Violence at the RNC: Riots, Excessive force and Illegal Arrests

Dear Friend and Reader,

While doing some Sarah Palin research, I discovered an article on Feministing, an online feminist resource, that there was a terrifying police and National Guard presence at a peace protest outside the Republican National Convention on Monday, which lead to an outrageous use of force including “pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force,” according to this report. 284 protestors were arrested.

Reporter Amy Goodman and two producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, of Democracy Now, were arrested. The link is a video of the arrest. See for yourself whether you think the police used unnecessary aggression. Seven reporters from I-Witness, a group of NYC-based video journalists focused on civil rights, were detained as a preemptive measure, while 30 police officers surrounded their office.

Here are more details about the arrest of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar:

All three were violently manhandled by law enforcement officers. Abdel Kouddous was slammed against a wall and the ground, leaving his arms scraped and bloodied. He sustained other injuries to his chest and back. Salazar’s violent arrest by baton-wielding officers, during which she was slammed to the ground while yelling, “I’m Press! Press!,” resulted in her nose bleeding, as well as causing facial pain. Goodman’s arm was violently yanked by police as she was arrested.

On Tuesday, Democracy Now! will broadcast video of these arrests, as well as the broader police action. These will also be available on: www.democracynow.org

Goodman was arrested while questioning police about the unlawful detention of Kouddous and Salazar who were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman’s crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were arrested on suspicion of rioting, a felony. While the three have been released, they all still face charges stemming from their unlawful arrest. Kouddous and Salazar face pending charges of suspicion of felony riot, while Goodman has been officially charged with obstruction of a legal process and interference with a “peace officer.”

In addition to the illegal arrests and detainments of journalists, the peace march sponsored by Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign ended with violence. At least one demonstrator was tasered by officers as he lay on the ground.

Read below for some accounts of the violence at Monday’s peace march sponsored by Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.

This report hails from St. Paul’s local news station, Kare 11:

Spasms of violence erupted throughout downtown as tear gas was fired and protesters — some angry, some insistent on dancing amid the chaos — played a game of cat-and-mouse as police, backed up by 150 Minnesota National Guard soldiers, alternately accommodated, confronted and chased roving bands intent on disrupting the convention.

Organizers of the Coalition to March on the RNC and End the War estimated 30,000 people showed up to march from the state Capitol to the Xcel Energy Center. They had expected 50,000.

Police put the crowd at about 10,000.

This one comes from feministing, an eyewitness account of the police and National Guard presence:

Deep black-clad troops thick with riot gear and anonymizing helmets, no distinction between them save color-coded duct tape between the shoulders and the slightly differing gait in the thudding of their boots against the cold and hard pavement marched, god I’m not kidding you, Gestapo style up the middle of Robert Avenue in St. Paul last night around 8:45 p.m., straight up toward the Capital building, where they young girls I’d just interviewed were headed because, as they explained, the Poor People’s march “was getting too rowdy.”

Boy, were they likely surprised when 300 storm troopers in black black riot gear showed up to the party, that had already been shut down and quiet for hours.

It was easily the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen: When I watch videos of the Khmer Rouge moving in on cities in Cambodia, a place I love second only to America, I try to access what the feeling must be like of watching your people invade their own with intent to harm in mass, faceless numbers. Before last night at 8:45 p.m., I could not for the life of me imagine it. And now I saw it, in the very city I’d been told since birth was immune from the evils of the world.

I know it’s too late to lose my innocence, again, but I took a moment to meditate beside a lake this morning in Chanhassen where we’re all staying, the great pink horde of us, far far away from the clamor of the streets (too far if you ask me, but some of the ladies here are content with that). As I looked out over the gently moving lake, waking up with the 8 a.m. winds, rocking against the shore, I hit sorrow in the pit of my stomach like I haven’t felt before.

I thought it might be the aggravation of 20-hour days spent fighting, documenting, worrying, running, sorting through the miscommunications of a group constantly on the go, and just plain old waiting for something to happen. It wasn’t aggravation. It was a single image.

The image of American troops dressed in black moving in with intent to harm young American civilians.

Reports will roll in today about what exactly went down and where and when and why. Anarchists will be blamed for “bomb-making”–these reports aren’t, by the way, to be believed–and stories of National Guardsmen and St. Paul Police and Sheriffs and undercover cops going rogue and lashing out at people will flood the Midwest like the Mighty Mississippi.

What I know is that dump trucks were called in to blockade entire streets. Hundreds of troops suited up before the Rage Against the Machine Concert and waited for them to start. Two lines of troops surrounded all sides of a peaceful march just winding down–put on, by the way, by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign–and threw tear gas, released flash grenades (at least four of them), intimidated, harassed, and roiled a crowd standing up for their right to speak out against a damaging administration into a frenzy they then had to control, through further intimidation and harassment.

The images and the reports speak for themselves: clearly, a peace march outside the Republican National Convention is call for a police state. Free speech rights have been violated, illegal arrests and detainments have been made and excessive force was used against internationally respected reporters and relatively-peaceful protestors.

I’ll continue covering this story as it unfolds, stay tuned.

Rachel Asher

3 thoughts on “Violence at the RNC: Riots, Excessive force and Illegal Arrests

  1. One other thing, I find it funny that with all the pictures and video Rachel put into this, none of the hundreds of pictures or videos documenting the Anarchists breaking store windows, tipping over ATM’s, throwing cement park benches in the streets, or tossing urine bombs at attendees made it into this article. Once again, Please get all the facts… not just the one side of an extremist.

  2. In reading this article, I find it missing some important facts. Being a resident of St. Paul, and being down town at the time of the demonstration I feel I must add the fact that the police were not doing anything until Anarchists that joined the Peaceful march began smashing in windows, destroying property, and tossing urine bombs at delegates and bus drivers. Having been a deputy in the past, I can tell you from experience that the actions taken by law enforcement were not Excessive or Illegal, rather they were handled very well. In the pictures and videos shown on TV and here, note that the officers give the protesters several opportunities to just walk away. They are not arrested unless they just passively refuse to the officers requests. In a riot situation, the concern is for the well being of everyone, and law enforcement would much rather just turn people around and disperse than arrest them, but at some point, they have to start to remove those that are not helping the problem, even if they are just not leaving. With thousands of people to look after, they can’t take a chance that the one they just let by might by might be the one with a bomb. Until you have seen what is going on first hand, please don’t try to report on a situation based on hearsay from some extremists hell bent on distorting the truth.

  3. Thanks for the excellent reporting, Rachel. The eyewitness account from feministing was especially chilling. I appreciate your ability to bring this to us in a way that evokes the deep visceral responses that such events call for… which hopefully then translates to meaningful action for each of us in our own way. –cf

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