Wednesday, September 03, 2008

St. Paul Police Shut Down Concert, Continue Assault: 5,000 Marching Against Poverty Met with Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets

St. Paul Police Shut Down Concert, Continue Assault
5,000 Marching Against Poverty Met with Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets

Undeterred by a climate of heavy police repression and threats, over 5,000 protesters took to the streets of St. Paul to march against poverty on Sept. 2, the second day of the Republican National Convention. From the early morning until late into the night, thousands more took part in protest actions all over the city.

St. Paul police filled the streets with tear gas
The “Poor people’s march for our lives” marched through downtown St. Paul, past the Minnesota State Capitol and to the Xcel Center, site of the RNC. Made up of thousands of young people, the protest was militant and very multi-national. Vibrant chants of “Education, Not Occupation! Education, Not Incarceration!” echoed strongly throughout the march.

On day two, the police continued their intimidation tactics and brutality. Young people on bikes were targeted. The ANSWER delegation witnessed people being knocked off their bikes by police and arrested. Teams of bicycle cops systematically harassed, surrounded and questioned anyone who was walking to an anti-RNC event.

Police in riot gear shut down a permitted free concert at the State Capitol where thousands of people had gathered to listen to Rage Against the Machine. The police surrounded the band’s trailer and informed them that they were being shut down on the grounds that their concert would “incite a riot.”

Rage Against the Machine defied the order and played a short acoustic set.

In the evening, police fired large amounts of teargas, “anti-crowd” explosives and pepper spray at thousands of protesters who gathered outside the Xcel Center at the end of the big anti-poverty march. The Xcel Center is surrounded by eight foot fencing and heavily guarded at all times.

On Sept. 2, another 10 people were arrested. The broad assault on the protesters has been coordinated at the federal and local level and carried out by the FBI, ICE, the National Guard, state police, local police and the coast guard.

Showing clearly that the arrests are coordinated to intimidate protest of the RNC, local police have announced that they are planning to hold protesters until the end of the convention. Bragging openly about the police plan of repression, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said, "We know we have 200 of the biggest trouble makers in jail from Monday and they're not getting out for some time, so that's a big help."

At the time of this report the majority of the nearly 300 protesters who have been arrested during the RNC continue to be illegally jailed. Minnesota law requires arrestees to be released or officially charged within 36 hours after being arrested. Attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild and other law collective support teams are working to free all those detained during the protest.

Please take a moment and click this link to send a letter to Chris Coleman, the mayor of St. Paul, demanding that all protesters and social justice organizers be released, and that all charged be dropped. The real criminals are the "law enforcement" authorities, who have systematically violated the free speech rights of protesters, and in more than a few cases carried out physical abuse.

Protests are continuing over the next two days with a mass march and rally on Thursday set to coincide with John McCain’s acceptance speech. The Minnesota Anti-war Committee is sponsoring the protest and the ANSWER Coalition along with many other local and national groups have endorsed the action.

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 213-251-1025
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Chicago: 773-463-0311

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