Do the Saint Paul Police Need to Get a Lawyer? (And Grow some Testicles?)

The following are three somewhat drawn out (close to 20 minutes total) videos representing the official response to the Saint Paul RNC police/protester interactions. Here we see the mayor (Chris Coleman) and the Police Chief Harrington giving statements, followed by a question period. The third video, at about 6 minutes, addresses the issue of journalists having been arrested.

Shown in these three videos are what seem to be the two most mealy-mouthed presentations to the press by prominent officials I've seen ... ever, really. I really had no idea Chris Coleman was so inarticulate.

And what I see here is somewhat offensive. Even if one considers the antics of the "anarchists" in these demonstrations to be sophomoric or ill advised, they are not hardened criminals, and the police were not in danger (nor was anyone else, really) to the extent indicated by Harrington's choice of words. Goodness. If the Saint Paul Police view this series of incidents as such a serious threat, then in my opinion Chief Harrington and his so called police force ought to grow some balls or get some training or something.

In some ways, these two guys resemble people who have been told to ".... go out on stage and make a good show or we'll harm your family." Anybody else see this?

I know these anarchists. Well, of course, I don't know any of them personally, how would that ever happen. But clearly, and you know this is true from seeing the films, that the great bravery of the officers that is emphasized in these videos ... in their fight against the dangerous intimidating masked criminals ... is significantly overstated, absurdly touted. These anarchists are mostly 17 to 23 year old suburbanite turned urbanites, college students, untrained and inexperienced in the use of weapons or hand to hand combat.

Hey, big scary police guys wearing body armer and carrying big sticks, you do realize do you not that half of these dangerous masked criminals you felt so threatened by are girls wearing sun dresses (and goggles), and the other half, if you met them on the street, you would call fags?

Why are you so frightened of these people? These kids are not even close to the threatening hoard they are described as being. The kids themselves are indeed brave, if possibly (or possibly not) misguided, to stand up to the police like this, and apparently, they scared the shit out of the Men in Blue. And Black.

What seems most important here is the statement, again and again, that the police are wonderful and have acted in a most heroic manner. How much of this absurd, offensive, and totally unbelievable rhetoric is an outcome of the shift from viewing first responders (police included) as people doing a tough and important job to viewing first responders as saints, martyrs, and in essence, semi-demi-gods who are above the law, an attitude which in my opinion has arisen as an effect of 9-11?

In the meantime, we have calls for investigations of the Saint Paul police for their use of excessive force, and some very serious questions about the treatment, indeed suppression of the press.

From Amnesty International:

[London]--Amnesty International is concerned by allegations of excessive use of force and mass arrests by police at demonstrations in St. Paul, Minnesota during the Republican National Convention (RNC) from September 1-4, 2008. The human rights organization is calling on the city and county authorities to ensure that all allegations of ill-treatment and other abuses are impartially investigated, with a review of police tactics and weapons in the policing of demonstrations.

The organization's concerns arise from media reports, video and photographic images which appear to show police officers deploying unnecessary and disproportionate use of non-lethal weapons on non-violent protesters marching through the streets or congregating outside the arena where the Convention was being held.... source

Meanwhile, back in Saint Paul:

Amy Goodman, the host of the popular radio and television program "Democracy Now!" was at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul on Monday, interviewing members of the Alaska delegation, when her phone rang with alarming news.

"I got a call that two of our producers had been bloodied by the police," Goodman said. "I did not stop running until I got to where they were."


And then this happened:

Additional background and analysis on the Huffington Post and The Uptake (Thanks Ana for these links.)

In my view, the harassment of the press is outrageous, but I do fear that individuals who were assaulted by the police, treated poorly, and tossed in jail who don't happen to be members of the press may be forgotten, or may not get as much support as the individuals from the press. This seems a little unfair to me.


More like this

We discussed Tasers quite a bit on the old site (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) but not since we moved to ScienceBlogs. Tasers are the only widely used "non-lethal weapons," delivering a jolt of 50,000 volts thrugh two small darts connected to the…
Have you ever visited a culture entirety different than your own (or even moderately different, like you're from New York and you visit Kentucky, or you're from Belgium and you visit Italy)? You will see things .... things people do differently, right away. Then you leave and you figure these…
It is a travesty when the lives of young people doing little more than trying to make a point are tossed aside in order to make the likes of federal prosecutors, FBI agents, state investigators, and the occasional mayor and governor feel like they have larger than average dick. Which is pretty…
Events are off to a great start at the RNC: Amy Goodman, host of the TV/radio program Democracy Now! and a well-known activist for peace and human rights, has been arrested in St Paul by our power-mad authoritarian servants of the Rethuglican Party. Apparently, she was defending two radio producers…

"...nothing short of heroic."

