FBI Infiltrated Iowa Anti-War Group in Advance of RNC Protests

Republican National Convention (RNC) Protests

The legal fallout from the protests surrounding the Republican National Convention (RNC) last year has been intense. Eight activists from the Twin Cities have been charged as being a part of a criminal conspiracy, while at the same, extensive infiltration of protest groups by local and federal law enforcement has been documented. This attention didn’t just focus on activists in the Twin Cities as activists in Texas who were planning to participate in the protests were monitored for months beforehand by an undercover FBI informant.

Now news has come out of still more infiltration, this time of a protest group in Iowa City. According to the Des Moines Register, an FBI informant was used to spy on a group of anarchists from Iowa City. The local police department was not familiar with the FBI surveillance, but they have indicated that they were aware of an undercover officer being sent to the city by Ramsey County (where St. Paul is located) to spy on activists.

According to the newspaper, the FBI agent collected detailed information regarding Iowa City activists planning to attend the RNC:

The FBI documents provide in-depth descriptions of more than a dozen Iowa political activists. This includes personal information such as names, height, weight, place of employment, cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The documents also include individuals’ plans for the convention demonstrations.

Some of the surveillance occurred when the activists met last year at the Iowa City Public Library.

The FBI documents show the investigative reports were written in August 2008 by Special Agent Thomas Reinwart, who is assigned to Cedar Rapids, based on reports from a “confidential human source” in Iowa City.

Individual names of protesters were blacked out of the copy of the FBI documents obtained by the Register, but the dossiers included personal facts.

For example, one woman was described as white, 5 feet 10 inches, 140 pounds, with blond hair and glasses. The report said she lived in Cedar Rapids, and it provided her cell phone number. She was characterized as a member of a specific subgroup who had interests in medic training and as a legal observer.

“She drives a little, dark green four door hatchback,” the report said.

A white man in his 20s who had recently moved to Iowa from Mississippi was also profiled by the FBI informant. “He is planning on attending the RNC and participating with the ‘Queer Block’ and ‘Bash Back,’ which are groups affiliated with the lesbian, bi-sexual, gay and transgender movement. Several hundred people associated with these two groups plan on doing their own thing and blocking an unknown (intersection),” the document said.

According to law enforcement officials, it was a fear of possible “crime” at the RNC that motivated the spying. And just what was the crime? Non-violent civil disobedience. Activists from Iowa City planned to organize a non-violent street blockade to disrupt access to the convention in order to have their political grievances heard. It’s a time-honored tradition that dates back centuries and something that has a rich history in the United States. The Civil Rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the labor movement, and many other movements in United States’ have all used civil disobedience.

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Terrorism Charges Dropped Against “RNC 8”

Terrorism Charges Dropped Against RNC 8

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.”

The RNC 8 and the Criminalization of Activism

In the past, MediaMouse.org has covered the case of the RNC 8–eight organizers who coordinated logistics for the protests against the Republican National Convention (RNC) last year. Earlier this week, Twin Cities Indymedia conducted an interview with journalist Will Potter that looks at what the prosecution of the RNC 8 means for the future of political organizing in the United States and how it fits into the post-9/11 criminalization of dissent:

One of the RNC 8 was also featured today on Democracy Now, who talks about the government’s efforts to hold them responsible for property damage during the RNC despite the fact that the prosecution admits they did not engage in any of those acts. The case is heavily based on the testimony of informants, one of whom was recently arrested for unrelated charges of assault and burglary.

Long After the RNC, 8 Activists Facing Terrorism Charges

The RNC 8 were indicted on terrorism charges in the wake of the RNC protests

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.

RNC Protest Report Finds Little Fault in Police Conduct

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Over the past summer, MediaMouse.org joined several independent journalists in St. Paul to cover protests against the Republican National Convention (RNC). During the four days of the convention, we witnessed numerous police abuses ranging from indiscriminate arrests to the use of offensive weapons such as pepper spray and rubber bullets on peacefully assembled protests. Along with that, we witnessed and heard descriptions of raids on houses and profiling of activists.

While the St. Paul Police Department and other government officials have previously weighed in via the media with generally positive assessments of police conduct at the protests–often citing the indictments against 8 anarchists or examples of property destruction–the first official report on police conduct was released last week.

Findings: Police Conduct mostly Justifiable with a few Mistakes

Overall, the Heffelfinger/Luger commission report concludes that police conduct was appropriate for the threat posed by the protestors. The report frequently speaks of “violent anarchists” who planned to commit random destruction and draws distinctions between “anarchists” and “peaceful protestors.” In the report’s version of events, police actions were justified after “anarchists”–whom the report declares were not legitimate protestors–became “violent” early on the convention’s first day. From that point, the report says police were forced to respond in a way that they had not originally planned.

