1/13/2009 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Banished: Film on Racial Cleansing in the US
  • Release of Heffelfinger/Luger Whitewash on RNC Policing
  • Copwatch/Know Your Rights Training
  • RNC 8 Fundraiser
  • Defend the RNC 8 Town Hall Meeting
  • Court Watch for Darryl Robinson's Trial
  • Court Watch Works!
  • Oakland Erupts in Outrage Over Oscar Grant Murder

UPCOMING EVENTS

FREE SHOWING OF THE FILM BANISHED
Tuesday, January 13
6:30 p.m.
Rondo Community Library, 461 N Dale St, St. Paul
(corner of University Ave & Dale St.­free parking below the library)

From 1860-1920 hundreds of U.S. counties expelled their black residents. This film recovers this history of racial cleansing in America when thousands were driven from their homes and communities by violent, racist mobs. It places these events in the context of present-day race relations. Free event. Everyone welcome. For more information, contact les@umn.edu. Sponsored by University of Minnesota Labor Education Studies.

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RELEASE OF HEFFELFINGER/LUGER REPORT ON RNC POLICING
St. Paul City Council Meeting
Wednesday, January 14
3:30 p.m.

St. Paul City Hall, 15 W Kellogg Blvd, Room 300, St. Paul
On Wednesday, the city of St. Paul will release the Heffelfinger/Luger report on RNC policing during the St. Paul City Council meeting. We'll be there! This report has been a hollow attempt at tricking the public into thinking the city is interested in addressing the problems we saw and experienced during the RNC. But it doesn't include any review of police misconduct or brutality, so all it serves to do is tell the cops what a great job they did. Obviously, we disagree. Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure (CRASS) will have t-shirts available and is organizing the community's response. Of note--despite widespread interest in this report, the St. Paul city council will not take comment from the public at this meeting. At least that's what they say...
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COPWATCH/KNOW YOUR RIGHTS TRAINING
Saturday, January 17
4:00 p.m.
Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis
Given the lack of formal police accountability mechanisms in the Twin Cities (see below) CUAPB is starting off the new year teaching the community how to document police conduct, which will allow us to hold police accountable ourselves. Documenting police conduct is a completely legal activity but the documentation only has value if it is done correctly. Join to learn about your rights and how to capture police conduct on film and by other means.
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RNC 8 FUNDRAISER
Wednesday, January 21
7:00 p.m.
Black Dog Cafe, 308 Prince St, St. Paul
As part of the ongoing Looking Back, Moving Forward photographic exhibit of RNC images, there will be a fundraiser for the RNC 8, our brothers and sisters who face serious charges just for organizing dissent. Musical entertainment includes Junkyard Empire and Pockets of Resistance. Come see the great photos--including some contributed by CUAPB copwatchers--then stay for a great meal and great music. All ages. No cover but donations welcome.
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DEFEND THE RNC 8 TOWN HALL MEETING
Sunday January 25th
3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Walker Church, 3104 16th Ave S, Minneapolis

In what appears to be the first use of criminal charges under the 2002 Minnesota Patriot Act, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner has charged 8 anti-RNC organizers with four Felony Conspiracy charges, including Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism. The potential consequences of these charges are enormous--nothing short of the criminalization and suppression of dissent.

Come to a Town Hall meeting to get updates on the case and discuss what we can do to defend the RNC 8. The goal of this meeting is to form a defense committee and develop plans for repealing the MN Patriot Act, using political pressure to get the charges dismissed and other strategies for curtailing attacks on our movement.

Featured speakers include:
*Coleen Rowley--Retired FBI agent, TIME Magazine's 2002 Person of the Year
*Phyllis Kahn--MN State Representative (DFL-59B)
*Peter Rachleff--Professor of History, Macalester College
*Michelle Gross--President, Communities United Against Police Brutality
*Meredith Aby--Anti-War Committee
*Mordecai Specktor--Publisher of American Jewish World, Father of Max
Specktor

Speakers will be followed by small-group sessions and participatory discussion, with a focus on action! The event is free and open to the
public. Snacks and child care will be available.
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COURTWATCH: DARRYL ROBINSON'S TRIAL
Monday, January 26
9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S 6th St, Minneapolis
Stand with CUAPB vice president Darryl Robinson as he fights false charges placed on him after Minneapolis police beat him during copwatch. Cops punched him and choked him to unconsciousness repeatedly--while he was handcuffed. Now he faces ridiculous charges including "obstructing the sidewalk," "failure to obey a cop" and "obstructing legal charges." Darryl has vowed to fight these charges to the end and we need to be there with him. COPWATCH IS NOT A CRIME AND COPWATCHERS ARE NOT CRIMINALS!


COURT WATCH WORKS!

Friday, December 12, CUAPB and many others were in court with RNC arrestee Joe Robinson for his sentencing hearing. Previously, Joe pled guilty to puncturing a tire on a bus used to transport RNC delegates. Although the charge was on the edge between a misdemeanor and felony, the state prosecuted it as a felony and Joe was facing up to five years in prison.

The atmosphere in the standing-room-only courtroom was electric. Nearly 100 people stood up when Joe's name was called on the roster. Judge Rosas took note of the large number of supporters before asking us to sit down. The prosecutor then argued that Joe should get not only the maximum sentence but even more because of the political nature of the offense. Dragging out the "good protester/bad protester" argument, he claimed that Joe's action of puncturing a tire was what triggered all of the cops' vicious brutality against "peaceful protesters." For a few tense minutes, it looked like the state was trying to hold Joe responsible for all that followed during the RNC.

Joe's public defender did an outstanding job arguing to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. Several letters had been written on Joe's behalf and these were submitted to the judge. Judge Rosas also allowed three people to speak on Joe's behalf before issuing his sentence. Bill Drebenstedt of the anti-war committee read a statement on many discussions he had with Joe on his political beliefs. This editor spoke about Joe's volunteer work with CUAPB since the RNC and asked the judge to allow Joe to remain in the community to continue this work.

Joe then spoke on his own behalf, stating that he came from a conservative background and had voted for Bush during the 2000 election. He came to a realization that the war in Iraq was unjust and began participating in peace vigils and other actions to stop the war but he saw them as being ineffective. He said he felt personally responsible for Bush's atrocities and felt he had to do something to stop them so he punctured the bus tire to try to stop the delegates from meeting to plan more wars. He vowed not to engage in similar actions in the future.

Judge Rosas talked about his admiration for anti-war protesters who "are willing to stand in the rain and snow holding a peace sign in order to exercise their Constitutional rights." He told Joe he should be grateful to all of the people in the courtroom who came to support him and referred to us as "Ghandi-like." He then pronounced Joe's sentence: three years probation, 100 hours of community service "perhaps with Ms. Gross' organization," court costs of $100 and restitution for the cost of the bus tire. The court watchers, who had been quiet and courteous throughout, applauded as we left the court room. It truly was a triumphant moment.


OAKLAND ERUPTS IN OUTRAGE OVER OSCAR GRANT MURDER

A bevy of videos and witness statements have come forward following the New Years Day murder by police of 22-year-old Oscar Grant in a BART station in Oakland, California. In this murder, police pull a group of young African American men from a BART train and line them up against the wall. Oscar, who is seen holding his hands up and trying to calm the cops, is then brought to his knees, then placed face down on the floor. Two officers handcuff him and a third pulls out his pistol and shoots him in the back, killing him almost instantly. Oscar was unarmed and witnesses state police were taunting the men with racial epithets prior to the shooting. This scene was captured most graphically on these videos: <http://www.ktvu.com/video/18409133/index.html> and <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idJAr6NUy3E&feature=related>. After the shooting, rather than see to Oscar's medical needs, BART cops ran around confiscating cell phones and cameras from witnesses--which have never been seen again or returned to their owners.

There have been scores of demonstrations, meetings and press conferences in the aftermath of this murder. Almost 200 people have been arrested, with four young people charged with felonies related to the demos. One arrest is conspicuously missing--the arrest of Johannes Mehserle, the officer who shot and killed Oscar. To date, he hasn't even been interrogated but has been allowed to quietly resign from his job. Oscar Grant's family has filed a $25 million wrongful death suit and a civil rights complaint. By all accounts, Oscar was a quiet, loving young man who worked hard as a butcher at a local market. He leaves behind a 4 year old child, his significant other and a large group of family and friends who are eager to see that justice is served.

There is some speculation that Mehserle was reaching for a taser when he shot Oscar. There are at least two problems with this theory. First, as can clearly be seen on the videos, Oscar wasn't doing anything that would justify use of a taser. Secondly, almost every police department in the country has a policy of "weak side holstering" of tasers--that is, holstering the taser on the opposite side of the body from the gun and on same side as the non-dominant hand. If it turns out the cop thought he was pulling a taser, his actions would still not be justified and this would represent but one more argument about the problems with the near-epidemic use of tasers by cops.

CUAPB has extended our sympathies to the family of Oscar Grant and our support to people in Oakland in their quest for justice.


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