass rally of over 200 people at Powderhorn Park. “Conspiracy to commit riot was the charge used against the Chicago 8 after the police riots in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention,” said Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director the National Lawyers Guild. “Guild attorneys defended those charged in 1968 and we will do so again now.”