Throughout the report it highlights a few minor examples of police misconduct–most of which are not among the more egregious abuses reported at the RNC. However, its main criticism of police conduct look at the law enforcement communities’ tactical failures–their failure to secure “joint-powers agreements,” their failure to “prepare” the public for the image of police in riot gear, and communication problems between agencies.

Criticism from Activists

The report–which was delayed from its mandated December 2008 release–cost $100,000 and was largely met by jeers when it was presented to the St. Paul City Council last week. According to the Minnesota Independent, the report’s release was repeatedly interrupted with cries of “lies.”

The report has long been criticized by activists for its limited scope and transparency. The report looked exclusively at whether or not the police security worked as the government hoped. It did not investigate specific abuses and out of 51 sources, 46 came from the government or security sectors. Additionally, the committee itself was led by two former federal prosecutors and included former cops and a former mayor.

A group called Friends of the RNC 8 also released a “Top 9 RNC Myths” list that challenges many law enforcement and media perspectives, including the notion that police behavior was justified because it stopped protestors from destroying the city or that the lack of “official” complaints about police conduct is proof that there was no misconduct.

Radical Queer/Trans Convergence Planned in Lansing

The Bash Back! network–which formed out of the organizing against this year’s Republican National Convention (RNC)–is planning a gathering in Lansing, Michigan next month to evaluate the protests against the RNC and to talk about where to go from here.

The Bash Back! network–which formed out of the organizing against this year’s Republican National Convention (RNC)–is planning a gathering in Lansing, Michigan next month to evaluate the protests against the RNC and to talk about where to go from here.

A statement from Bash Back! Lansing reads:

Hello Tranny-fags, boi-dykes, riot grrls, gender fuckers, sluts, and all queers and actual allies!! Hope you all have had a chance to rest and decompress from the DNC and RNC actions. Hope your report backs have gone as well as ours and you have had a chance to continue building your groups and starting new projects. New Bash Back chapters are popping up all over the country! The network of radical queers that has been built out of Anti-DNC and RNC organizing is growing and gaining momentum. Its time for another convergence.

Michigan’s newly formed chapter of Bash Back has volunteered to organize and provide for a Post-action Bash Back Convergence in Lansing. The main goal is to work through the actions, and pre-action work to learn as much as we can from it all while it is still fresh in our minds. A second goal of this convergence will be developing strategy for anti-Olympics organizing in Chicago. As well a a general goal of maintaining and building this radical queer network. There will also be workshops, caucuses and an action. Lansing will provide housing, food, and structure.

We feel that post action organizing is just as important as pre action. It tends to get neglected because the action is “over” and people want to get back to our lives and other projects. But this raises trouble when the next action comes along and we have to recount everything that happened in the year(s) previous.We end up making a lot of the same mistakes and lets face it, we dont have time for that. Even if Michigan it is far for you, please at least send one or two representatives from your affinity groups to this convergence. So that we can be more than ready for the next action. The state is already planning for our next move so we should at least be doing the same.

So please join us in Lansing for a rad weekend of organizing, actions, parties and the usual anarcho-sluttiness!

WAY IMPORTANT!!

***Please RSVP with how many you are bringing so that we can work out housing and food. Also with how many need private spaces. I.E. Trannies needed to take off binding, relax from tucking etc… That space will be limited, so hit us up as soon as you can!

SEE YOU IN NOVEMBER!!!

-Bash Back Lansing

RISE UP! BASH BACK!

Along with Unconventional Action–a far more loose network–Bash Back! was one of the only potentially long-term structures to come out of anti-RNC organizing.

Indymedia Program on the RNC

Rochester Indymedia has produced a short video compiling footage from the recent protests against the Republican National Convention (RNC) in the Twin Cities.

Rochester Indymedia has produced a short video compiling footage taken during the protests against the Republican National Convention (RNC) in the Twin Cities. While at least one film about the protests is in the works, Rochester Indymedia’s compilation–produced as part of a regular series done by the collective–offers a compelling portrayal of what happened on the streets of St. Paul:

Michigan Senate Candidate Caught in RNC Protest March

Michigan House of Representatives member and candidate for US Senate Jack Hoogendyk was caught in the middle of a protest against the RNC at the Convention last Tuesday.

Last Tuesday, Jack Hoogendyk–a Republican member of Michigan’s House of Representative and candidate for the US Senate–was caught in the middle of a protest march at the Republican National Convention (RNC). According to media reports, Hoogendyk and his wife were caught in the middle of a march after parking their car and attempting to walk to the Xcel Energy Center where the convention was being held. Hoogendyk–along with five other delegates–were allowed to pass through police lines only after being hassled by protestors and helped by sympathetic members of the media. The crowd was assaulted by police using tear gas and rubber bullets only half an hour later.

