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Bust Em Before They Bite
August 30, 2008 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Since at least February, the St, Paul police and the FBI have been trying to infiltrate protest groups planning to demonstrate and the RNC. Apparently they were successful because they have begun arresting protestors before the convention actually starts. They even went after the press. I have to wonder if any MeFites were busted?
posted by Xurando (57 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here is the link that should have been included for the word press.
posted by Xurando at 1:44 PM on August 30, 2008


More about the protests.
posted by Xurando at 1:49 PM on August 30, 2008


I like how they barely even throw in the idea that the protesters "would have" done something illegal and pretty much let it stand that they arrested them for being protesters. By which I mean I hate it.
posted by cmoj at 1:49 PM on August 30, 2008


Video from police raid.
posted by Xurando at 1:50 PM on August 30, 2008


Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher witnessed one of the raids.
posted by homunculus at 2:13 PM on August 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


MnSpeak thread. (Self-link)
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:17 PM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


THOUGHTCRIME!
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:19 PM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


COINTELPRO lives.
posted by teferi at 2:22 PM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sounds like guilty before having commited the actual crime. Indeed , toughtcrime.
posted by elpapacito at 2:25 PM on August 30, 2008


It's time that Congress pass legislation to protect the rights of those who want to protest peacefully. Some kind of dissenters' "Bill of Rights." Maybe even call it "The Bill of Rights."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:29 PM on August 30, 2008 [18 favorites]


At least we don't live in a police state.

o wait...
posted by dopeypanda at 2:30 PM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


MnIndy Video: Journos, protesters sound alarm over pre-RNC police behavior
“What is happening in Minneapolis is reflecting a larger trend in the country in general. We heard today homeland security mentioned and there seems to be a trend of what’s been happening lately,” he said. “Security and safety are being used to tip the scales away from freedom of information and right to assemble and freedom of press. We are not fighting perhaps as hard as we should be and working to preserve those rights that are so valuable and are also valuable to our safety and security.”
posted by acro at 2:33 PM on August 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


"conspiracy to riot" sounds like BS. OTOH, there almost certainly was a conspiracy to illegally protest. Buckets of urine have few purposes. Given the really minimal harm that they were accused of planning to commit, I don't think that this kind of prior restraint is warranted. Of course we'll probably learn soon that the evidence for the warrant was some coked out paid informant.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:34 PM on August 30, 2008


Was there similar infiltration and mass arrest of groups prior to the Democratic convention? Please don't treat that as flamebait; I'm genuinely curious.
posted by ardgedee at 2:35 PM on August 30, 2008


Buckets of urine, slingshots, anti-bus weapons seized in raid on anti-RNC protesters
posted by homunculus at 2:38 PM on August 30, 2008


ardgedee writes "Was there similar infiltration and mass arrest of groups prior to the Democratic convention? Please don't treat that as flamebait; I'm genuinely curious."

Haven't heard of any.
posted by orthogonality at 2:38 PM on August 30, 2008


OTOH, there almost certainly was a conspiracy to illegally protest.

It's pretty easy to break phony laws that tell you where and when you may assemble, what kinds of things you can say, and what the police can do to keep you in line. That's what represents most of the "illegal activity" we hear about, buckets of urine not withstanding (although I'll believe that when I see it).
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:41 PM on August 30, 2008


The best part is, the cops responsible won't be fired, sued, or face any repercussions whatsoever. When the police are eager for a police state, and the courts refuse to punish cops, there's not a whole lot anyone can do about it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:43 PM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you're a cop, you'd be surprised what you can describe as a slingshot, or an anti-bus weapon.

My sister in law was picked up in one of these raids in Philadelphia eight years ago. She and a couple hundred other protestors had rented a warehouse and were making papier mache puppets and those big, stick driven figures. The mayor would later describe them on televison as "improvised catapults" for attacking the police.

The day before the convention the cops basically rounded everyone up on charges they knew were bogus, just to make sure the protests didn't happen. They kept everyone until the convention was out of town, and then turned them loose. They tried to "cut people a deal" where they'd drop the felony charges and let them go if they'd cop to some miniscule offense with no jail time. This was solely to mount some kind of protection against the lawsuits they knew were coming. "But it wasn't a false arrest! Look how many of them confessed to crimes!"

