Federal Government Involved In Raids On Protesters

As the police attacks on protesters in Minnesota continue -- see this video
of the police swarming a bus transporting members of Earth Justice,
seizing the bus and leaving the group members stranded on the side of
the highway -- it appears increasingly clear that it is the Federal
Government that is directing this intimidation campaign. Minnesota
Public Radio reported
yesterday that "the searches were led by the Ramsey County Sheriff's
office. Deputies coordinated searches with the Minneapolis and St. Paul
police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Today's Star Tribune added that the raids were specifically "aided by informants planted in protest groups." Back in May, Marcy Wheeler presciently noted
that the Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force -- an inter-agency
group of federal, state and local law enforcement led by the FBI -- was
actively recruiting Minneapolis residents to serve as plants, to
infiltrate "vegan groups" and other left-wing activist groups and
report back to the Task Force about what they were doing. There seems
to be little doubt that it was this domestic spying by the Federal
Government that led to the excessive and truly despicable home assaults by the police yesterday.

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law
enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have
committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by
months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as
extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that
they have received virtually no attention from the national media and
little outcry from anyone. And it's not difficult to see why. As the
recent "overhaul" of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated -- preceded
by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first
by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror -- we've essentially
decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There
is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will
cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore,
from the citizenry.

Beyond that, there is a widespread sense that the targets of these
raids deserve what they get, even if nothing they've done is remotely
illegal. We love to proclaim how much we cherish our "freedoms" in the
abstract, but we despise those who actually exercise them. The
Constitution, right in the very First Amendment, protects free speech
and free assembly precisely because those liberties are central to a
healthy republic -- but we've decided that anyone who would actually
express truly dissident views or do anything other than sit meekly and
quietly in their homes are dirty trouble-makers up to no good, and it's
therefore probably for the best if our Government keeps them in check,
spies on them, even gets a little rough with them.

After all, if you don't want the FBI spying on you, or the Police
surrounding and then invading your home with rifles and seizing your
computers, there's a very simple solution: don't protest the
Government. Just sit quietly in your house and mind your own business.
That way, the Government will have no reason to monitor what you say
and feel the need to intimidate you by invading your home. Anyone who
decides to protest -- especially with something as unruly and
disrespectful as an unauthorized street march -- gets what they deserve.

Isn't it that mentality which very clearly is the cause of virtually
everyone turning away as these police raids escalate against citizens
-- including lawyers, journalists and activists -- who have broken no
laws and whose only crime is that they intend vocally to protest what
the Government is doing? Add to that the fact that many good
establishment liberals are embarrassed by leftist protesters of this
sort and wish that they would remain invisible, and there arises a
widespread consensus that these Government attacks are perfectly
tolerable if not desirable.

During the Olympics just weeks ago, there was endless hand-wringing
over the efforts by the Chinese Government to squelch dissent and
incarcerate protesters. On August 21, The Washington Postfretted:

Americans detained by police this week could be held for 10 days,
according to Chinese authorities, who appear to be intensifying their
efforts to shut down any public demonstrations during the final days of
the Olympic Games. . . .

Chinese Olympic officials announced last month that Beijing would set
up zones where people could protest during the Games, as long as they
had received permission. None of the 77 applications submitted was
approved, however, and several other would-be protesters were stopped
from even applying.

On August 2, The Postgravely warned:

the gray walls and barbed wire of the prison here, eight Chinese
farmers with a grievance against the government have been consigned to
Olympic limbo.

Their indefinite detainment, relatives and neighbors said, is the price they are paying for stirring up trouble as China prepares to host the Beijing Games. Trouble, the Communist Party has made clear, will not be permitted.

