Thursday, September 04, 2008


A flurry of charges were filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court against some of the 284 people arrested on the first day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Eight of 16 felony charges filed Wednesday were against people identified in criminal complaints as members of the RNC Welcoming Committee. Each was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit riot in the second-degree in furtherance of terrorism.

The nearly identical 15-page complaints allege that the defendants plotted to "shut down and disrupt the Republican National Convention." Seven of the eight are in custody. A warrant has been issued for the eighth.

Those charged are: Luce Guillen-Givens, 23; Nathanael David Secor, 26; Erik Charles Oseland, 21; Monica Rachel Bicking, 23; Robert Joseph Czernik, 32; Garrett Scott Fitzgerald, 25; Max Jacob Specktor, 19; and Eryn Chase Trimmer, 23. The complaint claimed members had participated in many RNC Welcoming Committee meetings and training sessions where people discussed ways to disable police cars, use disguises to hide in a crowd, or assault officers. The Eight were charged following weekend police raids at some of their homes and work space.

According to the complaint, authorities had been investigating members of the RNC Welcoming Committee for the last year, with the help of an undercover investigator and three informants.

No actual acts of violence were committed or alleged to be committed by any of the Eight. No weapons or physical evidence of any conspiracy were found. The entire case against them appears to based on the testimony of three paid informants who infiltrated meetings.

A press advisory from the RNC Welcoming Committee reads:

In light of the massive police and military violence playing out each day of the Republican National Convention, the targeting, entrapment, and persecution of protest logistics organizers, the inhumane conditions that continue for the hundreds of people in the Ramsey County Jail, and the harassment of supporters outside the jail, we in the RNC Welcoming Committee are not backing down from our organizing. The Welcoming Committee is working harder than ever to ensure that our friends and comrades are safe and that protesters who are speaking their minds in the face of repression have access to food, housing, bicycles, a meeting space, workshops, legal/jail support, and medical care.

The St Paul Police Department, the City of St Paul, and particularly Bob Fletcher with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department have labeled us a "criminal enterprise", painting a picture of us and other anti-RNC organizers as faceless terrorists. On Thursday, September 4th at 10 AM on the 2nd floor of the RNC Convergence Space at 627 Smith Ave S., we will show the true faces and stories of the RNC Welcoming Committee.

We will show the 2nd floor of the convergence center as it was arranged at the time of the police raid last Friday night. We will give the latest information on the RNC 8, and we will take and answer questions. Afterwards, several members of the Welcoming Committee will be available for interview and photo opportunities.

The joint press conference will also feature the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.

Forty years ago eight protest leaders faced similar charges after the Democratic Cjonvention in Chicago. The Chicago 8, as they were known, came to serve as a rally point for many. As Ron Jacobs wrote at CounterPunch:

"...much like Chicago forty years ago, the primary cause of any riots that might occur in the Twin Cities are the result of unconstitutional police actions supported by local officials, the national party nominating its warmongering candidate, and the federal police state apparatus. Indeed, the events of forty years ago were termed a police riot by a federal commission formed to investigate the disturbances."

The following is from the National Lawyers Guild (Minnesota) via Infoshop.

Ramsey County Charges RNC 8 Under State Patriot Act, Alleges Acts of

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 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.

Bruce Nestor, President
Minnesota Chapter of National Lawyers Guild
3547 Cedar Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407

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