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September 2, 2008

As you can imagine, the ACLU affiliate in Minnesota has been kept extremely busy during the Republican National Convention there. In addition to coordinating five lawsuits to protect free speech, our affiliate there has assembled a team of attorneys to be on hand at the jails where those arrested are being booked.

What we know is that there have been five raids conducted on houses and meeting places during which law enforcement agents confiscated the personal property of people planning to protest at the RNC. It looks as though much of the property seized during the was outside the parameters of the search warrants, and our Minnesota affiliate is working to secure the release of boxes and boxes of literature that were seized by the Ramsey county sheriff’s office during the raids.

We also know that on Monday Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman was arrested along with two camera operators. While Goodman was released in about three hours, the cameramen fared worse—they were charged with “probable cause—felony riot,” a charge which is supposed to require a weapon and injury (there were neither). After calls from the ACLU of Minnesota, those charges were deferred pending an investigation.

Finally, we know that later yesterday mounted police surrounded hundreds of people who were sitting on public property listening to an outdoor concert, rounded them up and arrested them. It appears that the police arrested a whole lot of people who were doing absolutely nothing wrong, and yet following the sweeping arrests they charged about 250 of the people with gross misdemeanors and felonies.

The ACLU has assembled a team of attorneys who are in the jails now and who are offering limited defense to all of those arrested at their upcoming arraignment. After the charges have been sorted through, the affiliate expects the volunteer lawyers will provide further counsel for those whose civil liberties have been violated.

The ACLU of Minnesota is working hard to protect free speech and the right to political dissent which is at the heart of our democracy. The ACLU is calling for an investigation into government misconduct throughout the RNC. Our statement is here.

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