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August 30, 2008

Inside an RNC raid

[As many of you know, I'm in Minneapolis-St. Paul covering the RNC for Firedoglake. Here's my first dispatch.]

Thanks to the miracle of cellular technology, I was able to talk to a homeowner while his home was surrounded by police conducting an RNC-related raid.

I reached Mike Whelan, a waiter and army veteran, by phone at his duplex at 951 Iglehart Ave. in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Whelan invited independent observers from the group LegalWatch stay in one half of his side-by-side duplex while they monitor RNC protests.

Whelan describes himself as a supporter of the RNC demonstrations, but says he is not affiliated with any particular group. "I want to build a country that's based on good social values," he said. 

When I spoke to him, Whelan was waiting in one half of the duplex with his roommates, Dan and Julian. The three were afraid to go outside because the police were still there. Whelan said he thought that the police were inside the opposite side of the duplex, where the legal observers were staying. "I think they are detaining people," he added.

Whelan, who sounded remarkably calm for a guy whose flower garden had just been trampled by police brandishing automatic weapons, said he'd just gotten home from a morning of garage sale shopping when the commotion started. That would have been about one o'clock local time.

He described what happened:

"About an hour and a half ago 20 to 30 heavily armed police officers surrounded the house," Whelan said. "One of my roommates said 'I want to see a warrant' and she was immediately detained."

"Are they still outside?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, they're still outside," Whelan replied cheerfully, "The streets are blocked off."

"How you did figure out there was a raid going on?" I asked.

"It sounded like people were falling down on my porch," he said, "Cops were running up both sides of the house onto the porch. 

Whelan says his roommate, Erin Stalmaker, went out to talk to talk to the police. She asked the officers why they were there. The officers asked why people were running away from them. Erin reportedly told the officers that their drawn automatic weapons probably had something to do with it. She was detained after asking to see a warrant.

"Are you scared," I asked."

"No, I'm a veteran," he said, "I was in the army. I was a military police officer. I wouldn't have done this."

Whelan said it was especially perplexing that the police would target his home.

"There's nothing here," he said, "These are the "checking" people. They're not even going to be in the demonstration. Some are lawyers."

Whelan was watching a large crowd of legal observers gathering across the street, many wearing red or green hats. The police officers he could identify were from St. Paul, but he thought there might be other forces on the scene as well. The officers were wearing black uniforms. Their vehicles were "non-descript" vans, not police cruisers. TV cameras were also on the scene.  Whelan couldn't be sure because a tree was blocking his view, but he thought City Council member Melvin Carter had arrived. Whelan called him when the raid started. (Talk about constituent service.)

"You figure this would be going on in South Africa, or Russia, not in St Paul," Whelan said, marveling at the incongruity of it all,"St. Paul is nice."

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I grew up in St. Paul. I lived on Iglehart Ave and my family still does. There is no Inglehart Ave.
For what it is worth people that mistake all the time. Otherwise excellent work. I think my last post got hung up with the link so am tryign again without one.

Nor is there an an Inglehart Dr. Sorry to keep posting on a rather trivial detail.

Nor is there an an Inglehart Dr. Sorry to keep posting on a rather trivial detail.

Another video of a different raid from Glenn:

http://qik.com/video/249011

The lawyer is the one in handcuffs. WoW.

This really doesn't sound like the Minnesota I grew up in.

Is this what it's come to in this country?

I wonder how the raids got approved. I wonder if this is what the founders wanted.

Not being a cop or an attorney I must say I don't really know my rights when it comes to asking for a warrant. Can the police detain you simply for asking for a warrant? And what exactly is detention? Do they have to charge you with something? How is a detention different from an arrest? What are a detainee's rights if any? Does asking for a warrant constitute resisting arrest? What level of force may the police use in detaining someone? Finally, what exactly, the hell, is this? Is Mr. Whelan harboring Osama bin Laden? Have these people discussed assassination or bombing? WTF?