The lawsuits eventually came and cost the city a great deal of money, i expect. But they didn't care. They were basically willing to take the financial hit as long as the protests didn't happen.

What I learned from that was that if you're a city administration hosting a major party convention, you will do whatever it takes to make sure those bigwigs have the best time possible. Even deliberately break the law and expose your city to massive liability. And if you're a cop, the Rose Bowl parade can be a terror attack if you want it to be.
posted by Naberius at 2:52 PM on August 30, 2008 [15 favorites]


One of the groups raided, the RNC Welcoming Committee is rather open about their intentions:

Tier One: Establish 15-20 blockades, utilizing a diversity of tactics, creating an inner and outer ring around St. Paul’s Excel Center, where the RNC is to take place.

Tier Two: Immobilize the delegates’ transportation infrastructure, including the busses that are to convey them.

Tier Three: Block the five western bridges connecting the Twin Cities.

Those plugging into this strategy will be free to shape their actions as they see fit, using the tactics they consider appropriate. As the specific blockade sites are established, there may be a system of delegating some sites as “red zones” (prepared for self-defense), “yellow zones” (peaceful but assertive), and “green zones” (aiming to avoid any risk of arrest) so as to accommodate a wide variety of creative tactics and involve individuals with differing needs and talents.


That sounds an awful lot like a riot to me.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:59 PM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


TungstenChef writes "That sounds an awful lot like a riot to me."

Pardon my cynicism after COINTELPRO and the bugging of MLK and Fred Hmpton's assassination at the hands of the police, and Ruby Ridge and Waco, but to me that sounds like a document authored by police infiltrator and agent provocateur.

Now maybe it's not, but after decades of these sorts of police misconduct, hell after Operation Northwinds, in which the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed terrorist attacks on Americans, the government has no real credibility when it comes to supposed evidence against domestic protesters.

I wish that weren't so, because I wish I could trust the government, and line up behind them as I would to condemn actual domestic terrorism -- like Eric Rudolf and the Oklahoma City bombers, and yes, some of the Weather Underground.

But as long as police are so transparently abusing their authority and perverting the law, as we see in these raids, I'm afraid that I have to go not with one "seized" document, but with a century of history of the repression of labor movements, mass deportations of "Reds", J. Edgar Hoover's corruption and attacks on the Civil Rights Movement, and the finding of the Church Committee.

That history shows that it's not the protesters who are the real threat to the functioning of a democracy.
posted by orthogonality at 3:14 PM on August 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


I think they just busted two organizers outside my house in Saint Paul this afternoon. There were about 12 different police vehicles that pulled up to a small black older sedan stopped at the stop sign, so I presume they had been following them for some time. It was a man and a woman, both pretty young, and they came out of their car with their hands in the air, which I assume they were instructed to do. I was still upstairs at that time and wasn't close enough yet to hear anything. and the cops were all very blase about it. Funny thing is they left the sedan just sitting there at the stop sign for about 3 hours while various cops waited around for something to happen. I suspect they were waiting for someone to come and investigate the car for evidence or something. I haven't seen any news reports yet, so I'm not quite sure what happened.

I also happened to be driving by the big bust on Saint Paul's West Side last night coming home from my brother's house. There were probably thirty cops and I don't know how many organizers and members from the RNC Welcoming Committee were hanging around as well.

I think they are trying to scape up something on these groups to shut them down because they are afraid of looking bad in the press if there are a lot of protesters or there are traffic jams during the convention.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:17 PM on August 30, 2008


I see buses filled with policemen,
With helmets and truncheons all.
Following buses full of senators
Driving to St. Paul.
They tell us St. Paul is peaceful;
They tell us not to fear;
They tell us of a grand celebration
With dances, applause, and beer.

There are musicians with their instruments
Setting up on Wabasha,
But if you don't dance the dance they play
Then there's trouble with the law.
It's a party that's protected;
It's a party for the few;
And those that aren't invited
Well, they want no dance with you.