Would The Washington Post
ever use such dark and accusatory tones to describe what the U.S.
Government does? Of course it wouldn't. Yet how is our own Government's
behavior in Minnesota any different than what the Chinese did to its
protesters during the Olympics (other than the fact that we actually
have a Constitution that prohibits such behavior)? And where are all
the self-righteous Freedom Crusaders in our nation's establishment
organs who were so flamboyantly criticizing the actions of a Government
on the other side of the globe as our own Government engages in the
same tyrannical, protest-squelching conduct with exactly the same

Just review what happened yesterday and today. Homes of college-aid
protesters were raided by rifle-wielding police forces. Journalists
were forcibly detained at gun point. Lawyers on the scene to represent
the detainees were handcuffed. Computers, laptops, journals, diaries,
and political pamphlets were seized from people's homes. And all of
this occurred against U.S. citizens, without a single act of violence
having taken place, and nothing more serious than traffic blockage even
alleged by authorities to have been planned.

man whose sister was one of those arrested at one of the raided houses
in Minneapolis yesterday emailed me a photograph of her and her friend
who was also arrested -- Monica Bicking (r.) and Eryn Trimme -- and he
wrote this:

They are still in custody. I've been told
that the police have 36 hours to charge her, and that 36 hours starts
after the labor day holiday, so they only have to charge her sometime
Wednesday. It seems unlikely that they'd do anything to expedite her or
Eryn's release.

They were then planning to actually board up her house for
unspecified "code violations", but apparently her neighbors were very
vocal, and the police ended up agreeing not to do anything so long as
the front door was fixed by 6pm (the front door they'd busted in).

Heres is the extraordinary blog item
I linked to yesterday from Eileen Clancy, one of the founders of
I-Witness Video -- a NYC-based video collective which is in St. Paul to
document the policing of the protests around this week's Republican
National Convention, just as they did at the 2004 GOP Convention in New
York. Clancy wrote this as a plea for help, as the Police surrounded
her house and (before they had a search warrant) told everyone inside
that they'd be arrested if they exited the home:

This is
Eileen Clancy . . . The house where I-Witness Video is staying in St.
Paul has been surrounded by police. We have locked all the doors. We
have been told that if we leave we will be detained. One of our people
who was caught outside is being detained in handcuffs in front of the
house. The police say that they are waiting to get a search warrant.
More than a dozen police are wielding firearms, including one St. Paul
officer with a long gun, which someone told me is an M-16.

We are suffering a preemptive video arrest. For those that don't
know, I-Witness Video was remarkably successful in exposing police
misconduct and outright perjury by police during the 2004 RNC. Out of
1800 arrests, at least 400 were overturned based solely on video
evidence which contradicted sworn statements which were fabricated by
police officers. It seems that the house arrest we are now under and
the possible threat of the seizure of our computers and video cameras
is a result of the 2004 success.

We are asking the public to contact the office of St. Paul Mayor
Chris Coleman at 651-266-8510 to stop this house arrest, this gross
intimidation by police officers, and the detention of media activists
and reporters.

sounds like what it was: a cry for help from a hostage. Hours later,
the Police finally obtained a search warrant -- for the wrong house,
one adjacent to the house where they were being detained -- and
nonetheless broke in, pointing guns, forced them to lay on the floor
and handcuffed everyone inside (and handcuffed a National Lawyers Guild
attorney outside). They searched the house, arrested nobody, and then

Any rational person planning to protest the GOP Convention would, in
light of this Government spying and these police raids, think twice --
at least -- about whether to do so. That is the point of the raids --
to announce to citizens that they best stay in their homes and be good,
quiet, meek, compliant people unless they want their homes to be
invaded, their property seized, and have rifles pointed at them, too.
The fact that this behavior is producing so little outcry only ensures,
for obvious reasons, that it will continue in the future. We love our
Surveillance State for keeping us safe and maintaining nice, quiet

A Professor at the University of Minnesota who lives in the
neighborhood where one of the homes was raided yesterday sent
photographs he took which rather conclusively demonstrate federal
involvement in these raids:

And Feministing has the video -- here -- of the scene yesterday where journalists were detained, along with an interview with the homeowner whose house was raided.

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