What is going on in St. Paul?

I have not heard a damn thing on NPR about protesters being arrested or gassed–and I listen to NPR a lot. From what I’ve been reading, I don’t like the looks of it.

Legal observers expect the prisoners facing the least serious charges will see the judge first. Protesters arrested for misdemeanors can only be held for 36 hours without charge, whereas those charged with felonies can be held for up to 72 hours before they see a judge.

Today, the hearings are effectively closed to the public, according to Berglund. These proceedings are usually public, but the authorities are only letting attorneys into the building at this point.

Why are these hearings held behind closed doors? What evidence to the republicans have in regard to Rioting? Why is this evidence secret? There were protests in Denver–Anti-War, Pro Hillary Clinton–but from what I have read, they were not treated nearly this bad.

This is how the Republicans handle dissent? Arrest and Tear-Gas? This is certainly a story worth following.

Update I: Glenn Greenwald has been following and blogging this story. He also notes troubling response to the Denver convention.

For those too lazy to click, there are pictures of FBI agents with the St. Paul police, and records of “inside informants on vegan groups” who were planning protests.

32 thoughts on “What is going on in St. Paul?

  1. The Republicans have nothing to do with it. The police force, mayor, and city are taking care of it. Maybe St. Paul handles rioters who throw urine bottles and start fires differently then in Denver. And being that I am a resident of St. Paul, I harbor no ill will toward these vandals.

  2. AlCamadus, you forgot the national guard.

    This does not explain why Amy Goodman was arrested. This does not explain why the hearings–which are usually public hearings–are now closed. As a resident, can you answer those questions?

  3. I’m working on links now, but so far, there’s already been reports yesterday of Connecticut delegates being pushed, shoved, and doused with bleach. Also, buses containing other delegates (Alabama in the story I heard) were attacked from an overpass by anarchists dropping bags of sand and cement, trying to hit them in the windshield. There were isolated groups of anarchists smashing up cop cars and storefront windows, the usual Black Bloc bullshit.

    Information on Monday’s arrests: http://www.startribune.com/politics/27736044.html?elr=KArks7PYDiaK7DUoaK7D_V_eDc87DUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU

    More here: http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/09/03/group_promises_further_disruptions/

  4. Oh, and the difference between St. Paul and Denver? The protestors in Denver weren’t smashing windows and ripping the credentials off the necks of delegates. Sure sounds like rioting to me.

    This isn’t “how the Republicans handle dissent.” This is how a city police force handles property damage, vandalism, small-scale rioting, and failure to comply with orders to disperse. At the same time, a peaceful anti-war march was allowed to continue with no problems whatsoever and no “handling of dissent.”

    For a humorous look at the masked crowd, try: http://www.slate.com/id/2199060/

  5. Oh, and I am all for arresting assholes that think political dissent gives them license to vandalize shit.
    But Amy Goodman? Tear gasing groups with plenty of children? Spraying photographers who were clearly showing press IDs? Not to mention the raids I already brought up.

  6. There are Protests and there are Riots, right ways to handle things and wrong ways. Causing damage and destruction is not the right way to protest, it only plays into the hands of who you’re protesting against.

    Now are protesters getting arrested? or Rioters? Or Both? I wouldn’t be surprised if a protester was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    I am not a fan of the ‘protest zones’ and feel people should be able to protest where they will be seen by those they are protesting against.

    Block traffic to get a point across – ok, as long as you move to let traffic flow again – especially when asked cause your protest is moving from sending a message to causing a disturbance.

  7. NGOs? I’m lost. I thought an NGO was a “non-government organization” that the UN worked through to provide aid, I’ve never heard the term used in terms of protest. I’ve only ever heard it used to describe UNICEF and WHO and the like.

    If that’s how you mean it, do you mean things like raids on the “RNC Welcoming Committee”…the group that was talking about “kidnapping delegates, blockading bridges, using liquid sprayers filled with urine or chemicals on police and throwing marbles to trip police and their horses”? See http://www.twincities.com/ci_10365754

  8. Torteya, do you have any links with information on the raids on the NGOs.

    Everything I have seen shows that the reporters were probably in the wrong place at the wrong time and got swept up. One of them has already been released, I am sure that the others will be soon.

