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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Activists labeled potentially dangerous consider legal action

A coalition of activist groups criticized law enforcement Monday for identifying them as potentially dangerous.

Members of Students Against War, Anti-Racist Action and Arise! Bookstore spoke at a State Capitol press conference Monday morning to address their grievances with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office after an officer included them in a list of groups that might pose a threat to security.

The groups said they might take legal action.

“At a university, ideas are supposed to flow freely and a discourse takes place. Being placed on a list such as this is limiting what should naturally take place at a university,” Students Against War member and University first-year student Bernadette Murphy said.

Sheriff’s Office Capt. Bill Chandler referred to “domestic identified groups” – but did not specifically label them terrorists – during a speech at last week’s annual Governor’s Emergency Management Conference.

Among other groups, the list included several neo-Nazi and right-wing militia organizations along with the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front.

“The inclusion of these groups on the suspected terror list is reminiscent of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program, in which peaceful advocates such as Dr. Martin Luther King and others were spied on, harassed and undermined,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, who held the press conference.

Speakers from other listed groups said their agendas are not terroristic.

“ARA gave out free food at a recent welfare rights rally at the Capitol,” member Megan Longo said. “Is this extremism?”

Members of Students Against War said they were particularly troubled by allegations the group intends to leave cars parked in intersections to disrupt traffic during its protest planned for the day after a war breaks out with Iraq.

Murphy said the group has not discussed such action.

Coverage criticized

Chandler said he is not pleased with the way a Wednesday Star Tribune article portrayed his comments.

Chandler said he did not classify Students Against War as extremist and considers it a legitimate organization.

“I want to emphatically state that we do not track them,” he said.

Regarding allegations of disruptive actions by Students Against War, Chandler said he only voiced concern that “fringe groups” not directly associated with the organization might disturb an otherwise peaceful protest.

Chandler also said he was never interviewed for the original story about his speech and that his comments were taken out of context.

Randy Furst, a Star Tribune reporter who co-wrote the original story, said Chandler called Students Against War legitimate in his speech.

“It was a mistake on my part not to include it,” Furst said.

However, Furst said, he accurately reported what he saw and stands by the story.

Chandler said he did not want to discuss other groups mentioned in his speech or comment on their status with law enforcement.

He also said it is wrong to assume he considers all the groups he mentioned equally dangerous.

Arise! spokesman Don Kingsbury said the Star Tribune report mischaracterized the bookstore’s relationship with Anti-Racist Action by taking another employee’s response to a misleading question out of context.

“We are proud of our current and past relationship with Anti-Racist Action,” he said.

Students Against War spokesman and University senior Nathan Mittelstaedt said the Star Tribune did not ask for a response to Chandler’s claim Students Against War plans to block intersections, but he said Furst is a reputable reporter and the story is accurate.

Legal action considered

Exactly what Chandler said and which groups authorities consider suspect might be revealed in a few weeks.

The groups at the press conference, along with the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, will request the information under the state’s Data Practices Act.

The groups plan to seek the list of suspect organizations, a definition of what constitutes a domestic identified group and a transcript of Chandler’s comments from the conference.

As for the dispute over Chandler’s remarks, Students Against War member Nathan Paulsen said, “If they just release the transcript, that would clear it up real quick.”

The activists said further legal action might be taken after the information is released.

Joe Mahon welcomes comments at

[email protected]

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