November 13, 2008

Defend the RNC 8

Read this and please, please sign the petition:

Eight RNC Protesters Accused of 'Furthering Terrorism' Thanks To Statute
by Matt Snyders
[…] The Saturday before the Republican National Convention, [Eryn] Trimmer was sleeping upstairs in his two-story home in Minneapolis's Powderhorn neighborhood when he was awakened by a clatter. Within seconds, armed officers burst through his bedroom, guns drawn, and arrested Trimmer, his live-in girlfriend Monica Bicking, and their roommate Garrett Fitzgerald.
Five more RNC protesters would be rounded up during that weekend in advance of the RNC. Dubbed the "RNC 8," the defendants-seven of whom were members of anarchist group the RNC Welcoming Committee-stand accused of "conspiring to riot," a second-degree felony. According to a police affidavit, the eight acted as ringleaders in a plot to "kidnap delegates" and "sabotage the Xcel Center."
Authorities leveled the charges based on evidence provided by paid informants and undercover agents who infiltrated the RNC Welcoming Committee in the months leading up to the convention ("Moles Wanted," 5/21/08). "We assumed the group was under surveillance and that that could include informants," Trimmer says. "It was an open group and we weren't organizing anything illegal, so we didn't want to kick anybody out."
But the RNC 8 face more than the standard felony charges. For the first time, authorities are wielding an obscure state anti-terrorism statute passed in the nervous aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Second-degree "conspiracy to commit riot" ordinarily carries a maximum two-and-a-half-year prison sentence, but because the alleged crime was intended to "further terrorism," the sentence can be doubled to a maximum of five years.
"The statute's definition of 'terrorism' appears to be modeled after a statute in the Patriot Act," says attorney Bruce Nestor, who is defending one of the accused conspirators. "But whereas the Patriot Act statute requires an act of violence against people, the language here extends the definition to include 'violence to property.'"
[…] The most controversial aspect of the statute is its characterization of terrorism, which includes any felony that "significantly disrupts or interferes with the lawful exercise, operation, or conduct of government, lawful commerce, or the right of lawful assembly." Attorney Larry Leventhal, who is representing accused RNC 8 conspirator Max Specktor, says the language is overly broad.
"By that rationale, the definition of terrorism could be extended to anything," Leventhal argues. "If they don't like what you and I are saying to each other over a phone they're tapping, they can say that it's 'terroristic.'"
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher says that the RNC 8 may not look like the terrorists who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center, but their actions justify the stiffer penalties. Fletcher points to the fact that a 50-pound sandbag was hurled from a freeway overpass onto a busload of delegates as proof.
[…] The RNC 8 deny having any operational involvement in the sandbag incident, but admit that some members may have planned acts of "civil disobedience," such as blockading the Xcel Center.
At a probable cause hearing Monday, attorneys for the RNC 8 successfully argued for an extension to gather further evidence. But even if the defendants are convicted, it's doubtful any of them will serve the five years in prison called for by the new law.
[…] That comes as little consolation to Luce Guillen-Givens, one of the eight accused. Having been involved with various immigrant-rights and antiwar groups since the age of 15, Guillen-Givens, now 24, worries what will happen to the next person accused of "furthering terrorism."
"Historically, these crackdowns serve the purpose of disrupting and undermining movements of resistance," she says. "First, you try conspiracy charges out on the fringes and, if it works there, you move incrementally in."

Defend The RNC8! Dismiss the Charges!
Target: Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner

While trying to find details on the "sandbag drop," (which so far has resulted in zero usable hits) I came across this:

RNC Activist Dave Mahoney Facing New Charges
Submitted by haloka on Thu, 10/16/2008

The RNC 8 aren't the only activists facing trumped up terrorism charges in the wake of the RNC. Dave Mahoney, one of the many who came to the Twin Cities to join thousands of local residents protesting the convention, is now facing new charges and the possibility of several years in prison.
According to his support site, Dave was arrested by FBI agents while bicycling to a grocery store on September 4th. After being accused of allegedly throwing a sandbag off a bridge, the Star Tribune reported on October 3 on that an assault charge against Dave had been dropped. But in a letter from Dave dated October 10 (below), he says that Ramsey County prosecutors plan to charge him with two counts of assault in the second degree and two charges of terroristic threats. His next court date is November 13 in St. Paul.
"The prosecutors have created a new official complaint. I have not seen this complaint so I can only repeat what my Lawyer told me.
Now I am facing two charges of assault to the second degree and two charges of terroristic threats. I don't know the new maximum punishment, but part of me doesn't really want to know. This change is based on two Republican delegate witnesses saying they were 'scared' and allegations of me aiding a person by pointing my finger. I wish I could go into more detail about how ridiculous this is.
I feel like I have personally dealt with enough assault and terroristic threats from the police and 'justice system' to last me a lifetime. This is abuse, in jail it was physical, and now its psychological.
My court date has changed to November 13th. At this date the prosecutors will present their appeal and new complaint.
I dunno what to say right now..."

Dave Mahoney's support site, with info for donating, is

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