It’s easy to forget, but just two months ago, St. Paul played host to the Republican National Convention, which resulted in, not just the hottest VP nomination since Richard M. Johnson, but some of the largest protests, and subsequently the largest mass arrests the Twin Cities has ever seen. 400 people were arrested in the weeks leading up to the convention and over the first three days, but another 400 people were arrested in one day on September 4, the final day of the convention.
It probably would not surprise you to learn that I was one of those arrested.
It’s a little late to give a first hand account of what happened leading up to the arrests, though a friend of mine who accompanied me to the protest wrote a very stirring account herself, and it’s a little late to speak out on the bully tactics that the police used in handling the protesters, though City Pages author Matt Snyders does an excellent job recounting the tale.
But it’s not too late to complain: why haven’t I had my trial yet?
I was arrested at 8:30pm on September 4, with no less than ten men in riot gear pointing their guns at me. I had flash-bang grenades and tear gas shot at me. That is to say, shot directly at me – I actually had a flash-bag bounce off of me before it went off. I was yelled at, and told that if I didn’t put my hands on my head and drop to the ground, that they will open fire on me. I was then cuffed, and forced to sit on the curb for three and a half hours, sitting right next to a 16 year old girl, an old woman walking home, and three journalists from MTV, Colorado Public Radio, and the City Pages (the very guy who wrote the above-linked article). I was finally processed and taken to the Ramsey County Jail, where I had to wait another two and a half hours until I was finally issued my citation and released.
I went through a lot. Or rather, Ramsey County has gone through a lot to make sure that criminals like me are off the streets and not exercising our First Amendment rights. And yet, I’ve just gotten off the phone with the Ramsey County Courthouse, and have been informed that, after 76 days, I have not yet been charged with anything. “Oh, you will be,” I was told, “Don’t you worry. Just call back in two weeks.”
Meanwhile, St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington is saying that while mistakes were made in the handling of the arrests at the RNC, “police tried hard to sort out innocent people and release them as soon as possible.” Yes, I was sitting next to three journalists, a 16 year old girl, and an old woman who was walking home. The old woman was carrying groceries. The journalists had RNC-certified credentials. The 16 year old girl was crying. And yet they all went to jail with me. In fact, when the City Pages journalist asserted that he was a journalist, he was ridiculed by a police officer, and told “Well, I heard that press are going to jail tonight anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”
Yup. Police sure tried hard to sort out the innocent people.