    As for barring the media, well I can see the reason for that. Let’s not give these disruptive jerks publicity.

  9. Point taken: Significantly different protests in Denver. That being said, even asshole vandals get due process. This means fair and open hearings.

    However, over at Salon, another picture is emerging. Raids for consipiracy to Riot against a group called “food not bombs?” How is that not fishy?

  10. Itanya: I linked the article about the NGOs. To your point about barring the media, it is a constitutional right to a fair and free hearing. The jerks get a fair day in court. We can’t bar them because we don’t like what they have to say.

    Lewis: To my knowledge, any agency not affiliated with a government and provides service is an NGO.

  11. That second raid, I’m not sure about. The first one Greenwald mentions is the same group I linked above, the “RNC Welcoming Committee,” which was apparently planning violent protest. If they do have something on “Food not Bombs” I’d be interested to see what it is…doesn’t sound like the most threatening group ever. (And in all honesty? I take Greenwald writings with a grain of salt.)

    This could spin me off into my libertarian rant about just how much bullshit the majority of no-knock ninja SWAT team raids are anyway. But that’s for another time.

    As for the hearings…it’s probably because if they opened the doors, the anarchists’ buddies would show up and then they’d trash the courthouse and make a spectacle. Provided that everything is done by the book and the arrestees have legal counsel (which it sounds like they do, the NLG works their asses off at these things), sounds OK by me.

  12. But we can bar the media if we feel that it would deny the litigants a chance for a fair trial. it has been done before.

    Barring the media from the court house doesn’t necessarily mean that it is some dark republican conspiracy.

    I dislike seeing that conclusion jumped too.

  13. Gah,

    You can’t assume that the reporters were arrested to keep things from being reported.

    If they were interviewing the protesters and there happened to be some of the vandals nearby it is not that hard to understand why the police would arrest anyone around.

    Sheesh, take a breath.

    I feel like I’m standing in the middle of war zone with both sides going off the damn deep end.

  14. Alright, I’m not sure if NGO is the correct legal term, sorry about the confusion.

    I was referring to organizations such as Food not Bombs. There’s big ones (Amnesty International), there’s small ones and they’re about all sorts of issues. I’m used to referring to them as NGOs.

    Just to clarify my earlier comment.

  15. Its been done before and its being done in other places in our jurisdiction. This does not mean it is right.

    I’m not saying this is a “dark republican conspiracy.” I am suggesting that they way the republicans are handling dissent–not vandalism, but dissent–at their convention is over-reaching and inappropriate.

    Using the FBI to spy on domestic groups planning to be vandals? That is overreaching—well it was overreaching until the Patriot Act.

    Given the current climate regarding hearings, due process and evidence, these trials need to be held in the open, including arraignments.

    As for Disrupting the proceedings, that’s what baliffs, sheriffs, metal detectors and searches are for. Furthermore, the burden of proof still lies on the prosecution to suggest that the crowd will be disruptive while in court. Granted, that would not be difficult to prove for some of the protesters–but certainly not all of them.

  16. Honestly, I think the regulars here–you, me, Torteya, Lewis–are discussing and figuring out the facts. We’re in the shallow end of the pool, and being polite and civil. We may see things from different sides, but we are taking these perspectives into account as we comment.

    For instance, we all agree that the vandals need to be held accountable for being violent. I think we also all agree that if the local, state and federal police actions were beyond the pale, they should be held to account.

    It is out perspectives that can get us in trouble, but we are doing what we can to keep those perspectives in check.

  17. It appears I totally missread IB’s point about the media (she was talking about the courthouse stuff, I was talking about photographers getting sprayed in the face). Apologies for the confusion!

  18. Fuck civility imo.

    I am calling IB all kinds of mean, sexist, chauvinist, insulting crap in a chat. It helps keep the thinking juices flowing. That’s what my gut tells me.