WTF is right.

Do take care of yourself, Lindsay. And thank you and your colleagues so much for helping to fill the gaping hole left in this country by the so-called news media.

To the outraged:

None of this is new. There was plenty of it during the antiwar protests of the 60s and early 70s. During a mass protest in Washington hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters were arrested at the order of Nixon's Attorney General, and subsequent felon, John Mitchell. Law suits brought on behalf of the protesters determined that the arrests were illegal. Payments of $10,000 per plaintiff were awarded. Of course, the violators of our rights were never disciplined. The payments to the winning plaintiffs came from taxes paid by the citizens of this country, not the pockets of the corrupt politicians and office holders.

The riots in Chicago in 1968 during the Democratic Party Convention were police riots. The kids got bloodied and broken, not Richard Daley's cops. Subsequent legal suits and failed prosecutions of the protesters vindicated the protesters. Did Richard Daley have to answer for his command of the police riots? Of course not.

Fast forward to the RNC Convention in NYC in 2004. Bloomberg did the same thing. Protesters were arrested. A number of law suits later and the protesters were vindicated and payments made to those illegally arrested. Did Bloomberg or the police spend a single day in jail or produce money from their pockets to compensate the victims of illegal police activity? No.

So what's the moral of the story? The politicians and the police can do whatever they want, anytime they want, to anyone they chose. Will they be held accountable, personally, for their illegal actions? No. Even if later court judgments side with the protesters, the damage had already been done. No one in St. Paul or among the RNC will pay one red cent out of their pockets or spend one day in jail. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Le plus ca le change, le plus ca le meme chose.

This is the second story I've read where a person asking for a warrant was punished with detainment.

There is not a fig leaf of legal justification here. It's purely an act intended to intimidate. It's sad that the police view rights solely as a curb on their own power, and are happy to blatantly ignore the Constitution and the laws which are the foundation of our society.

It really is a cultural problem. The police culture does not understand the protest culture at all, so they view it as hostile and threatening. And then they start inventing stories of what protesters "might" do. And to prevent that from happening, they take "pre-emptive" action.

One of the big casualties of the Bush administration is the general understanding that pre-emptive violence is not a reasonable course of action for the police, or for a nation pretending to be the police, to take. The notion of probable cause has been casually jettisoned by the super-paranoid.

This WCCO news video adds a little more to the story.

http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=4226712&cl=9521824&src=news

Ironically, some of the tactics and intel gathering methods developed for the counter-insurgency in Iraq are spin-offs of law enforcement techniques. I'd say it's a bad time to be associated with Improvised Urination Device factories....

cfrost -- I'm not a lawyer, and I don't know much about the details of legal police procedure and such myself, but you could do worse than to drop by www.flexyourrights.org if you want to get a brief, amateur's overview of such matters. I'll paste it into the URL box to make it easier!

RickD,

I share your concern about a lack of respect for our constitution and law abiding citizens. However, we need to focus on the real source of the problem, and it is not the police. Of course, the police are the visible agents who cuff people simply because they ask to see a warrant. They simply follow the orders they are given and go by the methods learned in training.

The real culprits are the political leaders who know how the system works and make it work for them. There was no problem in the 1960s until John Mitchell and Richard Daley unleashed the cops on the protesters. It was Bloomberg, not the cops, who promised to make the city 'safe' for the RNC in 2004.

In St. Paul, the average policeman doesn't sit up nights wondering how to make life miserable for lawful protesters. The local politicians who want to ingratiate themselves with the next administration will flex their muscles to show everyone that they can make things happen and keep everyone under control.

You and I have more thoughts in common than not on the outrageous suppression of lawful protest in St. Paul. But let's not drop it all on the police. Most of the responsibility is on the shoulders of the political leaders.

In 1968 Hubert H. Humphrey stood up on the podium at the Democratic Convention in Chicago and denounced Mayor Richard Daley for his gestapo tactics. Have you seen a republican express concern for civil liberties in St. Paul? The politicians and much of the public can hardly distinguish between the abuses of law in Guantanamo and abuses within our borders; Nor do they want to do so.

