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Stop the Police Riot in St. Paul!
Although it went virtually unmentioned in the corporate media, on Monday, Sept. 1, the largest anti-war march of 2008 took place outside the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. 30,000 people from all over the Midwest and the country gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul and then marched to the Xcel Center, the site of the RNC. Large numbers of buses came from all over Illinois, Wisconsin, and the surrounding states.
Michael Prysner, speaking in St. Paul
Among the many speakers at the Minnesota State Capitol, where the march gathered, was Michael Prysner, an Iraq war veteran who represented the ANSWER Coalition. Prysner addressed the crowd: "I was sent to Iraq in 2003 not to save the Iraqi people, but to kill the Iraqi people. I was sent not to free the Iraqi people, but to imprison and torture the Iraqi people. I was sent not to liberate Iraq, but to occupy Iraq. There is no longer any question that this war was not for so-called 'Iraqi freedom,' it was not an act of self-defense, and it was not simply a foreign policy error by the Republican party—it was a well-calculated plan carried out by both parties to dominate the Middle East, killing as many innocent people as necessary and profiting from that human suffering."
Send a Letter Demanding the St. Paul Government Release All Protesters!
The police have engaged in a widespread riot against social justice organizations, resulting in the arrest of around 300 protesters. Most of the arrested are still in jail, and at least one person with a serious medical condition has been refused care.
Even before the RNC began, protest organizing centers were raided. Armed groups of police in the Twin Cities have raided more than half-a-dozen locations since Friday night in a series of “preemptive raids." The raids and detentions have targeted activists planning to protest the convention, including journalists and videographers from I-Witness Video and the Glass Bead Collective. These media organizations were targeted because of the instrumental role they played in documenting police abuses the 2004 RNC. Their comprehensive video coverage helped more than 400 wrongfully arrested people get their charges thrown out.
Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar—who clearly identified themselves as members of the media—were arrested, and face suspicion of rioting charges, a felony. When Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! went to the scene to inquire with a police commander about the arrest of her producers, she too was arrested. A CodePink march and several breakaway marches were also met with police repression. Tear gas and concussion grenades have been used to disperse crowds.
There is an undeniable pattern of police repression at these conventions. In 2004, 1,500 protesters were arrested at the RNC. Subsequent litigation on behalf of the protesters revealed that national and local enforcement conspired to deny protesters their civil liberties and civil rights. Protesters were held in miserable conditions, and only mass pressure forced the police to release them.
Please take a moment and click this link to send a letter to Chris Coleman, the mayor of St. Paul, demanding that all protesters and social justice organizers be released, and that all charged be dropped. The real criminals are the "law enforcement" authorities, who have systematically violated the free speech rights of protesters, and in more than a few cases carried out physical abuse.
This report was filed with information provided by John Beacham of the ANSWER Coalition.