In the months following the protests at the Republican National Convention (RNC), held in September, a group referred to as “the RNC 8” continue to fight for their own freedom. The RNC 8, consisting of Luce Guillen Givins, Max Specktor, Nathanael Secor, Eryn Trimmer, Monica Bicking, Erik Oseland, Robert Czernik and Garrett Fitzgerald, were all arrested prior to the RNC and charged with Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism under what is essentially Minnesota’s version of the PATRIOT Act for their political organizing as part of the RNC Welcoming Committee.
The basis for their arrest was founded on reports by paid, confidential informants who infiltrated the RNC-WC and claimed that members sought to kidnap RNC delegates, assault police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. Criminal complaints filed by the Ramsey County Attorney do not allege that any members of the RNC 8 engaged in any acts of violence or damage to property, but lists all violations of the law during the last few days of the RNC (not including violations of human rights committed by law enforcement officials), instead seeking to hold the RNC 8 responsible for the actions of others. When searches conducted in connection with the raids failed to turn up any evidence, police claimed that common household items such as glass bottles, charcoal lighter, nails, a rusty machete, and two hatchets supported the allegations of the informants.
As Bruce Nestor, President of the Minnesota Chapter of National Lawyers Guild, expressed, “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 (source).”
In December, three more felony charges were added by Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner: 2nd degree conspiracy to riot (without the terrorism enhancement), 1st degree conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in furtherance of terrorism, and 1st degree conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property (without the terrorism enhancement).
Recently, court proceedings for the RNC 8 have been delayed as in early January Judge Salvador Rosas, who was selected to hear the case, recused himself for reasons he has not made public. As a result, the motion hearing scheduled for January 26 will not be taking place, and a date has yet to be set for assigning a new judge.
A good resource for those interested in the fate of the RNC 8 is the web site www.rnc8.org, “Friends of the RNC 8.”The site includes news updates, biographies of the defendants, fundraiser information, etc.
One of the most beneficial sections on the website is the article “Top 9 RNC Myths: Anticipating the Heffelfinger-Luger Report,” as most of these myths have been applied to past demonstrations, and will no doubt be perpetrated in the future. For example, the claim that protestors threw human excrement at law enforcement was falsely used during the 1968 DNC demonstrations in Chicago, and more recently in Denver at the 2008 DNC and in 2004 at the RNC and the DNC.
Terrorizing Dissent, a documentary film, is another resource that captures footage of the RNC protests and the blatant abuse endured by those demonstrating. It includes extensive interviews with the RNC 8 as well as “first-person accounts and footage from more than forty cameras on the streets.” The film can be viewed for free on the official web site TerrorizingDissent.org.