Sunday, August 31, 2008

Unlawful Search and Seizure in Ramsey Co., Minnesota

To the Sheriff of Ramsey Co., Minnesota:
"At around 9:15 PM Friday, Ramsey Co. Sheriffs and St. Paul Police Officers kicked in the door of a former theater in St. Paul that the RNC Welcoming Committee had rented as a central planning office. They ordered the 50 people inside onto the floor, where they were handcuffed, photographed and asked for identification, then had their possessions searched. Police kept at least 3 laptops, plus schedules and 7,000 welcoming guides organizers planned to distribute to people coming to the Twin Cities for demonstration. .... The 'Welcoming Committee' is a criminal enterprise made up of 35 anarchists who are intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention ... these acts include tactics to blockade and disable delegate buses, breaching venue security and injuring police officers. They have recruited assistants in their criminal conspiracy from other anarchist groups throughout the country." 1
Sheriff, how dare you? Reading about your actions reminded me of nothing so much as when I studied the actions of early Nazis who kicked in doors and terrified the citizenry. You broke down the door -- why? Wouldn't a knock do? You all have been watching that "Cops" show for too many years -- when I was a child a policeman would come to the door and knock. We didn't have random "peace" officers kicking down our doors during the earlier part of my life, but it seems that this sort of police brutality is more commonplace and for reasons I cannot comprehend, more acceptable. More acceptable to force people on the floor, to handcuff and search them, making away with their property --- I am revolted by your actions. Those laptops you took away -- what gave you the right? YOU people are the scary part of this story. Don't pretend you are protecting the PEOPLE. We are afraid of you.
That is because every time some police organization like yours gets out of hand, our civil liberties are eroded just a little more. The people should NOT HAVE TO FEAR THE POLICE. POLITICAL PROTESTERS OF EITHER PARTY SHOULD NOT HAVE TO FEAR THE POLICE. WHAT YOU ALL HAVE DONE IS SHAMEFUL AND WRONG. These are not the actions of a benevolent police force. In New York City 4 years ago the protesters were kept far away from the conventioneers, who had no idea of the size of the protest. During this election cycle, if one looks at the way the protesters around the DNC last week were handled (ordinary citizens said the display of force was excessive and frightening) combined with Friday night at Ramsey County you can see the strengthening of the limbs of the newly forming police state. How, I wonder, could I have lived to hear of this sort of "arrest the demonstrators before they demonstrate" action against those people, who are also American and part of the people you are charged to protect.
I think that during times of protracted warfare, particularly when abuses of power by so-called "liberators" occur, certain things can happen in the society waging war. Somehow the worst in human nature becomes commonplace, and actions such as yours merely raise an eyebrow. But people should be aware that a new strain of viciousness runs through the armed branches of our body politic -- be they soldiers or sailors, the police or military police, the prison guards, the thousands of uncontrolled mercenaries -- anyone who uses the argument "We are at War" as an excuse to intimidate, harrass or degrade citizens exercising their lawful right of assembly.
As we as a nation have put torture on the menu of common warfare, and in so doing surrendered any claim to moral superiority in leadership, we have also allowed more cruelty and abuse, these flowers of evil, to spring up in our secret places -- our jails and prisons, or "youth camps" and places of interrogation. There is even an interrogation chamber in the heart of the White House -- when that piece hit the news last week I felt violated -- as though the place that symbolized a sort of innocence, the best of our nation -- had been utterly compromised. And we all read the articles and try to comprehend such things as "extraordinary rendition" and we in response we do NOTHING.
And so today we read of another set of "jackbooted thugs" kicking in the doors upon a lawful gathering of citizens (as far as I know), and a further chill enters the hearts of lovers of Freedom. The right of lawful assembly is guaranteed to us by our Constitution, and as far as I can tell from what's come out so far, these people were arrested for a riot that hadn't occurred -- is that legal? I'm not big on Anarchists, but how do we know that's what was really going on there?
A Police State -- isn't that a place where you never know when some guys in some kind of uniform might kick in the door where people are gathered for reasons of their own? I presume, once again, that no Molotov Cocktails were found, nor any bomb making equipment? So who is on the right side of the law here? Will some Constitutional scholar help me out? Journalists, Columnists -- wordsmiths of all types and political persuasions -- we can't have this! The next occasion that some power mad police officer decides to interrupt could just as easily be a political discussion of a book critical of the President -- nothing would surprise me anymore. A person could find oneself hauled off for some sort of conspiracy to commit harm! In the land of "extraordinary rendition" anything is possible. What happened to my beloved country?
There is one question I feel hasn't gotten enough, if any, play during this entire election cycle. We all know that President George W. Bush has gathered extraordinary powers around the Executive Branch of our government -- what will be done to dismantle the changes that have led America further from true Democracy and closer to the wedding of government, business and militarism known as Fascism? This is a big, important question and I haven't heard any answers from either side of the aisle.
J. Bryant, CA
1. Joe Garafoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31/2008