Sunday, August 31, 2008

Even a hippie's home is his or her castle

Glenn Greenwald reports on what appears to be a series of pre-emptive police raids on homes in Minneapolis in the run-up to the Republican National Convention.

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Greenwald also offers video interviews with people involved, whether residents of what one neighbour refers to as 'hippie houses' ('they're really great' she notes approvingly) or someone in the National Lawyers Guild, Minnesota, which represents at least a few of the people who have been arrested and harassed.


Firedoglake offers a phone interview with Mike Whelan, 'waiter and army veteran', (at one point, Whelan identifies himself as a former Military Police officer) whose house was raided by police.

Whelan said he'd invited independent observers from the group LegalWatch stay in one half of his side-by-side duplex while they monitored RNC protests. [...]

When I spoke to him, Whelan was waiting in one half of the duplex with his roommates, Dan and Julian. The three were afraid to go outside because the police were still there. Whelan said he thought that the police were inside the opposite side of the duplex, where the legal observers were staying. "I think they are detaining people," he added.

Whelan, who seemed remarkably calm for a guy whose flower garden had just been trampled by police with drawn automatic weapons, said he'd just returned from a morning of garage sale shopping when the commotion started. That would have been about one o'clock local time. He described what happened:

"About an hour and a half ago 20 to 30 heavily armed police officers surrounded the house," Whelan said. "One of my roommates said 'I want to see a warrant' and she was immediately detained."

"Are they still outside?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, they're still outside," Whelan replied cheerfully, "The streets are blocked off."

"How you did figure out there was a raid going on?" I asked.

"It sounded like people were falling down on my porch," he said, "Cops were running up both sides of the house onto the porch.

Whelan says his roommate, Erin Stalmaker, went out to talk to talk to the police. She asked the officers why they were there. The officers asked why people were running away from them. Erin reportedly told the officers that their drawn automatic weapons probably had something to do with it. She was detained after asking to see a warrant.

As I was taught, growing up, 'asking to see a warrant' is the first thing you should do when the police come knocking at your door. You see, there's a little rule anchored in the constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures.

It's very all-American. I would imagine that even members of the 'party of small government' would agree.

The people reportedly staying with Whelan and Stalmaker? Anarchist rabble-rousers from Legal Watch.

Theoretically, there might be a good reason for these raids.

But I would like to see one that comes with conclusive proof.

Until then, I agree with Greenwald:

This is truly repugnant, extreme police behavior designed to intimidate protesters, police critics and others, and it ought to infuriate anyone and everyone who cares about basic liberties.

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