Saw LB's post at Firedog. So now there's another raid?

"In 1968 Hubert H. Humphrey stood up on the podium at the Democratic Convention in Chicago and denounced Mayor Richard Daley for his gestapo tactics. Have you seen a republican express concern for civil liberties in St. Paul?"

The Republican who would outraged by this sort of thing is as extinct as the dodo. The question is: have you heard any Democratic pols protesting? Have you seen any coverage on the cable networks? That's the difference between this society and the society in 1968, 1913 or 1891. Truly dissenting voices have been relegated to the shadows, and every reasonable person has, impressed in his heart, a certainty about the basic wisdom and decency of his leaders. In other words, the art and science of mob-control in this country has reached a state of near-perfection. (Though the internet, at this date, still remains the fly in the ointment.)

mudkitty : as nearly as I can tell, there have been at least five raids, and several street arrests near the Convention site.

The Minnesota Independent seems to be the most frequently updated source of new reportage.

Unfogged is on the case.

The Coldsnap Legal Collective has info about the arrests.

John Emerson is aggregating links at Seeing the Forest (and among them, LB's report above).

Hmm. Maybe best to do future meetings with VPN'd video conferences, maybe with the server in Canada.

More on Cops Gone Wild:

ABC News reporter arrested at the DNC

Prince Georges authorities deliver drugs to the home of a local mayor, then bust in and shoot his dogs.

(In all three cases the worst offenders seemd to be from the county sheriff's office, called in to back up the locals. Weird, huh?)

One wonders if the police were told that the protesters might be or might harbor "terrorists." Preemptive war on "terrorists" abroad (who often are merely the citizens of enemy nations); preemptive police attacks on "terrorists" at home.

Party Crashers
The peace-loving, road-blocking, window-smashing protesters at the RNC.
By Christopher Beam
Posted Monday, Sept. 1, 2008, at 9:33 PM ET on Slate.com
http://www.slate.com/id/2199060/pagenum/2/

Maybe I missed it but does anyone know how law enforcement was tipped to these "suspects"? Was it all infiltration/informers or is this wiretapping at work? Or both?

Also, am I the only one who finds this squarely at odds with the racist, armed Meth-heads who wanted to kill Obama that were arrested outside of Denver? You know the ones determined to be no "credible threat"?

I can't decide whether hate my government more than I'm ashamed of it.

-AF
Andrew Sullivan Is A Fraud

Well, now that the "men in Black" have busted Amy Goodman, I'd say that 8Ball, Minnesota has reached a new low in "press relations"... and can't help wondering if such a thing could happen to a Major network figure. Those local politicians are gonna have a ball spinning THIS one... ^..^

"One of my roommates said 'I want to see a warrant' and she was immediately detained."

We've fought for freedom dear
both here and on the distant shore
Paid a price a sacrifice
A price you can't ignore
Oh, we're far too young to die
We can make it if we try
We've not yet begun to fly.
It's time to let the mighty eagle soar once more.

Let the eagle soar,
Like she’s never soared before.
From rocky coast to golden shore,
Let the mighty eagle soar.
Soar with healing in her wings,
As the land beneath her sings:
'Only God, no other kings.'
Let the mighty eagle soar.

"One wonders if the police were told that the protesters might be or might harbor 'terrorists.'"

The protesters are potentially embarassing to authority, and that, in the eyes of most governments, is the worst kind of "terrorist" there is.

-- -- Police and protesters clashed here on the opening day of the Republican National Convention after groups of self-described anarchists, black cloths covering their faces, began roaming the downtown streets -- setting fires, throwing rocks and breaking windows.--

Not saying that your boys were doing this, or that they were mingling with those planning on acts of criminality and anarchy, but...there are very good reasons for intense police surveillance of some professional protesters.

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