Yes, apparently using large amounts of pepper spray on a girl holding a flower is very heroic. I guess the mayor and I saw different videos.

"...masked criminals roaming the streets."

True, I think Chief Harrington was very afraid. One of those masked criminals might have been able to... ummm... well, they're criminals, and they're dangerous.

And, of course, they knew nothing about any reporters being arrested. Obviously, if the were arrested, then they must have been doing something illegal.

The whole thing seems very unfair to me too; to all of the protesters, their friends and family, the reporters, and the people of this country who still believe in freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. I can only hope that the residents of St. Paul remember all of this when election time comes around. We're still living in a democracy, and have the ability to stop it from turning into a fascist, dictatorial state. Once the government truly crosses that line, then the protesters become "insurrectionists."

I hope this battle is fought out in the Democratic primary process . I would hate to see St. Paul get another Republican Mayor like the last bozo they had. Whatever hPpend to that guy, anyway?

You mean Norm Coleman? Hmmm... I think Al Franken may be trying to give him a run for his money. And what's with those guys who switch from one party to another in mid-term anyway? I never did understand that.

The next municipal election in St. Paul should be, in part, about the behavior shown by the current administration during the RNC. Whether or not it becomes an issue remains to be seen. Too many of these types of things are conveniently forgotten come election time.

Greg, do you mean Randy Kelly, the guy who endorsed George W. Bush and then got booted out? Or are you referring to the guy before him who is running on a platform that he brought hockey back to Minnesota?

Randy Kelly, I hear, is now a lobbyist who no longer attends DFL events on the East Side of St. Paul. He was once the "Boss Tweed" of the East Side but people got sick of his bullying.

Norm Coleman is going to be looking for work in January, and will probably finally grant the divorce that his wife has been wanting for years; ever since he started waking up the neighbors in his St. Paul at 3:00 am, pounding on the door and yelling, "But honey, she was pretty!"

"...there were a handful of those who chose to engage..."

Yes, those arrested engaged. They spoke to the police. They treated them like other human beings of equal status. They asked what was being done and why. They questioned where the lines were: "Can we stand here? Here?" They pointed cameras at them and insisted it was important that the cameras stay. They taunted them for dressing up like box turtles to deal with a bunch of people in thrift store clothing and pirate costumes.

The handful were the people who were actually violent.

It scares me that the city of St. Paul officially can't tell the difference between that and engaging with government representatives. It scares me, not because of the power that they wield, but because if they don't treat violence differently than they do engagement, there's no reason for the engaged not to be violent. If they think they're seeing anarchists now, watch what happens when people feel betrayed by all levels of the government and both parties. If no part of the government is willing to engage, they'll discover how many anarchists are out there living under a thin veneer of civilization.

It is so horrible to watch our basic rights be sabotaged just because some guy feels threatened by a girl with a flower. I am so disgusted that this is allowed to happen. What did happen to our right to free speech an our right to assembly?

After what happened at the RNC in New York, the cops grew a strategically sensible but wholly abhorrent hatred of anybody with a camera(poor guys, testilying is so much harder when there is video evidence, at least you still don't get punished for it.)

"These anarchists are mostly 17 to 23 year old suburbanite turned urbanites, college students..."

Scions of the petite bourgeois facing off against proletarian lackeys of the haute bourgeois.

I think the mayor must have confused fear with sadism. What really gets me is how all the other cops banded around and allowed the misbehavior of the jerks that any armed organization will inevitably draw. I suppose they have more loyalty to each other than they do to the oath of office they took.

We see this all the time now, the justification for order. . The police need to be treated with suspicion as was once a standing army. Any organization like that will be filled with sociopaths or absolutists wanting more power. They will justify greater controls, ignoring what the real problems are. The Ramsey County Sheriff needs to be held to the fire on why he had infiltrators and then relied on false information. It appears he was merely looking for legal justification.

By Paul Ojanen (not verified) on 07 Sep 2008 #permalink