Reflections By Some Twin Cities Friends On Events Surrounding The Republican National Convention In St. Paul And Minneapolis

Reflections By Some Twin Cities Friends On Events Surrounding The Republican National Convention In St. Paul And Minneapolis

(Local Friends who wish to add their names to this document
should contact Rhoda Gilman at (651) 224-6383, or by email at .)

We who have united in this statement are members and regular attenders of
several Quaker meetings in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.  Although our
individual definitions of pacifism may vary, we have for years supported the
traditional peace testimony of the Religious Society of Friends.  We have
exercised our right to protest massively but peacefully against the growing
militarization of our country and against policies and practices that we saw
as contrary to the Geneva Conventions and to the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights.  We have also defended the right of others to protest
peacefully and to practice nonviolent civil disobedience in support of their
convictions.

When we learned that St. Paul had been chosen as the site of the 2008
Republican National Convention, a number of us joined with other groups in
seeking from city and county authorities an assurance that our rights to
protest would be protected.  Many months of negotiation left us with token
access to the convention site, but the government’s concern with “safety”
did not allow us to state our case directly  and fully, nor to get clear
answers either from local authorities in advance or from the RNC during the
convention.  Nevertheless, we felt that an understanding had been reached
and that the civil liberties and legal rights of demonstrators would be
respected.  We know now that we were wrong.

During the week of the RNC St. Paul became an occupied city.  Some 3,500
police, many brought from other parts of the country, lined the streets
designated as routes for protest marches.  These troopers were unidentified,
helmeted, and armed.  St. Paul is a river town, straddling the Mississippi.
Without prior announcement our bridges were closed, isolating neighborhoods
and halting business.  People unable to reach their homes were trapped in
the downtown area and were brutally attacked with mace, pepper spray, and
rubber bullets.  More than 800 were arrested during the four days of the
convention, and many more were detained, abused, and released.

Even more disturbing were police raids on homes and on a meeting hall as
much as three days before the convention began.  Independent journalists
were especially targeted.   Sheriff’s officers confiscated cameras and
computers and held people at gunpoint.  Eight persons arrested in these
raids have been charged with conspiracy to riot leading to terrorism.

Now Mayors R. T. Rybak of Minneapolis and Chris Coleman of St. Paul are
congratulating themselves on having protected us from violence and made our
cities a showcase for the nation.  Indeed, outside of police attacks, there
was little violence.  All we have heard of are a few broken store windows, a
damaged police car, one damaged bus, and an attempt to spray  diluted
household bleach on some delegates.  As far as we have been able to
determine, the perpetrators of this vandalism are unknown and have not been
arrested.  That has not prevented the authorities and the press from
accusing a group of young people who openly espouse anarchism and oppose
war. That group was infiltrated months ago, and the reports of paid police
informers have become the basis for pre-emptive attacks and criminal
charges.  We personally know many members of this group, and we have found
them to be gentle people who have a passionate concern for the Earth as well
as for the poor, the forgotten, and the “collateral” victims of  U.S.
aggression.

Some of us were on the streets through most of the protests, offering
medical and legal help where needed, and all of us have talked with many
citizens who shared the experience.  Nowhere have we seen or heard evidence
of the dangerous weapons and explosives that police claim to have seized.
We therefore join others in demanding a truly independent investigation of
how and why our rights and liberties have been violated, our friends
intimidated, and our quiet city turned into an armed camp.

Richard O. Fuller
Jeanne Landkamer
Rhoda Gilman
Paul Landskroener
Anne Holzinger
Ava Dale Johnson

Added 9/23/08:
Don Irish
James Riemermann

Added 9/24/08
Patricia McGuire
Charley Underwood
Jenny Heiser

Added 10/3/08
Rich Broderick
Ralph Hilgendorf

Added 10/3/08
Gail Irish
Greg Whitley Mott
Frank Wood
Betsy Proechel

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