The Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure is a non-hierarchical coalition of RNC arrestees and community allies, including local groups such as Coldsnap Legal Collective, Friends of the RNC 8, National Lawyers Guild – MN, Communities United Against Police Brutality, Anti-War Committee, Twin Cities Indymedia, and Veterans for Peace.
CRASS provides multifaceted support to those arrested during the 2008 Republican National Convention to ensure that all interested arrestees have the support necessary to fight their charges and stand up for free speech. The first meeting of arrestees and supporters took place two days after the end of the convention and meetings have continued regularly since. CRASS has a travel fund available to aid arrestees in returning to the Twin Cities for their court dates, is actively working on court solidarity strategies to support those still facing charges, and is dedicated to aiding and facilitating civil suits.
The Republican National Convention took place in St. Paul Minnesota between September 1st and 4th of 2008. Over 10,000 people marched in the streets during the largest permitted march on September 1st. Police agencies supplied officers to the RNC and $50 million in federal funds were allotted for security purposes. Police used this money to pay for 3500 police officers, 200 new tazers, $2 million in tear gas and pepper spray, and numerous new surveillance cameras all over St. Paul. Despite Mayor Chris Coleman’s efforts to characterize the nonviolent demonstrations throughout St. Paul as “one of the most coordinated, orchestrated efforts in the history of this country to try to create chaos in a community, and to shut down political dialogue”, the overwhelming majority of violence was carried out by police officers. The police tear gassed, pepper sprayed, beat and fired rubber bullets at nonviolent crowds while arresting over 800 people, or nearly 1 arrest for every 10 demonstrators.
The Republican Party has promised to pay the first $10 million in lawsuit damages incurred by the city as a result of cases coming out of the RNC. This guarantee in effect gave police and national guard on the streets a free hand to engage in widespread civil rights violations, knowing that any lawsuit damages will be paid by the Republicans. In effect the RNC offered $10 million to guarantee that the convention would be held free of interruption even if police had to use unlawful force and detention tactics to make it happen.
Police conduct around the RNC was the latest use of repression in attempts to silence public dissent. The use of mass arrest techniques, the targeting of journalists, medics and completely peaceful marches is meant to send a clear message to those who oppose the injustices perpetrated in all of our names in our cities and around the world. Our voices and continuing opposition is not welcome in a nation that once held free speech as a central tenet of our rights.
Now that the clouds of tear gas have cleared, the helicopters have been grounded, and the national guard has been taken off of our streets we are faced with dealing with the significant aftermath of the RNC. One of the largest elements we have to confront is the reality of hundreds of court cases, some of them involving very serious potential sentences.
In the wake of these hundreds of arrests and violent state repression those who were arrested — and those who stand in solidarity with them and form their support networks — are coming together to fight the charges that are being pursued against us and hold the police responsible for their violence and mistreatment.
The first meeting of arrestees and supporters took place two days after the end of the convention and meetings have continued regularly since. The arrestee network has evolved a court solidarity strategy, and developed a number of different groups to help organize the arrestees and make sure that all interested arrestees have the support necessary to fight their charges and stand up for free speech.
If you were arrested, know someone who was, or want to help us stand up for free speech in our cities, we encourage you to get involved. We have an ongoing need for donations, housing for those in town for their court dates, courtwatchers, and a variety of other needs. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact us.