Do We Feel Safer Now?

A chilling report from Glen Greenwald today (Sunday 8/31/08) documents his visit to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.  He reports that as a part of the security apparatus, the local police with the help of the FBI have raided various headquarters, private homes, and meeting places of activist groups with plans to protest at the Convention.  The raids were carried out using warrants to search for “fire and code violations.”  Never mind that the Fire Marshall was never notified, the fact that ONLY the protest groups that were legally planning to demonstrations were raided highlights the real intent.  A description of one of the raids with more commentary and details below the fold:

“I heard somebody saying, ‘They’re coming, they’re coming!’ And feet pounding on the back stairs, pounding on the door saying they had a search warrant. They busted through the door. They’ve got their guns cocked at people.” Sammy Schutz held tightly to five-year-old Gabe, who had been watching a video with his mother and father and about 20 other people when the police stormed into 827 Smith Avenue in St. Paul, ordering everyone down on the floor.

“All I could feel was Mama Bear – do whatever you want to do to me, but I need to get my son out safe. He was watching his dad get handcuffed. And he’s saying, ‘Mommy, mommy, why did they crash through the door?'”

Gabe’s question remained unanswered. Ramsey County sheriff’s deputies said they were executing a search warrant, but would not show a copy of the warrant to lawyers or reporters. More than a dozen police vehicles , almost all unmarked, and more than 20 sheriff’s deputies and St. Paul police arrived at the building about 9:45 Friday night and were still there at 1 a.m., when I left.

Of course Minnesota Public Radio had it a little differently:

Authorities have searched several homes in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul Saturday ahead of the opening of the Republican National Convention.

These raids followed a search of a former theater in St. Paul being used by an anarchist group.

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. – Police said the raids were the result of a long-term investigation into a group of more than 30 anarchists that call themselves the RNC Welcoming Committee. They said there were other groups, including Food Not Bombs, that were affiliated with the group, but those groups were not targets of the raids.

The searches were led by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office. Deputies coordinated searches with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Here’s another report documenting a police raid on Food Not Bombs.

MnIndy RNC reporter Jeff Severns Guntzel is at the Minneapolis Food Not Bombs house, which was raided by police this morning. Facts are still coming in, but Guntzel says that at 8 a.m. neighbors near the home, located at 2301 23rd Avenue South, reported hearing a loud bang followed by yelling. A single police squad car was parked out front. When Guntzel arrived he saw eight or nine officers enter the house in what he says is a joint operation between officers of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, the Minneapolis Police Depatment, and the FBI. According to one witness who was in the house at the time of the raid, the action is related to last night’s raid on the RNC Welcoming Committee’s “convergence space.” Several other spaces have been raided this morning.

Here’s an overview of what is happening in Minneapolis this weekend, again from Glen Greenwald:

Homes of college-aid protesters were raided by rifle-wielding police forces. Journalists were forcibly detained at gun point. Lawyers on the scene to represent the detainees were handcuffed. Computers, laptops, journals, diaries, and political pamphlets were seized from people’s homes. And all of this occurred against U.S. citizens, without a single act of violence having taken place, and nothing more serious than traffic blockage even alleged by authorities to have been planned.

A man whose sister was one of those arrested at one of the raided houses in Minneapolis yesterday emailed me a photograph of her and her friend who was also arrested — Monica Bicking (r.) and Eryn Trimme — and he wrote this:

“They are still in custody. I’ve been told that the police have 36 hours to charge her, and that 36 hours starts after the labor day holiday, so they only have to charge her sometime Wednesday. It seems unlikely that they’d do anything to expedite her or Eryn’s release.”

The most disturbing aspect for me in the events over the weekend at the RNC is the involvement of the FBI and concerted effort by the Federal Government to systematically, transparently, and unapologetically shut down all planned protests.  Evidently to our government, any and all protesters are suspected “anarchists” and should be rounded up and locked away to preserve the peace. Is there anything more disturbing than rounding up Peace Activists with a SWAT team?  Could this very clear attempt at intimidation and suppression of the rights of American citizens be any more blatant?

The Message is clear.  Do not protest, do not demonstrate, but stay in your houses and behave.  Anyone who is caught protesting on the street or in public venues will be attacked, detained, and harassed. Anyone who tries to dissent or protest WILL BE ARRESTED.

A few blocks away, Dave Bicking says his daughter, Monica, was one of the five people arrested in the raids. He said he thought police were trying to discourage people from legitimate expression outside the convention in St. Paul, rather than fight crime.

“You know they’re intimidating people from even coming to the demonstrations, so they’re intimidating everybody, not just, you know, the anarchists or the whatever,” Bicking said. “They’re intimidating everybody when this news gets out from coming downtown to engage in even legally and permitted marches and the whole thing.”