RNC activists charged as “terrorists” for exercising democratic rights

http://twincities.indymedia.org/2008/sep/breaking-rnc-8-charged-conspiracy-riot-furtherance-terrorism

BREAKING: RNC 8 Charged with “Conspiracy to Riot in
Furtherance of Terrorism”

In what appears to be the first use of criminal charges
under the 2002 Minnesota version of the Federal Patriot Act,
Ramsey County Prosecutors have formally charged 8 alleged
leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee with Conspiracy to
Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism. Monica Bicking, Eryn
Trimmer, Luce Guillen Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor,
Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Max Spector, face up
to 7 1/2 years in prison under the terrorism enhancement
charge which allows for a 50% increase in the maximum
penalty.

Affidavits released by law enforcement which were filed in
support of the search warrants used in raids over the
weekend, and used to support probable cause for the arrest
warrants, are based on paid, confidential informants who
infiltrated the RNCWC on behalf of law enforcement. They
allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates
to the RNC, assault police officers with firebombs and
explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. Evidence
released to date does not corroborate these allegations with
physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these
allegations than the claims of the informants. Based on past
abuses of such informants by law enforcement, the National
Lawyers Guild is concerned that such police informants have
incentives to lie and exaggerate threats of violence and to
also act as provacateurs in raising and urging support for
acts of violence.

“These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated
plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the
same as acts of terrorism. This both trivializes real
violence and attempts to place the stated political views of
the Defendants on trial,” said Bruce Nestor, President
of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
“The charges represent an abuse of the criminal justice
system and seek to intimidate any person organizing large
scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil
disobedience, he said.”

The criminal complaints filed by the Ramsey County Attorney
do not allege that any of the defendants personally have
engaged in any act of violence or damage to property. The
complaints list all of alleged violations of law during the
last few days of the RNC — other than violations of human
rights carried out by law enforcement — and seeks to hold
the 8 defendants responsible for acts committed by other
individuals. None of the defendants have any prior criminal
history involving acts of violence. Searches conducted in
connection with the raids failed to turn up any physical
evidence to support the allegations of organized attacks on
law enforcement. Although claiming probable cause to believe
that gunpowder, acids, and assembled incendiary devices
would be found, no such items were seized by police. As a
result, police sought to claim that the seizure of common
household items such as glass bottles, charcoal lighter,
nails, a rusty machete, and two hatchets, supported the
allegations of the confidential informants. “Police
found what they claim was a single plastic shield, a rusty
machete, and two hatchets used in Minnesota to split wood.
This doesn’t amount to evidence of an organized
insurrection, particularly when over 3,500 police are
present in the Twin Cities, armed with assault rifles,
concussion grenades, chemical weapons and full riot
gear,” said Nestor. In addition, the National Lawyers
Guild has previously pointed out how law enforcement has
fabricated evidence such as the claims that urine was seized
which demonstrators intended to throw at police.

The last time such charges were brought under Minnesota law
was in 1918, when Matt Moilen and others organizing labor
unions for the Industrial Workers of the World [ed.
correction-TCIMC] on the Iron Range were charged with
“criminal syndicalism.” The convictions, based on
allegations that workers had advocated or taught acts of
violence, including acts only damaging to property, were
upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court. In the light of
history, these convictions are widely seen as unjust and a
product of political trials. The National Lawyers Guild
condemns the charges filed in this case against the above 8
defendants and urges the Ramsey County Attorney to drop all
charges of conspiracy in this matter.

Source:
Bruce Nestor, President
Minnesota Chapter of National Lawyers Guild

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