Charged protesters and notable allies talk RNC, charges

State Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) speaks Sunday to packed house of RNC 8 supporters at Walker Community United Methodist Chuch in south Minneapolis.

Steve Maturen

State Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) speaks Sunday to packed house of RNC 8 supporters at Walker Community United Methodist Chuch in south Minneapolis.

After Ramsey County prosecutors tacked on three felonies to the terrorism-related charges already filed against the RNC 8, activists saw it as victory. County Attorney Susan Gaertner was either responding to political pressure from the RNC 8 and their allies âÄî who protested outside her first fundraiser as a gubernatorial candidate âÄî or the extra counts were leveled to pad the prosecutionâÄôs case because the initial charges wouldnâÄôt stick. That development and other court system holdups, including the withdrawal of the judge who had previously agreed to hear the case, have pushed the expected RNC 8 trial start date to September or October. Between now and then, RNC 8 supporters say thereâÄôs plenty of time to organize and spread the word about their case âÄî beginning with a town hall meeting held Sunday that packed 150 attendees into a south Minneapolis church. At the meeting, co-emcee Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality stressed the importance of action. âÄúItâÄôs great to talk about a case,âÄù she said, âÄúbut itâÄôs time do something about it.âÄù Coleen Rowley , who Time magazine named 2002 Person of the Year after she drew attention to government wrongdoing, said the suppression of dissent âÄî which the government canâÄôt regulate âÄî has been an insidious reality in the post-9/11 world. Because of this, things like MinnesotaâÄôs version of the PATRIOT Act âÄî which sanctioned secret case-building and pre-emptive arrests of the RNC 8 âÄî must be repealed, she said. âÄúThe fear (of the unknown) makes you dumb,âÄù Rowley said. âÄúLiterally, thatâÄôs whatâÄôs happened since this whole war on terror has started.âÄù At the Republican National Convention and in the case of the RNC 8, police stereotyped anarchists and believed harsh police tactics were most effective, Rowley said. Rowley likened scrutinized Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher to bumbling Deputy Barney Fife of the old-time âÄúAndy Griffith ShowâÄù and drew laughter from the crowd. A more tempered speech from Rep. Phyllis Kahn , DFL-Minneapolis, followed, in which she recalled the First Amendment and the protections it offers. She also called for the final tally of âÄúdollars spent on suppressionâÄù during the convention, and spoke of her own experience marching in a permitted protest. âÄúI was stunned at the show of police force in riot gear,âÄù she said. Additionally, the left-leaning Kahn asked voters to remember DFL gubernatorial candidatesâÄô relationship to the RNC, and to judge their actions âÄúfairly and thoroughly.âÄù Kahn pointed out that current DFL candidates include Gaertner and possibly St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman , whose office has come under fire post-RNC. The crowd booed and hissed.

Legal updates

The RNC 8 case is âÄúwallowing its way through the court system,âÄù said Bruce Nestor , one of 10 lawyers representing the accused activists. The previous judgeâÄôs withdrawal and pending evaluation of a possible new judge continue to hold up proceedings, including the discovery process in which RNC 8 counsel gets to see about 20 boxes full of the governmentâÄôs evidence against the accused, he said. âÄúThe politics of whatâÄôs happening, not the alleged crime, is whatâÄôs really important,âÄù Nestor said, referring to the case as a means to justify excessive spending and force by agencies responsible for convention security.