Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Message from United For Peace and Justice
We are sending you this message because the situation in St. Paul is very grave and we're concerned that the real story is not being told by the mainstream media.
Over the past few days, the heavily armed and extremely large police presence in St. Paul has intimidated, harrassed and provoked people; and, in a number of instances, the police have escalated situations when they used excessive force. They have used pepper spray, including spraying at least one person just inches from her face as she was held down on the ground by several police officers. They have freely swung their extra long night sticks, pushed people around, rode horses and bicycles up against peacefully gathered groups, and surrounded people simply walking down the streets. On Tuesday evening, they used tear gas on a small group of protesters in downtown St. Paul.
The massive police presence and the uncalled-for actions by the police on the streets has not been the only problem. The police raided a convergence center and several locations where people are staying over the weekend and they have stopped and searched vehicles for no clear reason. For background on the activities of the police in St. Paul, check out Marjorie Cohn's article here.
On Tuesday afternoon, they literally pulled the plug and turned off the electricity at a permitted outdoor concert. The timing of this led to a situation where hundreds of understandably angry people ended up joining a march being led by the Poor Peoples Campaign for Economic Human Rights, a march that organizers were insisting be nonviolent. In other words, the police set up a dynamic that could have turned ugly, but the skill of the organizers kept things calm and focused.
All of this - and much more - needs to be understood in the context of the overwhelming presence of police. Police from all around the Twin Cities have been put to work, and they have also brought in police units from around Minnesota and from as far away as Philadelphia, PA. The National Guard and state troopers are in the mix, to say nothing of the Secret Service, Homeland Security and who knows who else from the federal government!
We are very concerned about what this all means about the right to protest, the right to assemble, and the right to have one's dissenting voice heard. We are worried about what it means about the growing militarization of our nation and the ongoing assault on the Constitution. We shudder to think about how the influx of new weapons and armed vehicles and everything else will be used in the neighborhoods of St. Paul and Denver: both communities each received $50 million from Homeland Security to purchase the equipment and pay for the policing during the conventions.
There are still two more days of the Republican Convention in St. Paul -- two more days of protest and possibilities of police mis-conduct, over-reaction, and excessive use of force.
We urge you to call the Mayor of St. Paul right now! Let him know that people around the country know what's happening! Urge him to stand up for the Constitution and to take action to end the militarization of the downtown areas of his city! Urge him to reign in the police and help bring civility to the streets of St. Paul!
Mayor Chris Coleman: 651-266-8510
And call your local media outlets to demand that they tell the real story of what's happening in St. Paul this week.
Leslie Cagan, UFPJ National Coordinator
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