A video from the news station that “rescued” Hoogendyk from the protests:

Hoogendyk has been a strong proponent of “English-only” legislation in Michigan. In addition, he has supported efforts to ban gay marriage and requiring those seeking abortions to view ultrasounds before receiving an abortion.

Michigan Man Arrested for Allegedly Plotting to Use Molotov Cocktails at RNC Protests

Last Friday, the FBI arrested a man from Michigan for plotting to use Molotov cocktails at the Republican National Convention (RNC). However, while the government has used the arrest to lend credence to its effort to link protestors with terrorism, the media has largely ignored the widespread FBI surveillance of people planning to protest the RNC.

A 23-year old man from Flint, Michigan was arrested last Friday by Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for allegedly planning to use Molotov cocktails to disrupt the Republican National Convention (RNC). If convicted, the man faces a maximum of ten years in prison. No Molotov cocktails were used at the RNC protests, but the charge (along with similar ones against two men from Texas)–built entirely on information from an FBI informant–gives law enforcement officials an easy way to write off resistance to the RNC as being a form of “terrorism.”

However, while the charges have been widely reported in the mainstream media, the media has largely avoided reporting on the widespread FBI infiltration of groups planning to protest the RNC. In the case of the Michigan man, he became known to the FBI after an informant attended the Crimethinc anarchist gathering outside of Milwaukee this summer. While the affidavit in the case claims that the Michigan man approached the FBI informant with the plot, it does not describe the informant’s actions. The informant is described someone “who is in a position to provide information about persons who are intent on disrupting the Republican National Convention (RNC).” However, the document never explains how the informant is representing himself or herself to gain the trust of those planning protestors. Earlier this decade, the FBI used an informant known as “Anna” in an investigation against radical environmentalists and anarchists. As an informant, “Anna” helped plan “acts of terrorism” for which others were ultimately convicted.

Moreover, in the case of the Texas men, the FBI also used informants beginning as early as February of 2007. The FBI also infiltrated and monitored the RNC Welcoming Committee–a Twin Cities group providing logistical support such as food and housing–and was reportedly investigating groups planning to protest the RNC in the Ohio area. In May of this year, the FBI attempted to recruit a Twin Cities man to infiltrate vegan potlucks in order to spy on RNC protestors.

Amnesty International Criticzes use of Force against RNC Protestors

The human rights organization Amnesty International has issued a statement criticized the use of force against demonstrators at the Republican National Convention (RNC).

The human rights organization Amnesty International has issued a statement describing the use of force against protestors at the Republican National Convention (RNC) as “disproportionate.” The statement reads:

“Amnesty International is concerned by allegations of excessive use of force and mass arrests by police at demonstrations in St. Paul, Minnesota during the Republican National Convention (RNC) from September 1-4, 2008. The human rights organization is calling on the city and county authorities to ensure that all allegations of ill-treatment and other abuses are impartially investigated, with a review of police tactics and weapons in the policing of demonstrations.

The organization’s concerns arise from media reports, video and photographic images which appear to show police officers deploying unnecessary and disproportionate use of non-lethal weapons on non-violent protestors marching through the streets or congregating outside the arena where the Convention was being held.

Amnesty International urges that an inquiry be carried out promptly, that its findings and recommendations be made public in a timely manner. If the force used is found to have been excessive and to have contravened the principles of necessity and proportionality, then those involved should be disciplined, measures put in place and training given to ensure future policing operations conform to international standards.

Police are reported to have fired rubber bullets and used batons, pepper spray, tear gas canisters and concussion grenades on peaceful demonstrators and journalists. Amnesty International has also received unconfirmed reports that some of those arrested during the demonstrations may have been ill-treated while held at Ramsey county jail.

Amnesty International is also concerned at reports that several journalists who were covering the RNC were arbitrarily arrested while filming and reporting on the demonstrations. They include host of independent news program Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, and two of the program’s producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, who were both allegedly subjected to violence during their arrest. A photographer for the Associated Press (AP) and other journalists were also arrested while covering the demonstrations.

Kouddous described his arrest to media, “…two or three police officers tackled me. They threw me violently against a wall. Then they threw me to the ground. I was kicked in the chest several times. A police officer ground his knee into my back…I was also, the entire time, telling them, ‘I’m media. I’m press….,’ but…that didn’t seem to matter at all.”

Amnesty International recognizes the challenges involved in policing large scale demonstrations and that some protestors may have been involved in acts of violence or obstruction. However, some of the police actions appear to have breached United Nations (U.N.) standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials. These stipulate, among other things, that force should be used only as a last resort, in proportion to the threat posed, and should be designed to minimize damage or injury. Some of the treatment also appears to have contravened U.S. laws and guidelines on the use of force. The U.N. standards also stress that everyone is allowed to participate in lawful and peaceful assemblies, in accordance with the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”