For Immediate Release: December 2, 2008
St. Paul, MN — Three months after the RNC, Ramsey county continues its war on dissent, but changes the battlefield. Arrestees are now engaged in struggle within the court system.
While the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office and the St Paul Police Department continue to obfuscate and spread misinformation around the events that took place during the RNC, the buck is passed on to St Paul City Attorney John Choi. Yesterday, Dec 1, the City Attorney’s office announced the dismissal of 29 RNC-related cases. Out of 171 cases thus far, 72 have been declined prosecution or charged and subsequently dismissed. This means, according to Choi in an interview with the Pioneer Press, that the prosecution had “insufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt at trial” for 40 percent of all cases thus far. In the same interview, he continues on that “In no way does a dismissal in a criminal case mean that there was not probable cause for the underlying arrest, or that the police acted inappropriately in any way.” These recent developments only highlight a continued, though failing, effort by law enforcement and Ramsey County prosecution to justify the 50+million spent on security for the convention, the 10 million dollar contract between the Republican National Committee and the City of Saint Paul for civil suit payouts, and the enormous display of police brutality evidenced by hundreds of hours of video, documentaries, and eyewitness accounts.
There are still hundreds of people facing charges, an overwhelming amount of which were arrested in mass-arrest situations. Though Choi has publicly claimed that his office is not prosecuting members of the press, we’re quite sure photojournalist Nathan Weber of Chicago would beg to differ, currently facing a charge of riot in the 3rd degree, a gross misdemeanor. Bill Drebenstedt, a member of CRASS, attended Weber’s omnibus hearing on October 29, “I saw Weber’s attorney present the media credentials, which Weber had been wearing at the time of arrest, to the prosecutor. The prosecutor replied that he would not accept credentials other than those allowing access to the Excel Center as proof as a member of the media.”
Many arrestees are unable to cover short-term costs to continuously travel back and forth and so are forced, by economic restrictions, to take plea deals. For example, a street medic from Pennsylvania who was arrested while picking up lunch for fellow medics was forced to accept a plea which only cost her $224 in fees in comparison to multiple, expensive trips to and from the Twin Cities. Many of those who have taken these “deals” made their decision because the monetary resources and support it takes to plead “not guilty” and carry on with a trial are beyond their means. This is the face of “justice” in Ramsey County.
About CRASS — Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure is a non-hierarchical coalition of RNC arrestees and community allies, including local groups such as Coldsnap Legal Collective (coldsnaplegal.org), Friends of the RNC 8 (rnc8.org), National Lawyers Guild – MN (nlgminnesota.org), Communities United Against Police Brutality (cuapb.org), Anti-War Committee (antiwarcommittee.org), Twin Cities Indymedia (tc.indymedia.org), and Veterans for Peace (veteransforpeace.org).
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. For more information, visit RNCaftermath.org