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Thread: Massive Police Raids On Suspected Protestors In Minneapolis - Video Inside

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Massive Police Raids On Suspected Protestors In Minneapolis - Video Inside

    Massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis

    Saturday Aug. 30, 2008 12:44 EDT

    [updated below (with video) - Update II - Update III - Update IV]

    Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

    Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly. Posted below is the video of the scene, including various interviews, which convey a very clear sense of what is actually going on here.

    In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as "Do you have Terminator ready?" as they lay on the floor in handcuffs. The 10 or so individuals in the house all said that though they found the experience very jarring, they still intended to protest against the GOP Convention, and several said that being subjected to raids of that sort made them more emboldened than ever to do so.

    Several of those who were arrested are being represented by Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild. Nestor said that last night's raid involved a meeting of a group calling itself the "RNC Welcoming Committee", and that this morning's raids appeared to target members of "Food Not Bombs," which he described as an anti-war, anti-authoritarian protest group. There was not a single act of violence or illegality that has taken place, Nestor said. Instead, the raids were purely anticipatory in nature, and clearly designed to frighten people contemplating taking part in any unauthorized protests.

    Nestor indicated that only 2 or 3 of the 50 individuals who were handcuffed this morning at the 2 houses were actually arrested and charged with a crime, and the crime they were charged with is "conspiracy to commit riot." Nestor, who has practiced law in Minnesota for many years, said that he had never before heard of that statute being used for anything, and that its parameters are so self-evidently vague, designed to allow pre-emeptive arrests of those who are peacefully protesting, that it is almost certainly unconstitutional, though because it had never been invoked (until now), its constitutionality had not been tested.

    There is clearly an intent on the part of law enforcement authorities here to engage in extreme and highly intimidating raids against those who are planning to protest the Convention. The DNC in Denver was the site of several quite ugly incidents where law enforcement acted on behalf of Democratic Party officials and the corporate elite that funded the Convention to keep the media and protesters from doing anything remotely off-script. But the massive and plainly excessive preemptive police raids in Minnesota are of a different order altogether. Targeting people with automatic-weapons-carrying SWAT teams and mass raids in their homes, who are suspected of nothing more than planning dissident political protests at a political convention and who have engaged in no illegal activity whatsoever, is about as redolent of the worst tactics of a police state as can be imagined.

    UPDATE: Here is the first of the videos, from the house that had just been raided:

    Click Here (GooTube)

    Jane Hamsher has more here, and The Minnesota Independent has a report on another one of the raided houses, here.

    UPDATE II: Here is the video we took from the second house as the raid was occurring. We were barred from entering but spoke with neighbors outside as well as with Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota Lawyer's Guild, regarding these raids:

    Click Here (GooTube)

    Over at FDL, Lindsay Beyerstein spoke with the property owner whose house -- the fourth one we now know of -- was being raided while the raid was in progress, and Lindsay has details here ("About an hour and a half ago 20 to 30 heavily armed police officers surrounded the house. One of my roommates said 'I want to see a warrant' and she was immediately detained"). Meanwhile, Indy Media of Twin Cities -- an association of independent journalists in the area -- just told me that several of their journalists have been detained while trying to cover these raids. Their site, with ongoing updates, is here.

    The Uptake also has several reports of the various raids, including video of the raid at the property whose owner Bernstein spoke with as the raid occurred. That video includes an interview with a lawyer from the National Lawyer's Guild who was detained and put in handcufffs, explaining that the surrounded house is one where various journalists are staying. Additionally, a photojournalist with Democracy Now was detained at that house as well. So, both journalists and lawyers -- in addition to protesters -- have been detained and arrested even though not a single violent or criminal act has occurred.

    UPDATE III: FDL has the transcript of part of my discussion about these raids with the National Lawyer Guild's Minnesota President -- here.