Already the party's started
To the sound of smashing doors,
And party crashers have their date
With the truncheons and the floor.
There's a ruckus for the opening number
And a police line for the show --
But if I can't riot at your dance,
Well, then I don't want to go.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:18 PM on August 30, 2008 [10 favorites]


"diversity of tactics" is activist-speak for "We're all a bunch of groups with different aims, so let's just all do what we want and not jump up each others' butts about it."
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:31 PM on August 30, 2008


If you really want to wreak havoc at the RNC convention, plant your group in every strip club, gay bath house, and brothel in town, and carry miniature video cameras.
posted by benzenedream at 3:34 PM on August 30, 2008 [10 favorites]


I'm not familiar with constitutional law, but how do the various "protest permits" not violate the first amendment?

I realize that these are city ordinances and not congressional laws, but Bloomington's ordinance seems permanent, and their permits with a price tag to boot. If the argument is that congress can't violate the constitution, can a city (or a state) declare an official religion?


Also, in the situation Naberius describes, where the police knowingly issued arrests on false charges, wouldn't the cops be liable for contempt of court charges, or fraud, or some kind of chriminal charge? (Difficulty in proving such notwithstanding)
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 3:40 PM on August 30, 2008


SLOG is covering this too.
posted by saffry at 3:50 PM on August 30, 2008


I am helping to coordinate jail and legal support for RNC arrestees. You can follow our 24 hour Twitter updates from the legal support office at twitter.com/coldsnaplegal - I'm sure we'll have lots more news to report on in the next few days!
posted by streetdreams at 4:10 PM on August 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Orange Pamplemousse: Space and time are finite. If someone else is using a space, you might not have the ability to simultaneously be there. If you are having a protest some place, others are denied the use of the space. Cities are generally regarded as having the ability to carry out basic functions, and one of those is to arrange sharing of common space. The ability to petition for redress of grievance is not impacted by the requirement to do so in an orderly fashion, to not block traffic, or to avoid areas which have been designated for other purposes. The desire to get in people's faces and disrupt their meetings is not what the first amendment is all about.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:17 PM on August 30, 2008


Meh. Didn't all this just happen at the DNC? Except that the protestors were not carrying buckets of urine and talking about blocking access to all of the city's major thoroughfares?
posted by Slap Factory at 4:30 PM on August 30, 2008


"It doesn't bode well for the week ahead."
posted by Chuckles at 5:40 PM on August 30, 2008


RNC Stasi Sweeps: A Bob Fletcher Special?
posted by homunculus at 6:17 PM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm tempted to take Tuesday off and spend all day camped outside Betty McCollum's office -- I really cannot believe that she'd be in favor of arresting people on precrime police state bullshit and trumped up "fire code" violations.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:24 PM on August 30, 2008


(Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher) also said elaborate plans have been developed to avoid the multimillion-dollar lawsuits that protesters filed against New York City after the GOP convention in 2004.

Yeah. Good luck with that.
posted by bhance at 8:37 PM on August 30, 2008


Slarty Bartfast writes "That's what represents most of the 'illegal activity' we hear about, buckets of urine not withstanding (although I'll believe that when I see it)."

Why buckets instead of 4l/1 gal. milk jugs?
posted by Mitheral at 9:02 PM on August 30, 2008


Ya, piss jugs! Who even says those buckets were intended as weapons? I mean, with 20+ people staying in the same house....
posted by Chuckles at 9:09 PM on August 30, 2008


The day before the convention the cops basically rounded everyone up on charges they knew were bogus, just to make sure the protests didn't happen. They kept everyone until the convention was out of town, and then turned them loose. They tried to "cut people a deal" where they'd drop the felony charges and let them go if they'd cop to some miniscule offense with no jail time. This was solely to mount some kind of protection against the lawsuits they knew were coming. "But it wasn't a false arrest! Look how many of them confessed to crimes!"

