Activists allege abuse by police during RNC

Republican National Convention protestor Leah Lane, center, speaks about her experiences at a forum during the St. Paul City Council Meeting on Wednesday. The forum was held for local residents, activists and others to speak about their experiences during the RNC to some members of the St. Paul City Council and a crowd of about 300.

Ali Haupt

Republican National Convention protestor Leah Lane, center, speaks about her experiences at a forum during the St. Paul City Council Meeting on Wednesday. The forum was held for local residents, activists and others to speak about their experiences during the RNC to some members of the St. Paul City Council and a crowd of about 300.

Local residents, activists and others spoke about their experiences during the Republican National Convention to some members of the St. Paul City Council and a crowd of about 300 on Wednesday. The community forum gave invited speakers a chance to speak about five subjects relating to the protests and law enforcement reactions; business repercussions, media relations, pre-emptive police raids, free-speech rights and the impact of the RNC on St. Paul neighborhoods. There were no representatives of law enforcement or government officials scheduled to speak. Struggling for speech, 19-year-old Elliot Hughes, a professed activist since he was 10-years-old and resident of the Mac-Groveland neighborhood in St. Paul, described his detention by the St. Paul SheriffâÄôs Department as âÄútorture.âÄù Laurie Radovsky , a physician in St. Paul for 10 years and volunteer medic during the protests, said his injuries were consistent with his account of events, as she spoke earlier in the evening. Audience members and forum speakers were mostly critical of St. PaulâÄôs security strategy and of the local government, who they accused of abetting it. Chuck Lentz , a resident of St. PaulâÄôs West Side, said the law enforcement response was overwhelming and unnecessary. âÄúI think our city got hijacked,âÄù he said. âÄúI think our city leaders got hijacked.âÄù Others spoke about their support for the so-called RNC 8, eight protest organizers that were arrested the weekend before protests and are currently facing charges of felony conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism. It would be the first time since the passage of the Patriot Act that the terrorism addition has been used in Minnesota, Bruce Nestor, President of the Minnesota National Lawyers Guild said. The forum was sponsored by St. Paul Ward Two Council Member David Thune — who represents much of the area affected by the RNC security measures. It was held in the council chambers of St. Paul City Hall, and included around 30 planned speakers as well as videos of protests, including a video of a 19-year-old woman being repeatedly pepper-sprayed while telling police she loved them. Thune has been a lead voice backing an investigation of law enforcementâÄôs reaction to protesters since Ramsey County SheriffâÄôs Department conducted a pre-emptive raid on Aug. 29, the weekend before the anti-RNC protests. Marie Braun, a member of Women Against Military Madness , said she planned to attend the forum but also hoped the entire city council would take up issues involved with the protest. âÄúWe certainly want to be there, we want the people involved in demos at the RNC to be there,âÄù she said. âÄú[But we hope] that something will come of it rather than them saying âÄòwe gave them an opportunity to speak outâÄô and pat our head and send us home.âÄù St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced earlier this month that an independent investigation of security around the RNC will be led by former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Luger . Many of the members of the audience, including Braun, were skeptical. âÄúI hope it is a real investigation,âÄù Braun said. Investigations are usually run by the people we feel committed the breach.âÄù