RNC protesters charged with terrorism now a cause celebre
Young anarchists who sought to disrupt the Republican National Convention with protests last year will be the first to test the limits of a 2002 Minnesota terrorism law.
The eight activists, who were preemptively arrested in raids in the days before the RNC began, have become a cause celebre for opponents of the various 'Patriot Acts' passed in the months after 9/11.
The RNC 8, as they are being called by supporters, are being charged under Minnesota's 2002 Patriot Act. As MinnPost reports, the eight individuals are charged with, among other things, conspiracy to commit riot in the second degree in furtherance of terrorism and conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in furtherance of terrorism. These charges are punishable with up to five years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines.
The eight individuals, who range in age from 19 to 33, are currently out on bail and are playing an active role in raising support for their case by going on college speaking tours. They are: Monica Bicking, Luce Guillen Givins, Max Specktor, Nathanael Secor, Eryn Trimmer, Erik Oseland, Robert Czernik and Garrett Fitzgerald. Their trial is not expected for several months.
"Court documents allege that the group's preparations ranged from practicing peaceful sit-ins to training for more violent tactics including throwing Molotov cocktails, overturning vehicles and rioting," wrote MinnPost. "Authorities also allege they organized other anarchists around the country for action in St. Paul."
"In raids on the group's hangouts, authorities seized PVC piping, paint, bleach, marbles and slingshots, bricks and cement blocks, gas masks, bolt cutters, firecrackers, empty glass bottles, flammable liquids, rags, etc. You get the idea. Items that made virtually every news report were containers of urine and feces."
The defense is claiming that the eight did nothing illegal as they were preemptively arrested and that they were only expressing their rights to freedom of speech and dissent.
"This goes back to the history of prosecuting political dissidents in this country," said attorney Jordan Kushner, who is representing one of the defendants, to MinnPost. "Eventually the Supreme Court set a clear standard… you can't criminalize speech unless there is a clear and imminent danger. But how could there be a clear and imminent danger when they were put in jail before any of this alleged stuff happened?"
Since their arrest, the eight protesters have received a flood of support from the greater anti-war community. Anti-war student groups have hosted showings of a documentary called "Terrorizing Dissent" made about the group's case. Last week a bike ride was held to bring further attention to the case. The bikers' route was a tour of sites raided by police in the buildup to the RNC.
Organized labor has also joined in supporting the group. In March, the Duluth Central Labor Body, which represents 17,000 workers, passed a resolution calling for the prosecution to drop its case against the protesters and for the Minnesota Patriot Act to be repealed.
“We work with the peace movement quite a bit in our area," said Chad McKenna, field coordinator for the labor group in an interview with The Minnesota Independent. “The broad net that was cast by the anti-terrorism act and the prosecution of the RNC Eight could affect things that we do typically.”
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