Man the whole Bejing thing just sucked. I can't stand those Chinese fascists. I'm glad that crap doesn't happen here.
posted by mecran01 at 9:43 PM on August 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


Via Wikipedia:

According to attorney Brian Glick in his book War at Home, the FBI used four main methods during COINTELPRO:

* 1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents.

* 2. Psychological Warfare From the Outside: The FBI and police used myriad other "dirty tricks" to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists.

* 3. Harassment Through the Legal System: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, "investigative" interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.

* 4. Extralegal Force and Violence: The FBI and police threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism, assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists (and later Native Americans), these attacks—including political assassinations—were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can accurately be termed a form of official "terrorism."

posted by mecran01 at 9:45 PM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


...but to me that sounds like a document authored by police infiltrator and agent provocateur.


I've figured for months that the RNC Welcoming Committee were agents provocateur. I'd be surprised if they don't discover they're all police officers or federal agents of some sort or another.

In the meantime, we saw that the St. Paul Police had pulled over some very dangerous and evil terrorist Commies. There were three of them, and they were riding BICYCLES (I know!) They looked like three frightened whitebread Macalester students that I could have knocked over by blowing on them, but there must have been some very good reason that they were handcuffed on the ground with two cops standing over them and two more squads screeching to the scene.

Golly, I know I feel safer.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:07 PM on August 30, 2008


A small Google map of the raid sites. Click on the markers for more information and video
posted by louche mustachio at 10:16 PM on August 30, 2008


ardgedee: Was there similar infiltration and mass arrest of groups prior to the Democratic convention? Please don't treat that as flamebait; I'm genuinely curious.

I can categorically say: there wasn't. I live here in Denver, and while I'm not exactly a leftist a lot of my friends are. (I have several who can't stand Barack Obama because they see him as an appeaser and a warmonger like the rest.) I know people who protested downtown, and while I generally made it a point not to be around during those protests, I've been talking to people here since a long time before the convention about how it'd all go down.

A lot of us thought it'd be pretty bad. I don't have a huge amount of respect for the way the Denver police department is run; we are, after all, the ones who decided it'd be nice to start keeping lists of 'activists' and putting together SWAT teams that we surely didn't need. Even before the convention happened, I was a little worried. The cops got out their lists and, on orders from above to "watch out for anything suspicious," started stopping and questioning people coming out of Home Depot who'd bought bricks and who might be left-leaning. Okay, well, it sounds more ridiculous than ominous, and, yeah, it was more ridiculous than ominous ("Really, officer, I'm not even strong enough to throw this whole pallet of bricks through a window") but I worried that there was worse to come.

I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. They arrested a total of 152 people over the whole week - during a week when hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on the city, that's pretty fantastic. I have a close friend, a Catholic and a leftist who works at the hospital downtown, who tells me that, as far as she could tell, most of those arrested were the drunk ones. The cops, in a weird move that shocks and confuses those of us who've known them for years, actually praised the protesters, in one instance calling them "fantastic."

Yeah, it wasn't all wine and roses. People got arrested; they got stuck in the tent-like jail thingy. There was a mass arrest of almost a hundred people at one of the protests. But, all in all, it went off a lot better than could be expected, so far as I can tell. And I should note that this isn't because there weren't opposing viewpoints - the anti-abortion people blocked off the Pepsi Center for a couple of hours the other day and were driving around in their idiotic truck-with-a-big-picture-of-a-dead-fetus-on-it. (That shit should be illegal.) There was a KKK march, there were pro-immigration and anti-immigration protests, but all of it seems to have gone off swimmingly.

I don't think it'll go well in St. Paul. I hate to say it, especially as someone who sees himself as an old-style conservative, but I can't help but feel that that's at least in part because of the very different attitude that Democrats seem to be taking toward differing viewpoints these days. They've really risen up over the last few years. There was pretty fantastic energy here over the last week. Even my Republican friends seemed to be feeling positive despite themselves.
posted by koeselitz at 10:31 PM on August 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


You know, people complain about how America is "OMG Police State!!" and you start to worry that it might be true.

Then you read things about real police states, and notice how much freedom Americans still have. "Things aren't great, they aren't even the way they should be," you say to yourself, "but 'police state' is a bit of a stretch."

