April 12, 2009
Terrorism Charges Dropped Against the RNC 8
GAERTNER DROPS TERRORISM ENHANCEMENTS, CONTINUES CRIMINALIZATION OF DISSENT
April 9, 2009 Contact: Celia Kutz, firstname.lastname@example.org, 612-886-4565
In the surest sign yet of the power of post-RNC court solidarity, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner has dropped two of four unfounded charges against the RNC 8. Caving to months and months of public pressure, Gaertner dropped one count of Conspiracy to Commit Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism, and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Damage to Property in Furtherance of Terrorism.
“We are heartened by the fact that our supporters have won this concession,” said defendant Nathanael Secor. “It’s taken a tremendous show of strength and solidarity over the past seven months.”
Originally facing a single charge–Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism–Gaertner’s office added three additional charges against the eight defendants in December of last year. Now, two of those charges have been dropped, clearly demonstrating that all the charges are a matter of political maneuvering, not a reasoned look at the evidence.
On March 28, supporters delivered to Susan Gaertner’s office a stack of over 3,000 petitions urging her to drop all four charges. Among other statements, a resolution from the 17,000-member Duluth Central Labor Body in support of the RNC 8 was also delivered. National media attention, including an appearance on MSNBC on Wednesday morning, has drawn significant attention to the case at the same time as Gaertner is accelerating her campaign for Governor–having just hired full-time staffers, opened an office on University Avenue, and planned appearances at several DFL events in the next month. Additionally, the broad-based RNC 8 Defense Committee has succeeded in calling widespread attention to the Minnesota PATRIOT Act, and played an instrumental role in applying the pressure that led to this reduction of charges.
In removing the controversial MN PATRIOT Act from the debate at this moment, Susan Gaertner obviously hopes to defray the costs of this unprecedented prosecution on her campaign for Governor, and to mitigate the overwhelmingly negative public opinion of Ramsey County’s repressive behavior during and since the RNC.
“Make no mistake,” said defendant Luce Guillen-Givins, “This change to the complaint against us is a token gesture meant to placate our supporters and bolster a floundering political prosecution.”
As defendant Eryn Trimmer pointed out, “This move only focuses attention more acutely on the outrageous nature of the two remaining charges, Conspiracy to Commit Riot and Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Damage to Property.”
In the months leading up to the RNC, the defendants were involved in open, public organizing with a broad coalition of Twin Cities activists and community members. We continue to assert that the only “conspiracy” committed by the RNC 8 was to provide basic and necessary infrastructure for people who wished to engage in their fundamental right to dissent.
“We’re relieved and gratified that the most sensational part of the charges has been dropped,” said St. Paul peace and justice activist Betsy Raasch-Gilman, member of Friends of the RNC 8. She continued, “We hope that the conspiracy charges will also be dropped. If planning a protest can be called conspiracy, the right to free speech is in real danger.”
Friends of the RNC 8 asks Susan Gaertner to continue in the direction of justice by dropping all the remaining charges, thereby saving enormous financial resources for the people of Minnesota in this time of rampant foreclosures, unemployment and economic turmoil. We also remind supporters that while we should rightly celebrate this small victory, the time for increased action to defend the RNC 8 is now. Political organizing is not conspiracy. Dissent is not a crime.