RNC 8 protests Susan Gaertner

On Ramsey County Attorney Susan GaertnerâÄôs birthday Tuesday evening, she held her first fundraiser for her 2010 gubernatorial bid. Outside, the RNC 8 âÄî a group prosecuted by GaertnerâÄôs office for conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism âÄî and the Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure, formed in response to mass protester arrests at the Republican National Convention. They sang, danced and spoke against GaertnerâÄôs campaign. A police presence grew to more than 20 as the crowd of protesters swelled to about 100. Police twice threatened to arrest the protesters for unlawful assembly if they didnâÄôt clear sidewalks, but the crowd stayed mobile. Eventually, tensions between the crowd and police dissipated, though police stayed stationed at the buildingâÄôs entrance. No one was arrested. Before the dance party, five members of the RNC 8 held a news conference to endorse Gaertner for governor, saying they âÄúcould think of no better birthday present for [their] favorite prosecutor and politician.âÄù They also unfurled a large check âÄî a 2-foot-by-6-foot banner âÄî made out to GaertnerâÄôs campaign for âÄúEight [dollars] and no sense.âÄù Many times over, protesters wished the DFLer a happy birthday using a megaphone. But from outside the Minneapolis Club downtown, the protestersâÄô message was clear: drop the never-before-used felony charges against the RNC 8. They say Gaertner sanctioned the trumped-up conspiracy charges for the eight protesters for political reasons, to bolster her resume amid a gubernatorial bid. But itâÄôs a more effective political move for the RNC 8 than it would be for Gaertner, University of Minnesota-Morris political science professor Paula OâÄôLoughlin said. âÄúI donâÄôt think it would benefit her politically to be pursuing the RNC 8 for political reasons,âÄù OâÄôLoughlin said. âÄúMembers of the Minnesota public, at least as it was shown in the press, seemed to be fairly sympathetic to the protesters.âÄù Plus, itâÄôs still early in the 2010 governorâÄôs race, she said. âÄúThe battle for governor has just begun and that situation is so fluid,âÄù OâÄôLoughlin said. âÄúThereâÄôs so many other factors involved at the point.âÄù Gaertner did not comment for this story, but Phil Carruthers, director of the prosecution division of the Ramsey County AttorneyâÄôs Office , said charges against the RNC 8 are valid. âÄúA judge signed the complaint so it means the judge found that there was probable cause, so thereâÄôs a legal basis to charge the cases the way they were charged,âÄù he said. âÄúAs to how it will turn out, weâÄôll just have to see.âÄù And whether or not rallies put pressure on prosecutors, protesters are committed to making their case âÄî and likely benefitting from it. âÄúWhat the RNC 8 is getting out of this is theyâÄôre getting attention to their cause,âÄù OâÄôLoughlin said. âÄúOtherwise they were fading into the woodwork.âÄù ThatâÄôs something they donâÄôt plan to do. As Tuesday nightâÄôs rally drew to a close, RNC 8 member Rob Czernik sang âÄúHappy BirthdayâÄù to Gaertner from outside her party, and pledged to hold similar events at the candidateâÄôs future campaign functions. ItâÄôs an effort to keep attention focused on the case, and ultimately get charges wiped away, RNC 8 member and University of Minnesota student Max Specktor said. âÄúI know that if we keep fighting these charges,âÄù he said, âÄúthey should get dropped.âÄù