Then they build freedom cages for protesters, and send cops to "infiltrate" protesters, and pre-emptively arrest them.

This is the most recent in a long line of terrible things.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:43 PM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


They arrested a total of 152 people over the whole week - during a week when hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on the city, that's pretty fantastic. I have a close friend, a Catholic and a leftist who works at the hospital downtown, who tells me that, as far as she could tell, most of those arrested were the drunk ones.

Which ones were these?
posted by homunculus at 10:54 PM on August 30, 2008


Which ones were these?

Uh, who's getting arrested in that picture? It looks like protesters with some cops standing around.

As far as the "freedom cage", it wasn't actually a prison, it was a fenced in area where people were allowed to sleep, I suppose if they didn't have a hotel room. There is an enormous difference between some unphotogenic accommodations and preemptively raiding people's homes
posted by delmoi at 12:08 AM on August 31, 2008


koeselitz writes "And I should note that this isn't because there weren't opposing viewpoints - the anti-abortion people blocked off the Pepsi Center for a couple of hours the other day and were driving around in their idiotic truck-with-a-big-picture-of-a-dead-fetus-on-it. (That shit should be illegal.) "

What the fuck? How is that not political speech?

If you think that should be illegal, you're as much a threat to freedom as any fascist.
posted by orthogonality at 4:59 AM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


fascism for the win! What I think is what everyone must think!
posted by garlic at 7:22 AM on August 31, 2008


It looks like protesters with some cops standing around.

Protesters with cops barricading and detaining them, that is.. Which is problematic, because if they were causing a nuisance by being there -- and that is the minimum justification for any police action -- the cops are making the 'public nuisance' problem 10x worse.

Anyway, grandstanding police and grandstanding protesters is what you expect in these situations. Those pictures may be of a much more problematic incident though, were the police barricaded an entire city block.
posted by Chuckles at 8:13 AM on August 31, 2008


"The evidence receipts given contain no mention of feces or human waste..."
posted by homunculus at 4:50 PM on August 31, 2008


So kids, the message you have learned is: plan your protest in cells, hide your communications and limit knowledge of intra-cell linkages. Will such behavior make protesters more or less militant.......?
posted by caddis at 6:29 PM on August 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you think that should be illegal, you're as much a threat to freedom as any fascist.

That's just stupid.

Wow, this freedom of political expression is awesome!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:33 PM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Amy Goodman Jumps Fence To Question Cops
posted by homunculus at 6:42 PM on August 31, 2008


More from Greenwald: Federal government involved in raids on protesters
posted by homunculus at 11:27 PM on August 31, 2008


Bringing the War Home?
posted by homunculus at 11:28 PM on August 31, 2008


Eeesh. This link from Firedoglake creeped me out the most:
Whelan says his roommate, Erin Stalmaker, went out to talk to talk to the police. She asked the officers why they were there. The officers asked why people were running away from them. Erin reportedly told the officers that their drawn automatic weapons probably had something to do with it. She was detained after asking to see a warrant.
Ok, MetaLawyers -- since when can you detain someone for merely asking to see a warrant? What's the scoop on that?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:43 PM on September 1, 2008


The desire to get in people's faces and disrupt their meetings is not what the first amendment is all about.

I couldn't help thinking as I went by the Excel Center and saw that it was completely surrounded by chainlink fencing topped with razor wire, "There's democracy going on in there!" No, Republicans are not owed some immunity from hearing protesters marching by as they engage in a public convention to nominate a candidate for the highest office in the land. Unless of course, you think they do, then all bets are off. I was referring to Constitutional right of speech and assembly. Even when some people don't want to hear it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:16 PM on September 1, 2008


Scenes from St. Paul -- Democracy Now's Amy Goodman arrested
posted by homunculus at 5:41 PM on September 1, 2008


Could a concussion grenade kill somebody? If so, none of the police present should ever be allowed to carry a badge again. It's disgusting to think of somebody getting mangled or killed in the name of keeping the peace.
posted by tehloki at 7:41 PM on September 1, 2008


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