    The Uptake has this amazing video interview with the Democracy Now producer who was detained today. As the DN producer explains, she was present at a meeting of a group called "I-Witness" -- which videotaped police behavior at the 2004 GOP Convention in New York and helped get charges dismissed against hundreds of protesters who were arrested. The police surrounded the St. Paul house where they were meeting even though they had no warrant, told them that anyone who exited the house would be arrested, and then -- even though they finally, after several hours, obtained a warrant only for the house next door -- basically broke into the house, pointed weapons at everyone inside, handcuffed them, searched the house, and then left. Here is a blog post from one of the members of I-Witness asking for help during the time when they were forced to stay inside the house (see the second post -- it reads like a note from a hostage crying out for help). This is truly repugnant, extreme police behavior designed to intimidate protesters, police critics and others, and it ought to infuriate anyone and everyone who cares about basic liberties.

    UPDATE IV: More here, including on the Federal Government's role in these raids.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  3. #3
    krsjuan87 Guest
    City inspectors board up raided home for “code violations”
    By Molly Priesmeyer 8/30/08 1:18 PM
    (UPDATE at 2:40 p.m.: City requires tenants to fix back door kicked in by police by 6 p.m. today or they will continue with boarding process.) After the police raid this morning at 3240 17th Avenue in South Minneapolis, in which the homeowner, 23-year-old Monica Bicking, and two other people were arrested for “conspiracy to riot,” city inspectors came in at about 11:30 to board up the two-story home. City officials, including Tom Deegan, manager of the city’s problem properties unit, were on hand along with Casterjon, the private contractor in charge with boarding, to close up the home for what Deegan calls “code violations.”

    Bicking’s lawyer, Bruce Nestor, asked for more specific reasons for the boarding and attempted to halt the boarding process until he got them, but he was thwarted by officials and police. Deegan says he will release specific reasons for the boarding to the Joint Information Center (a partnership with MPD and SPPD) later today.

    Alex, who only wants to go by his first name, was at the house during the raid. He moved in to the home, along with Bicking, two weeks ago. He says that along with the other three roommates, they had invited around 30 people to stay at the home during the RNC so that friends from all over could be involved with protests. They had no intent of causing a “riot,” and were part of a peaceful protest mission. Still, Alex says electronic equipment and anything that could be used to make molotov cocktails was confiscated from the home. The police even took cans of paint out of the garage. The Minneapolis police conducted the raid after a warrant was issued by Ramsey County as part of a joint powers agreement in place between the two cities for the RNC.

    After the police spent hours loading a truck full of electronic equipment and other property from the home, officials from the city’s problem properties unit showed up to board up the home. Alex says he was told it was because there were too many people sleeping in the attic. “We had a bunch of mattresses on the floor, because we had people staying with us,” he says. “And now they’re saying Monica’s house will be shut down for that. She’s in jail now. She’s not here to defend herself. It doesn’t make sense.”

    Neighbors were angry that the city was boarding the home, too. One neighbor yelled to police officers, “We have a crack house next door that you do nothing about. But then you’re going to board up the home of these kids! This is pure propaganda and you should be ashamed of yourselves!” Indeed, the home next door did have a number of visible code violations: tall grass and weeds, trash in the yard. Neighbors said they call about problems with the home all the time, and nothing is ever done.

    Yet along with being unable to enter her home, Bickling will have another rude awakening when she’s released from jail: The city charges $6,000 to homeowners for boarding up properties. Often these are charges for abandoning properties, a result of the foreclosure crisis. But in Bickling’s case, all that anyone, including the roommates and Bickling’s lawyer, were told before the plywood went up is that the home had “code violations.”

    UPDATE: City officials halted the boarding process in the early afternoon and told remaining tenants that the back door, which was kicked in by police before the raid, would have to be fixed by 6 p.m. this evening or the home would be boarded. Ostensibly, the home was to be boarded for “code violations” this afternoon. But now the city is telling one roommate the entire home would be boarded in order to secure the property from trespassers who could now enter the home through the back door, which was broken by officers.

    A woman staying at the home who did not want to be identified said that the roommates planned on fixing the door by 6 p.m. City officials also told her that at some point soon, the homeowner would be responsible for fixing a bedroom door upstairs, which was also kicked on by police officers this morning.

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