    (Please don’t set me on fire)

  19. Marty, you haven’t shown me how “the Republicans” are handling dissent inappropriately. Ten to fifteen thousand people marched peacefully in the anti-war march that spun off some of the rioting, and had no problems. The “free speech zones” and similar stuff in St. Paul are no different from what the DNC set up in Denver, or both parties set up in 2004. And given what we’ve seen at political gatherings the past eight years, is allowing these protestors more open access to the delegates even safe? Ask the CT delegation that got assaulted by some of the thugs amongst the demonstrators.

    If there’s a problem in the way these raids are being conducted, then it’s the responsibility of the controlling police agencies (in the Food not Bombs case, seems to be the St. Paul PD and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department). Maybe they are going overboard, and if they are, they need to be reined in and things need to be investigated. But at this point I just don’t see where there’s some “Republican” crushing of dissent in St. Paul.

  20. Just read your update…”inside informants in vegan groups?” What, are we gonna see the Veggie Tales guys on the barricades in St. Paul? Some big animated cucumber wearing a black mask smashing a store window and screaming “POWER TO THE RUTABAGAS!”?

  21. I’m going to side with Lewis here. It’s tying the Republicans in with the actions of the Police and the FBI that I find a little overreaching.

    Considering I live in a protest hub, I think it is more likely that someone in local governemtn wanted a “quiet and safe” convention and went too far than the GOP wielding the nightstick.

  22. Lewis and Itanya:

    Work with me on this, as I’m stuck with a comment box for now:

    The RNC, McCain and the Bush Administration are partners in planning and running the convention, including the security. $50 million of tax payer money has been put into this. They are calling the shots on security, with the ST Paul Police being the local agency in charge.

    If there has been overreaching–and to be clear, spying on dissenters as discussed in Greenwald’s piece is in my opinion overreaching to say the least–then they need to be held accountable for the actions of their branches.

    The heavily partisan DoJ has blacklisted the budget. “Since the publicly released version of the budget totals $50 million on the button, the concealment of certain budget items was likely accomplished by re-labeling certain lines or by deleting lines and rolling the associated costs into other lines. In any event, what this means is that aspects of how the $50 million in taxpayer funding for convention security will be spent remain entirely opaque. It’s pointless to speculate on how large a share of the total budget is going to non-disclosed purposes, but the handful of items I expressly asked about total $4.75 million, or nearly 10 percent of the whole.”

    This is despite the fact that the chief of the St. Paul, Chief John M. Harrington
    , says it will be open and fair:

    “Chief John M. Harrington

    It is indeed a challenge to provide for public safety for an event that has international interest. As we move forward in our planning for the 2008 RNC, I am confident that we have made good progress. This confidence is based on our history of maintaining strong community support by maintaining transparency and openness. Additionally, the professionals who make up the Saint Paul Police Department help make this task manageable with the help of our community partners. ”

    The big dark republican secret was redacted by the DoJ, and again, given the reports of the FBI in the field, they are the ones calling the shots. Keeping the budget secret and having informants in the homes of dissenters. This is how they handled the dissent: They spied on people planning peaceful protests (innocent before convicted guilty, remember?) and then say, “no press at the hearing.”

    We have video evidence, but none of the police sworn statements yet–and we won’t get them until they are released. Remember, we can’t sit in open court and hear them being read into the record (which is common in my neck of the woods) because we are not allowed into court.

    So to recap: Republicans in charge of the security, spy on dissenters, lock them up and make a public hearing closed. This is how they handled the dissenters, and thus far, they have handled it poorly.

  23. Itanya –

    I believe the I-Witness blog was referring to the 2004 RNC Convention in New York…

    “This was a clear effort to intimidate and undermine the work of I-Witness Video–a group that was remarkably successful in exposing police misconduct and outright perjury by police during the 2004 RNC. Out of 1800 arrests made that week, at least 400 were overturned based solely on video evidence which contradicted sworn statements by police officers.”

Leave a Reply