Saturday, August 30, 2008

Meanwhile in Minneapolis

The abuses of police power in Denver last week are already being greatly surpassed by what's going on up in Minnesota.

Throughout the day today Glenn Greenwald has been reporting on some massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis:
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.

I highly recommend clicking through and reading his extensive posting on the ongoing situation.

In addition to writing about what's happening, Greenwald and his associates have also uploaded the following two videos to YouTube:

Brendan Kiley has also been doing some good reporting about the raids:

An older woman, walking her dog, walked by while Branch was telling his story. “I’m so sorry my city is treating visitors this way,” she said. “The mayor lives in my neighborhood and I’m going to call him about this!”

The raids are, among other things, stranding visiting protestors without lodgings. (If anybody in the Twin Cities areas wants to host a visitor or two, many of whom have brought tents and sleeping bags, call the “housing hotline”: 612-419-7809.)

Of course, as always, the storm troopers in question could rely on CNN to fail to even bring up any First or Fourth Amendment issues in their article:

Police raid headquarters of RNC protesters
St. Paul Police spokesman Tom Walsh said they were executing a search warrant.

"The cause for the search warrant is not public at this time," Walsh said.

The cause for the search warrant is pretty obvious: intimidating protesters out of exercising their constitutional rights. But don't get me wrong. Most of these self-described anarchists are fringe nuts whose primary impact is to make anyone who tries to raise some of the issues they're concerned about appear as crazy as they are.

Of course the police need to be able to conduct legitimate searches for legitimate threats, but that simply doesn't seem to be what happened today. And if these kids don't have any rights to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures or to the freedom of speech or to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances, then none of us do. First they came for the anarchists, then they came for the outspoken journalists, etc.

I'm not suggesting that the mainstream media have to argue that the police acted in bad faith in situations such as this. That's what opinions writers such as myself are for. All I'm saying is that not even questioning the police about the searches' legitimacy or asking a couple of law professors to comment on that issue is a serious betrayal of journalists' alleged role as the Fourth Estate.

But the good news is that--barring excessive interference by Hurricane Gustav--I'll be traveling up to Minneapolis Wednesday night and staying through Friday morning. Though I don't have credentials to get me into the convention itself, I'm confident plenty of interesting action ought to be going down outside the glorified circus that is the main event.

Anyone have a motorcycle helmet I can borrow? I may need one as much as Hunter S. Thompson did in Chicago in 1968--wearing one protected him when the police beat him up while he was covering the melee the Democratic convention sparked that year.

No comments: