Police state USA

September 7, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

I’ve been asking a lot of “what the heck?” questions recently and here’s another one – what the heck is going on in Minneapolis? If you need a clearer example that the US of A is heading well down the road of a police state, I’m not sure I can give you a better example than this.

As we know, Arizona Senator, John McCain, has accepted the Republican party’s nomination for Prez in a glittering national convention the other day (I’ll have a bit to say about Sarah Palin in a future post). What you may not have known is that a bunch of people variously described as anti-war and anti-authoritarian were planning to protest. Yeah, well: last time I looked a democracy encompasses freedom of political expression. No wait: that was before Prez Bush turned the US into a police state!

Now, the protesters were members of a group called Food not Bombs. They hand out free vegetarian food in cities around the world. So no mention of Al-Queda in the name; no uttering of the word “terrorist”. Many of the protesters were college students who were living in a “hippie house” and were described as politically active but not threatening. Yeah, well we could probably describe the whole of Gen Y like this: politically and socially aware and concerned but not violent. I haven’t seen the whole of Gen Y busted by the cops yet. But the poor members of Food not Bombs were busted big time by the Storm Troopers police.

The protesters didn’t even make it to the National Convention. In what was very clearly an anticipatory raid that was fully intended to squash any form of freedom of political expression, cops from the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department raided four homes in the Minneapolis area were protesters were staying. College students were arrested, handcuffed, photographed and intimidated.

Now from a legal perspective, the law under which the protesters were nabbed has me shaking my head. They were not arrested pursuant to anti-terrorism laws. Nope, they were arrested under…wait for it….fire code violations (because they had gathered in a public space to talk about the protest). When the cops busted into houses, the charge of “conspiracy to commit riot” was used, which from my understanding has never been used before to arrest people in Minneapolis and is vague in its parameters.

The police used some heavy weaponry and tactics to scare 18 year olds: SWAT teams, automatic weapons, demanding people lie on the floor, handcuffs, riot gear, tear gas canisters , refusing to state why they were there, and best of all – refusing to say whether or not they had a search warrant. Note to police dudes: read the Fourth Amendment of your US Constitution, which requires you to conduct a search having obtained a search warrant based on probable cause. This means you must show the warrant (watch Law & Order SVU for instructions on how to do this!!) and the warrant must be limited to the specific object to be searched for and the place to be searched.

So having not told the College students what they were there for or showing them the search warrant, the cops spirited away laptops, personal journals and political material whilst keeping the protesters with noses pressed to the floor for 45 minutes. From all I’ve read, it seems the protesters were just a dissident bunch planning to protest. They weren’t planning to hurl bombs or take people out with AK-47s. Apparently, even journalists attempting to cover the raids were hauled off and detained (there goes freedom of the press!) as well as a lawyer from the National Lawyers’ Guild. You can read all the details here, here and here. You can even read a blog post from a person trapped in one of the houses being raided who blogged “This is extraordinary, folks. The St. Paul police came after us with unfounded allegations that we were engaged in criminal behavior”. This blogger is a member of I-Witness Video, a group that documents police misconduct and protects civil liberties.  Members of this group were also targeted during the raid.

What the? Is the US now saying that lawful protests are not allowed in a democracy and that they will do all in their power (constitutional or not) to stop any protest activity, including heavy fisted pre-emptive strikes? Police officials are saying that the protesters were armed to the teeth with weapons, including machetes. Possibly the protesters were a bunch of thugs who torture kittens but from everything I’ve read, it doesn’t seem the case. Check out this YouTube video by a videographer on the spot.

It’s all pretty dry stuff, no rioting by protesters, no chanting of protest slogans. The most exciting thing is the protesters’ lawyer making a statement in handcuffs saying they are waiting for a warrant. I think this is more about citizen control.

I remember reading this from The Washington Post during the recent Olympics: “Behind the gray walls and barbed wire of the prison here, eight Chinese farmers with a grievance against the government have been consigned to Olympic limbo. Their indefinite detainment, relatives and neighbors said, is the price they are paying for stirring up trouble as China prepares to host the Beijing Games. Trouble, the Communist Party has made clear, will not be permitted.”

Well, just replace the Communist Party with the US Government in the above quote because it seems US citizens are not permitted to protest.


Entry filed under: Politics, Rant, Surveillance society, Uncategorized, United States. Tags: .

Blog fog Police state USA II

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