This past fall the Republican Party held its national convention in St. Paul, MN. Tens of thousands of protester from around the country converged to show their opposition to the Iraq war, and other reactionary policies.
Anticipating mass protests, state and federal authorities closely watched local activists who were working on preparations for these demonstrations. Local activist groups were infiltrated with informants, and activists were regularly followed and spied upon.
Immediately prior to the anti-RNC protests, a series of raids were conducted by police in an attempt to disrupt the protests and intimidate activists into staying away. Authorities in particular targeted the largely anarchist “RNC Welcoming Committee”.
The pre-protest raids began on August 30, 2008, when the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department raided three houses, seizing common household items and arresting Monica Bicking, Garrett Fitzgerald, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, and Eryn Trimmer. Later that day Luce Guillen-Givins was arrested leaving a public meeting at a park. And then on September 1 Rob Czernik and Max Specktor were also arrested.
While hundreds of protesters were arrested during the anti-RNC protests, these 8 organizers have been singled out for particularly outrageous charges.
Originally the RNC 8 were charged with conspiracy to riot in the 2nd degree in furtherance of terrorism, a felony which is the first ever use of Minnesota’s PATRIOT Act. As if that wasn’t outrageous enough, more recently they have received three additional felony charges, courtesy of Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner (who is also running for Governor of Minnesota as a Democrat). The additional charges are 2nd degree conspiracy to riot (without the terrorism enhancement), 1st degree conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in furtherance of terrorism, and 1st degree conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property (without the terrorism enhancement). All together these charges would result in over a dozen years in prison.
Facing enormous legal costs, fundraising efforts and educational events on behalf of the RNC 8 are being organized on their behalf around the country. Recently three of the RNC 8 made their way to Duluth, MN, for example, for a week long series of events. Several forums were organized, as well as meetings with labor and political leaders. Among the fundraising activities were a “hug a terrorist” booth at the annual Living Green Conference, and a fundraising concert at Carmody’s Irish Pub in Duluth that netted almost $1500.
In the coming months it’s crucial that additional events be organized in as many cities as possible. While Socialist Action does not support all of the tactics or politics of anarchist groups like the RNC Welcoming Committee, we firmly believe that an injury to one is an injury to all. Activists of all stripes should particularly be concerned about the liberal use of terrorism charges – which could very easily be used in the future against anti-war, labor, community and other activists.