Amy Goodman and Democracy in Action

Last night, at around 5 p.m. journalist Amy Goodman was arrested in St. Paul.

Amy Goodman and Democracy in Action
Photo: 3arabawy, Creative Commons, Flickr

Goodman, best known as the host of the radio program called Democracy Now!, is an award-winning investigative journalist who speaks out against social injustice, whether in Nigeria or America. She has often been called ‘the voice of the disenfranchised left.’ Her brother, David Goodman, speaks for the same group.

I live in St. Paul and have been following the outrageous behavior of the local police since Saturday, when a raid at 951 Iglehart Avenue netted army veteran Mike Whelan, who denies any affiliation with activist groups and says he simply wants to build a ‘better America.’

Whelan describes 20 or 30 law enforcement people, wearing black uniforms and driving nondescript vehicles, trampling his flowerbeds and detaining his roommate, Erin Stalmaker, after she responded to their questions about why people were running away by saying, "Your drawn weapons might have something to do with that."

One of those present at the Iglehart address was Eileen Clancy, the founder of I-Witness Video. She sent a message to Goodman and crew that Elizabeth Press, a producer with Democracy Now!, was in the house and threatened with arrest.

At another location in St. Paul, the RNC Welcoming Committee was targeted inside their rented theater. After ordering the 50 or so people inside to get down on the floor and handcuffing them, the police took photographs and confiscated laptops, protest schedules and welcoming guides, which protesters planned to distribute on Monday. They destroyed personal property and confiscated thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including video cameras and cell phones.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher charges that the Welcoming Committee is a criminal enterprise made up of 35 anarchists who were actively recruiting other anarchists. Fletcher cites weapons found – a gun, throwing knives, a bow and arrows, flammable liquids, paint, slingshots, rocks and buckets of urine – as proof that they intended to terrorize the RNC.

All those arrested in the five raids in St. Paul between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon are being held at the Hennepin County jail in Minneapolis on suspicion of conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to commit civil disorder and conspiracy to damage property. Why St. Paulites are being held in Minneapolis, a separate jurisdiction, remains a mystery, as does the excessive use of force and what one bystander described to me as ‘stormtrooper tactics.’

"All that’s missing is the jackboots," he said, then added: "No. Wait. They’ve even got the f—— boots!"

As of late Monday, nearly 300 people have been arrested, one of whom is a nun, many from a relatively peaceful protest march in downtown St. Paul near the Xcel Center, which is being used as RNC headquarters. Other raids in Minneapolis, in at least four known residences, have netted ‘suspected’ protesters.

The National Lawyers Guild and Communities United Against Police Brutality have filed an emergency motion to prevent the police from seizing any more equipment.

The 900-block of Iglehart Avenue is a lower middle-class working neighborhood in St. Paul’s Summit Area, where many large, Victorian-type homes have been divided into duplexes to provide inexpensive living for students and those earning close to minimum wage.

Many of the people I saw were college students, as were most of those who marched on Monday. The RNC Welcoming Committee may or may not be anarchists, but they did nothing to provoke the raid, including make threats, and their weapons (urine, rocks and paint – the gun is likely a plant) are hardly the stuff of terrorism. The same can’t be said of the raiders, who came in on full auto and so pumped on adrenalin it’s a wonder that someone didn’t get shot. Only the calmness of the arrestees prevented injury. The rest of the raids, in both St. Paul and Minneapolis, are simply inexcusable.

Granted, the local police were assisted (or should I say incited?) by outside agencies, including the FBI, but our local police have a bad habit of shooting first and asking questions later. Fortunately, no one was injured in these raids but that doesn’t excuse the use of undue force against a bunch of kids. College students are in a place when idealism reigns and injustice is especially hard to take. Cooler heads in the Twin Cities accept this. The injustice of the past few days, however, may give rise to some real anarchy.

Half of the political bigwigs in the Republican party aren’t even showing up for the event, and it’s a disgrace that the Xcel Energy Center itself, owned by an energy company so large rate hikes are rubber-stamped by the government, has so much more protection than the residents of Iglehart Avenue, but I guess that’s the real democracy in action for you.

I think I speak for a majority of the Twin Cities when I say, "Go home, Republicans, and take your jackboot troops with you. We didn’t invite you anyway."

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