“Gitmo on the Platte” is drawing a lot of unwanted attention to Denver. Last week the local CBS affiliate revealed that authorities secretly converted a warehouse into a temporary jail to hold arrestees during the Democratic National Convention. The station aired footage of the structure complete with barbed-wire-topped fences and signs that read “Warning! Electric stun devices used in this facility.” Protesters have been staging demonstrations at the site in the run up to next week’s Democratic National Convention.
Which raises an obvious question: Does St. Paul have any such facilities being kept under wraps? The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, which will be in charge of detentions, isn’t answering questions on the topic. But as best can be determined, the answer is no.
Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who has been closely tracking RNC security preparations, says he’s aware of no plans to utilize temporary holding facilities. Instead arrestees will simply be housed at the existing Ramsey County Jail. “As far as I know Ramsey County has not built additional detention facilities,” Samuelson says.
Even so the ACLU leader is concerned about arrests on the eve of the convention. He notes that if potential troublemakers are rounded up on Friday afternoon, they can be held until Wednesday before a bail hearing must be held. “It’s a tactic that’s been used by other cities,” he notes.
Samuelson also continues to worry about the parade route planned for what’s expected to be the largest protest of the RNC on the opening day. Organizers expect 50,000 to 60,000 protesters to show up in St. Paul, but an expert consulted by the ACLU determined that the route could only accommodate about half as many people at its narrowest point. “We’re concerned that it’s going to be a huge problem,” says Samuelson. “We’re worried about a South American soccer-riot-type situation.”