Police and the local Democratic Party power structure in Minneapolis have been active on more than one front lately. Plans by animal rights organizations to demonstrate outside the recent meeting of the International Society of Animal Genetics were met with a massive police mobilization.
For weeks before the July conference, police showed videotapes of the Seattle anti-WTO demonstration to local businesspeople and neighborhood groups. Concrete barricades were built around possible protest sites.
Letters from the Minneapolis police department were sent to activists, including attorney Jordan Kushner of the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, asking him to contact police if he planned to participate in protests outside the conference. Kushner has been defending activists arrested in police attacks on demonstrators on May 1 of this year.
Two days into the conference, hundreds of police in riot gear surrounded demonstrators, arresting and pepper spraying some 72 people. Police and FBI charged that demonstrators had left canisters of cyanide in the downtown area but have yet to prove that the containers had anything in them but vinegar, which the protesters planned to use as an antidote to pepper spray or tear gas.
Efforts by police and the city government to scare the public about the “threat to safety” posed by the 200 or so demonstrators are falling flat with the local media and even some in city government. City Council member Jim Niland said, “Anyone who saw these protesters saw that 99.9 percent of the protest was peaceful.”
Among other actions, police raided a duplex housing Sister’s Camelot, which distributes free food to the hungry in Minneapolis. Computers were confiscated, and the organization, now bankrupt, has been evicted.