Terrorism Task Force Involved in RNC Attacks on Journalists, Attorneys, Activists

by Will Potter on September 2, 2008

in Terrorism Court Cases

News continues to come out of the Twin Cities and the Republican National Convention of what I can only describe as a police state showing its true colors. If you read this site regularly, you know I stay far away from language and descriptions like that, because I think it’s best to let the stories speak for themselves. But I’m at a loss of how else to describe this. Here as some of the highlights that the mainstream press has overwhelmingly ignored:

  • Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com writes: “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.” Here’s another wrap-up with a video interview of an attorney on the scene. Police claim the raids targeted protest “leaders.”
  • Police raided what’s called the convergence space, a place with computer access, free food, and child care for out-of-town protestors. The raid took place while folks were having a group dinner and watching a video, with children. Police took laptops, schedules and 7,000 “welcoming guides” organizers would have distributed at protests.
  • Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman was arrested while reporting about her two producers, who were arrested for “conspiracy to riot” while covering the RNC protests. An AP photographer was arrested at the same time. David Ake, an AP assistant chief of bureau in Washington, said, “Covering news is a constitutionally protected activity…Photographers should not be detained for covering breaking news.”
  • Filmmakers who traveled from NYC to document, among other things, police conduct had video equipment seized when they came into town.
  • Police raided the home of I-Witness video, whose video coverage exposed police abuse, and lying under oath, during the 2004 RNC. Eileen Clancy was able to write this as police swarmed the home: “We have locked all the doors…The police say that they are waiting to get a search warrant. More than a dozen police are wielding firearms, including one St. Paul officer with a long gun, which someone told me is an M-16.”
  • Police raided and seized an Earth Justice bus, used to educate people about environmental sustainability. Check out the number of squad cars in this video.
  • Even the local alt-weekly joined the scare-mongering leading up to the RNC, with a tongue-in-cheek “field guide” to the “deranged” people coming to town, including “eco-terrorists” (“Weapon of Choice: Their ability to chain themselves to stuff.”) To be fair, they also listed “FBI moles”.

What’s particularly disturbing is that the federal government and Joint Terrorism Task Forces have been instrumental in all of this. Minnesota Public Radio reported that the FBI was involved in the raids, and the Star Tribune reported that the raids were specifically “aided by informants planted in protest groups.”

You’ll remember that this is the same town where Joint Terrorism Task Forces were recruiting folks to infiltrate vegan potlucks. And you’ll also remember how the government has used “infiltrators” to instigate and provoke illegal activity, such as with “Anna” in the Eric McDavid case, among others.

The mass media have overwhelmingly ignored all of this, while repeating absurd “official” soundbites. Headlines that proclaim “Police hope violent St. Paul protests will end” ignore the simple, crucial facts that police have stormed homes, confiscated leaflets, confiscated cameras, arrested journalists, arrested attorneys, and more. Stories of “protestors turning violent” are quite Orwellian, considering police kicked in the doors of peaceful protestors, armed to the teeth.

How can there be any discussion about protestors (both legal and illegal) without this context? Considering the overwhelming, unconstitutional assaults by the police, I think protestors should be praised for being so restrained.

The purpose of all this, as we’ve seen time and again, is two-fold. The first, through the press, is to further the myth that if you protest the right way you have nothing to worry about. The mayor said it well: “To pick up a protest sign, that’s fine. If you’re here to pick up a brick or some other instrument, there’s a problem.” If people continue to believe lies like this, while ignore attacks on First Amendment activity, this government repression will continue unabated.

The second purpose, regardless of the myths people believe, is to instill widespread fear in anyone who might even consider taking action.

On that note, it’s inspiring to see how folks have responded. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from today’s press statement by the RNC Welcoming Committee

The actions taken yesterday prove that the tactics of intimidation, harassment, violent oppression, the snatching of specific individuals, and the profiling of activists will not stop committed people from taking to the streets for what they believe in and putting their bodies behind those convictions. These tactics were seen yesterday in the targeting of medical workers, journalists, legal observers, and the public. They are the same tactics used daily by police and governments around the world to terrorize and oppress those that they claim to serve…

The infrastructure that has been created for these actions with the help and support of the twin cities community has been amazing. 100’s of people in Minneapolis and St. Paul have opened their homes to 1000’s of protesters, Locals and newcomers have taken time off work and from their lives to cook meals, provide medical care, legal support, and transportation. We understand that it must be intimidating to see people organizing for themselves around the idea of mutual aid and solidarity, but in doing this we are actively creating the world we want to live in. This is work that we will continue to do for the rest of our lives.

What do you think? I know police response at big protests like this (WTO, FTAA, DNC/RNC) has often been extreme, but is this above and beyond?

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