Charley Underwood's blog
I have been completely astounded to listen to the interviews that Minnesota Public Radio reporter Laura Yuen had with Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher and St Paul Police Chief John Harrington, broadcast November 13 and 14. A number of statements struck me as unintentionally revealing, the most shocking coming from Fletcher.
Fletcher was responding to a question from Yuen, wondering if the Mobile Field Force was called in too late during the more destructive actions on September 1.
Fletcher responded, “I’m not going to argue that the Mobile Field Force should have been used earlier. It was constructive for the community to be able to see and to get consensus from the community that these types of criminal acts need to be addressed. Quite often in criminal law enforcement, if we move too quickly, we are second-guessed more.”
I truly urge others on this list to listen to Fletcher’s own voice. I can imagine three possible interpretations for his words. First interpretation: We didn’t want that property destruction on September 1, but it was good it happened because now people can understand why we acted so violently. Second interpretation: We let it happen to justify our actions. Third interpretation: We arranged for it to happen so we could justify our actions.
I couldn't bear to go to a single party last night. As I walked through the neighborhood around 10, flashes started appearing in the sky, firecrackers were going off, and people were yelling in the streets. AP had called the presidential race for Obama, and people were celebrating.
But as I woke up this morning and realized once again that the DFL had completely wasted the senate contest on Al Franken, I couldn't help wishing once again that the convention had chosen Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer instead.
16 million dollars, and for what? If Jack had had a tenth of this money, we would have had a victory. If Jack had had a tenth of that money, we would have had television ads about issues instead of mud. If Jack had had a tenth of that money, we would have had a senator who only comes along every generation or so, someone worthy of Paul Wellstone's seat. Instead, we will probably have another 6 years of Norm Coleman, whose most redeeming characteristic is his complete corruption. With his finger to a new wind, he may actually improve under President Obama.
Why, oh why, do so many Democrats in Minnesota keep trying so obsessively to pick winners, no matter how bad they are. Those "winners" are losing us election after election. And we are all suffering because of it.
Various people sent me emails asking me to make some calls today to encourage the Powers That Be to dismiss all charges against citizens arising from the RNC protests, and to encourage a comprehensive investigation of police/"security" violence. In principle, I agree. But I went a different route completely: I tried to find out who the police actually believed had broken the Macy's window and the patrol car window. So I made a few calls.
[Several days after the Republican National Convention, I ran into a mid-twenties friend of mine. When I asked if he had been arrested during the RNC, he gave me a complicated answer. I asked him to write it up, which he did. I reprint it exactly as he sent it and with no editing. Matthew has given specific permission for this reprinting of his recollections, with the proviso that his last name not be used. A reminder to those who may have forgotten: the Shepard Road sweep occurred on the first day of the convention.
I just heard this story this morning, indirectly from a woman who catered one of the RNC parties at the Rivercentre.
Sarah Palin has just been nominated as vice-president, and a party was being held at the Rivercentre. Sarah Palin and her family were at the center of several concentric circles of Secret Service and other "security" professionals, moving like a buzzing swarm through the large hall toward the stage. Suddenly, a single Secret Serviceman, dressed mostly in black, began running at full speed toward the makeup room, a look of panic on his face. He retrieved a medium-sized object from the makeup room, then scurried at a very brisk walk toward the Palin party again.
The caterer, alarmed that perhaps someone had been shot, went over to makeup and inquired what was going on. The response: They forgot the baby.
Yes, I can understand that. They remembered a lot of things during the RNC, but I would have to say that they did indeed forget the baby. All of the babies, in fact.
(The following reflection is reprinted with permission from Steve Clemens.)
The Debut of the Minnesota Peace Team by Steve Clemens. September 2008.
(This is not meant to be a comprehensive report – just my own personal experiences during the week of the RNC.)
“You’re hot, you’re cute, take off your riot suit” was the best chant I heard as demonstrators sitting in the street confronted the “ninja-turtle”-clad riot police who had surrounded the group. I myself got caught up in calling the heavily armored-up police in the black padded costumes that included gas masks, long wooden batons, helmets and clear visors that name from the TV show of the early 90’s. They were everywhere.
I have spent 6 of the last 7 days talking to various people about the RNC. Sunday, Thursday and today were with members of the Minnesota Peace Team. Monday was with journalists at the U. Tuesday was with the head of Communities United Against Police Brutality and the father of one of the RNC-8. Wednesday was at the listening session at the St Paul City Council chambers.
Along with the Macy's window, the photos of the smashed police car are the iconic pictures that are most used to justify massive police violence last week during the Republican National Convention. A few days ago, I was surprised to learn that a friend of mine had actually witnessed that event as it happened. His account sheds a completely different light on the meaning of the week.
Jessica is a friend of my son’s, part of a tight-knit circle during high school, one of the first people he sees when he visits home from college. I suppose I have known her for about 6 years, seen her at my house, seen her at parties when I picked up my son before he could legally drive.
I wasn’t expecting to see her yesterday at the Ripple Effect concert on the Capitol Mall. But there she was, one of the first people I recognized as my wife and I reached the concert while working as volunteer street medics.
I was working as a street medic all day today, mostly offering people sunscreen and lozenges and water and so on.
At one point, after the large and very peaceful march had finished, every single bridge across I-94 was blocked by officers wearing paramilitary-style riot gear. Neither cars nor pedestrians were allowed to cross the freeway unless they had Republican credentials. Both cars and walkers could leave, however, and at one point I saw three women leaving the area, so I asked what had been going on.
As many of you know, a number of police raids have occurred over the weekend. On Friday night, a Convergence Center on St Paul’s West Side was raided, items confiscated and the building boarded on the authority of Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher. On Saturday morning, at least 3 houses in Minneapolis and at least 2 in St Paul were also raided, also on the authority of Bob Fletcher.
Various people driving or bicycling down public streets or roads have been stopped and detained.
Only 6 arrests were made in these raids, and those individuals held on very questionable grounds (no charges have been made so far). There have been a very large number of others briefly held, however. At the Convergence Center Friday night, for example, Ramsey County deputies kicked in doors and entered with weapons drawn, and about 70 people were held face-down and handcuffed on the floor for several hours. No arrests were made there. In street stops and in individual homes, the doors have also been kicked in and police entering with weapons drawn. In nearly all cases, there have been no actual arrests and no evidence of any kind removed from the owners’ possession.
It is quite clear that Sheriff Bob Fletcher is attempting to intimidate those who oppose the war in the march this morning. Some of you may have been reading the newspapers with some concern.
Let me give you my honest reassurance. I have been at countless meetings and listened to innumerable stories, and I believe that THE BIG LABOR DAY MARCH FROM THE CAPITOL WILL BE COMPLETELY SAFE.
Prior to the 2004 Republican National Convention, police rounded up a huge Critical Mass bike ride and held many of them in an old warehouse for the remainder of the convention. Preventative detention was also the norm during the convention itself, as over 1800 people (including journalists, residents and people passing by) were rounded up and also held for many days without charges or bail.
Prior to the 2000 Republican Convention in Philadelphia, a warehouse that had been rented for making puppets was also raided, and dozens held for days without charges (until the convention was over).
This is called preventative detention. Authoritarian governments all over the world have rounded up their opponents prior to elections or other big public events, and held them until the event had finished. Below the jump are a few examples of preventative detention and raids in the Twin Cities since yesterday, designed to squelch any protest about during the RNC.
The story has it that, when two Aborigine strangers meet, they pause to talk about their extended families, down to great-great-greats, eighth cousins and quite a few times removed. Supposedly, if they don’t find some remote kinship, they must fight.
