This week terrorism charges were dropped against the “RNC 8”. It’s a victory that shows both the power of solidarity and the problems in the State of Minnesota’s political prosecution aimed at activists protesting outside of the Republican National Convention (RNC) this past September.
MediaMouse.org previously wrote about the “RNC 8”, but for those who missed that article, the RNC 8 are eight activists who were arrested before and during the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities. The activists–who had been working with a group called the Republican Welcoming Committee and were providing logistical support for the thousands of protestors that came to the Twin Cities–were arrested before and during the protests. The eight were originally charged with “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism.” The charge–which was filed under the Minnesota version of the USA PATRIOT Act–was filed despite the fact that the activists are not actually accused of participating in a riot. In the fall of 2008, three additional charges–Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Damage to Property in Furtherance of Terrorism, Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Damage to Property, and Conspiracy to Riot–were added. Activists have said that the charges could have a chilling effect on political dissent.
Now, the lead prosecutor in the case–Susan Gaertner–has dropped both of the terrorism charges, leaving only the conspiracy charges.
The news comes following significant national attention and a campaign by supporters that included the delivery of 3,000 petitions to Gaertner’s office last month asking her to drop the charges. Gaertner is currently in a campaign for governor and many suspect that attention around the case will cast a negative light on her campaign.
Friends of the RNC 8–a group organizing to support the RNC 8–issued a statement saying that:
“Friends of the RNC 8asks Susan Gaertner to continue in the direction of justice by dropping all the remaining charges, thereby saving enormous financial resources for the people of Minnesota in this time of rampant foreclosures, unemployment and economic turmoil. We also remind supporters that while we should rightly celebrate this small victory, the time for increased action to defend the RNC 8 is now. Political organizing is not conspiracy. Dissent is not a crime.”