Tyneisha Bowens, Workers World, Oct 4, 2008
For four days in September the top-ranking members of the Republican Party staged their national convention in St. Paul, Minn., to officially announce the presidential and vice presidential candidacies of John McCain and Sarah Palin. While corporate interests and corrupt local politicians welcomed the Republicans with open arms, the citizens of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul organized mass protests and pockets of resistance all over the city.
In preparation for the protests and plans to shut down the Republican National Convention, the city of St. Paul was given $50 million for security, which it used to terrorize protesters and residents of the Twin Cities before and during the RNC. Harassment included preemptive raids on private homes and public meeting spaces with no warrants or legal reasoning; the arrests of 800 protesters, journalists and locals; brutality and torture in the jails and detention centers where protesters were held; and the use of gas, concussion bombs, pepper spray, rubber bullets and marker ammunition on protesters.
Of the 800 arrested, eight—Monica Bicking, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, Luce Guillen-Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, Max Spector and Eryn Timmer—are being charged with "conspiracy to commit riot in furtherance of terrorism." This is the first use of this charge, under the USA Patriot Act. The charge is a second-degree felony that could result in several years in prison for these eight brave organizers.
The eight are members of the Welcoming Committee, an anarchist/anti-authoritarian group that organized activities to shut down the RNC. Their arrests took place on Aug. 30 and Sept 1, six of them in raids of homes and public meeting spaces.
It is clear that the RNC 8 are political targets being used to set a repressive precedent against organizers and activists across the country. The U.S government is setting the stage for mass repression of movements for social and economic justice by equating activism to terrorism. This can be seen in the arrests and charges of the eight as well as the new presence of an active military unit, fresh from Iraq, which has been placed within U.S. borders to put down acts of "civil unrest" and subdue groups and individuals.
Organizers across the country are mobilizing support for the RNC 8 through fundraising for legal expenses, letters of support, building awareness locally and nationally as well as putting pressure on Minnesota elected officials to drop the charges and free the eight. Their trials are underway at the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center in St. Paul.
This is the time to stand together against the repression of our right to call out and act against injustice, our right to stand up against oppression, war and poverty. It is time for us to call for justice for the RNC 8 and all political prisoners.
For more information on the RNC 8 and their trial dates visit http://rnc8.org.