There was never a danger of fighting with Charles Johnson when we first met, but we did find some extremely unusual places common to our lives: Kentucky; a small now-defunct Christian college in Enid, Oklahoma; a village about three miles south of the equator on the Congo River in Africa; a Presbyterian college in St. Paul; a Quaker Meeting. I was in an extremely hard place in my personal life, with decades of dreams exploding in my face, and Charles Johnson reached out to me through these strange places. Like he reached out to so many.
Just over five years ago, Minneapolis South High sponsored a debate about the advisability of the looming invasion of Iraq. I wasn't there, but by all accounts it was a rousing discussion, with hot opinions and urgent facts thrown back and forth.
Five years later, there was nobody left to debate. There were exactly four people who agreed to be on a panel this morning, all completely against the ongoing occupation of Iraq: Iraq Veterans Against the War Andrew Huff and Brandon Day, as well as local D.F.L. peaceniks Faith Kidder and myself. Not a single person could be found to claim in public that the invasion and occupation had somehow been worth it.
I have been fuming for weeks about the sequestering of Al Franken. No more debates with Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. No more joint appearances of any kind with Jack. At congressional district convention after convention, Franken people on the rules committees have proposed 2 and 3 minute candidate speeches, with no question and answer period. Even though the times have been increased, Franken delegates have been quite stubborn in voting down any Q & A. Imagine a willful child, plugging his ears and shouting, "I can't hear you." And they haven't wanted undecided delegates to hear the candidates either.
Today marks five years of war and occupation of Iraq. Since that time:
3,992 soldiers and Marines have died.
6,256 veterans known to commit suicide in 2005 alone. (Originally posted as "6,256 returned from returned from Iraq and Afghanistan to commit suicide in 2005 alone" My misinterpretation was corrected by readers' comments, below.)
Over two million Iraqis have fled their country and about two million are internal refugees within Iraq.
Death continues to take its toll on American lives as we spend about three billion dollars a week on this tragic war, for a total expense of between three and six trillion dollars for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to pay.
The result is only sadness.
Quite a few blogs are attempting to sell the idea that Al Franken already has the DFL nomination for Senate wrapped up, that he is now the inevitable candidate. Let's examine that idea for a moment.
I question this conclusion, and I think it is actually quite destructive. Let's look at the big picture for a minute and see if we are heading for a cliff. It might be worth a moment's hesitation to avoid a huge blunder.
Mike Ciresi just self-funded another two million dollars to his U.S. Senate campaign. With the over half-million from the last quarter of 2007, that is starting to add up to some significant money. I recall that Ciresi initially said that he would not self-fund the Senate run this time, as he did back in 2000.
Any speculations as to what this means?
(This evening, we joked around Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's office that we could keep up if those of us closing the office just kicked in another couple hundred thousand. Unfortunately, someone had already gone through the sofa cushions.)
Minnesota Senator Norman Bertrum Coleman, Jr., woke up in a cold sweat. The clock on the bedside table read 3:34. The street was quiet; only the streetlight filtered through his bedroom blinds.
Tired as Norm was, the thoughts kept churning through his head. What if, he kept fretting, what if.
Norm’s strategy for running against Al Franken was solid: Make the campaign about Al Franken. Have Michael Brodkorb pull out those Saturday Night Live pictures of Franken in diapers. Have Blogs for Norm publish those old crude Harvard Lampoon articles that sounded like such cruel gay-bashing. Have those Powerline guys quote from Al’s books. Keep calling him “Angry Al” and pray hard that a reporter or tracker would catch Franken being really nasty to someone during the campaign.
The Los Angeles Times reports today (1/21/08) that most of Gaza City is in darkness. The main city generator has been shut down, leaving vital services in jeopardy, including hospitals, bakeries water supplies and sewage treatment. With temperatures in the low 50’s, city residents shivered in their homes and residents of taller buildings trudged up darkened stairways past useless elevators. The siege of Gaza is nearly complete.