Also see: Video Reports: Police Repression at RNC
Minneapolis, MN-At 9:17pm on August 29th, Ramsey county sheriff department entered a St Paul Convergence space for anti-RNC demonstrators, handcuffing over a hundred community members engaged in movie watching, meetings and potluck meals. Guns in hand, yelling "Get on the floor!" police attempted to preemptively prevent Republican National Convention (RNC) protests.
Police stated they had a warrant to search the meeting space for a variety of items including rags, jars, paint and video games. Police did not show the warrant to attorneys from the National Lawyer Guild and media who were at the scene. Within minutes, police established a one block perimeter around the Convergence Space.
Sheriffs arriving in unmarked cars told the group that they were looking for "bomb making materials." No weapons or materials for weapons were found. Luci, calling from inside the Convergence Space during the raid, described the scene in a whispered voice, "Right now I’m hiding in a locked bathroom stall. I just peered out the door. It’s frightening– the cops are just standing over people and yelling at them. At least a hundred people are in handcuffs. We didn’t do anything, we were just in a meeting!"
The community Convergence Space held workshops on "Health & Safety" by the North Star Health Collective and "Know Your Rights" presented by the Coldsnap Legal Collective. Both collectives are independent, nonpartisan organizations designed to support community democracy. Coldsnap staffs hotlines 24 hours a day to help activists who have legal questions or to make referrals to lawyers. North Star opened a free Wellness Center for the community during the RNC and coordinates street medic services.
Present during the police raid was 5 year old Gabe with his mom and dad, who repeatedly asked "Mommy, mommy, why did the police crash through the door?" Activists, including Gabe’s parents, were handcuffed, identified and photographed, and released on site. There were no arrests. The space has been effectively closed, citing unrelated "fire code violations."
The tactic of preemptively raiding activist organizations before protests is not new. RNC Welcoming Committee, an anti-authoritarian collective organizing against the RNC, states, "This attempt to portray us as criminals and destroy our credibility has already backfired as evidenced by the masses who have come to support us." However, health care professionals who were planning on attending a three day workshop on providing services in mass demonstrations decided to cancel their plans. "My colleagues are scared to go to the North Star Health Collective’s Wellness Center because they fear it will be raided," said David, a Minneapolis-based complimentary health provider. "This kind of pre-emptive intimidation really works to keep people away," he continued.
RNC Welcoming Committee has initiated a Plan B. Workshops and meetings will be held in Powderhorn, a Minneapolis City Park. More information about RNC protests and organizing is available at nornc.org and http://twincities.indymedia.org/
Rebecca Trotzky Sirr is a fourth year medical student at the University of Minnesota who organizes with the North Star Health Collective. North Star blends social justice and medicine to bring free health care to the streets of her community.
Rebecca was born and raised and currently lives in Minneapolis. Rebecca and her awesome 9 year old son want to know who thought it was a good idea to bring the Republican National Convention to their hometown, because they would like to give them a good talking to.