Recently, the City of St. Paul filed new charges against four individuals arising from incidents that occurred during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Nearly a year has passed since the RNC, so this begs the question: why has the City of St. Paul suddenly decided to file these?
The answer isn’t surprising: some, if not all, of the individuals charged may eventually file their own civil lawsuits against the City for various violations of their rights during the first week of September. The new charges are simply vindictive attempts to head these suits off at the pass through intimidation … a tactic by now overly familiar to those of us who have observed the workings of the courts in RNC cases.
Individuals who had their rights egregiously violated in both Minneapolis and St. Paul – and this is no small group – shouldn’t be dissuaded from filing such lawsuits. It’s outrageous that the City continues to misuse its prosecutorial powers to silence dissent and further cover up the widespread police brutality in the streets last September. If the city’s prosecutor’s office is interested in doing its job, they would be pursuing the police and other agents of the state for their violence rather than their victims.
Further, by filing these bogus criminal charges, the city continues to avoid or delay their responsibility, failing to hold those in power accountable to the people. Most likely, these types of distraction tactics will fail if the defendants choose to fight them – but the cost and time involved for both sides brings to mind the old saying “Justice delayed is justice denied.” The RNC convention misdemeanor cases rarely result in a conviction before a jury, and in fact, state-sanctioned crimes have been committed in the court room, where the police or other agents of the state have routinely perjured themselves on the witness stand.
But sadly, none of this is unusual, nor is it limited to the RNC cases – the State assiduously avoids addressing its own violence against the community and uses vindictive prosecution to protect itself from consequences. In another recent and closely-watched example, the cops got away with murder of Fong Lee, avoiding paying the family any monetary compensation, avoiding any criminal charges, and giving the appearance that this type of conduct is okay if you happen to wear a uniform.
So for those who continue to delay and deny justice in the numerous recent cases of police brutality, we shouldn’t stand idly by and accept complacency and silence as an acceptable response from those in power. After all, the current City Attorney, John Choi, plans to run for higher office, seeking to replace Susan Gaertner as Ramsey County Attorney. Gaertner, in turn, is prosecuting the RNC 8 and other felony cases while at the same time eyeing the Governor’s mansion. The current courtroom shenanigans related to the RNC have everything to do with Ramsey County’s and Minnesota’s political future … a bleak future, indeed, if those who so actively work to silence dissent through the misuse of their power find themselves in positions of even greater authority.