9/26/2010 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Community Response to FBI Attacks on Anti-War Activists
  • Panel Discussion on the Role of Police in Society
  • O22 Demonstration and Fundraiser
  • Freeman Refuses to Hold Corrupt Metro Gang Task Force Cops Accountable
  • Keep on Watching the Cops

COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO FBI ATTACKS ON ANTIWAR ACTIVISTS

You have undoubtedly heard by now about FBI raids on homes of prominent Twin Cities antiwar activists on September 24. The targeted activists have worked with the Anti-War Committee, played major roles in planning protests against the RNC and have been vocal supporters of people oppressed by US foreign policy, including Palestinians. In addition to the raids, activists were served subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in Chicago on various dates in October. Activists in Chicago, Michigan and South Carolina experienced similar repression.

The community's response to these outrageous attacks was swift. Dozens of people, including CUAPB cop watchers and National Lawyers Guild attorneys, turned up at the raided houses to observe law enforcement conduct and provide comfort to the affected activists. Over 70 people participated in a 4 p.m. press conference. And over 200 people came to an emergency meeting at 5:30 that evening, on only a few hours' notice. Nearly everyone present signed a support statement, agreeing to stand in solidarity with those affected. Significant donations were also made toward a defense fund. For more information on the raids and to view a short video of the meeting, go to http://twincities.indymedia.org/2010/sep/roundup-dont-fck-our-activists-community-responds-raids The video includes a salient analysis of the FBI's actions by former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley.

Follow up actions announced at the meeting include:

MONDAY, September 27th @ 4:30 PM @ THE FBI OFFICE (111 Washington Ave S. Minneapolis, MN - Downtown) to protest the FBI raids on activists in our community. Since calling this action in Minneapolis, at least 19 cities across the country have announced similar actions on Monday through Wednesday this week, in a coordinated campaign being called Days of Action Against FBI Repression.

THURSDAY, September 30th @ 7 PM @ WALKER CHURCH (3104 16th Ave S, Minneapolis) follow up meeting to form a defense committee for affected individuals.

Please drop everything to make it to these two important events and show your solidarity with antiwar activists under attack. We created important movement support around the RNC 8, Scott and Carrie, and others and that support has forced the powers-that-be to back down. Now we will show them the power of the movement when they come after our antiwar activist friends and allies.

HANDS OFF THE RNC 8! HANDS OFF SCOTT AND CARRIE! HANDS OFF AWC! STAND WILL ALL TARGETS OF POLITICAL REPRESSION!


UPCOMING WORKSHOP ESPECIALLY RELEVANT IN LIGHT OF FBI RAIDS

Panel Discussion on the Role of Police in Society
Thursday, October 14 at 6:30 p.m.
Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis

In light of the recent Metro Gang Task Force debacle, the recent death after tasing of David Smith, several high profile incidents and lawsuits, and the second firing of MPD cop Jason Andersen, CUAPB will hold a panel discussion that takes us back to the root question: what role, if any, does policing have in our society. In the lead up to October 22 National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, panelists representing a wide range of political views will present on this highly relevant topic. There will be plenty of time for questions and comments from the public. Please join us for what will be a fascinating discussion.

Mark Your Calendar Now!
Friday, October 22 National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality

7:00 p.m. March to mark the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, leaving from Hiawatha transit center. Protest the blatant and unpunished murders of Fong Lee, David Smith and so many others, and the lack of prosecution of cop corruption with the Metro Gang Task Force. Demand an end to police brutality NOW!

8:30 p.m. Joint CUAPB/RNC 8 Fundraiser at Favor Cafe, 913 W Lake St, Minneapolis. A great lineup of spoken word and hip hop artists will provide the entertainment. Our goal is to raise funds for legal fees for the RNC 8 and for people who face false charges after being brutalized, including Philander Jenkins, who needs funds to appeal his false conviction. Suggested donation $10.


NO PROSECUTION FOR CORRUPT METRO GANG TASK FORCE COPS--FOR REAL?

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman recently announced that there would be no prosecutions of cops involved in the Metro Gang Task Force. This unit engaged in grotesque corruption and brutality, as only partially documented in these reports: <http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/fad/2009/fad09-18.htm> and <http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/docs/FINALRepMetroGangStrikeForceReview.PDF> as well as this wonderful site <http://www.gangstrikefarce.com/>. Further, a class action lawsuit resulted in a $3 million dollar fund to reimburse some of the victims of the MGTF's misconduct. $3 million sounds like grand larceny, doesn't it? Yet, somehow, no one is going to be prosecuted.

Freeman's whine that no one would talk to him is disingenuous at best. When prosecutors think a group of people were involved in the crime, they have a whole trick bag of tactics they use to try to get people to roll on each other. There certainly was at least some direct evidence of corruption, especially since it can be proven that some cops stole confiscated goods and took them home or gave them away as gifts. Freeman simply chose not to act on the information he did have or to use his arsenal of tools to gather additional information.

Freeman's announcement shouldn't really come as a surprise. As a guy who relies on cops in his prosecutions, he can't really afford to get on their bad side. He has way too much skin in this game. Which begs the question--why was he ever the guy making this decision in the first place?

A second factor in this whole mess is the need to keep actions by higher-ups under the radar. Think about this: after a state probe began to unravel the trail of stolen money, cars and goods, Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion announced that the MGTF would be shut down but then left the building wide open so crooked cops could shred files and destroy the proof of their corruption. No effort was made to secure the building until Commander Chris Omodt showed up to end the party. MGTF advisory council chair Manila "Bud" Shaver used his influence to prevent his car from being seized and searched after his meth-addicted daughter was arrested while driving it.

There's no question that murdering thug MPD cop and former MGTF member Jason Andersen certainly deserves to be fired, as he was for the second time recently. Still, one can't help but get the impression that the powers-that-be hope that by throwing him under the bus, they will satisfy the desires of the general public for some kind of accountability for the crimes of the MGTF. They couldn't be more wrong.

In the present police state, in which Black men are constantly stopped for idiotic reasons like jaywalking, spitting on the sidewalk, waiting at the bus stop, or making a fashion statement, it's just straight up intolerable that cops are going to get a free pass for grand larceny and vicious brutality, mostly targeted against people who never had anything to do with gangs. At minimum, the feds need to recognize that Freeman wasn't the guy for the job and they need to bring federal charges against these cops, including litigation for a widespread pattern of civil rights violations. Beyond that, though, the community needs to keep up the pressure. A good start was the recent press conference by a number of civil rights groups calling for a grand jury probe. Finally, convictions of cases involving MGTF cops should be reviewed for possible reversal. A few cases have been reviewed, resulting in convictions being overturned. This needs to happen in every single case involving those cops, whose credibility is flat zero.

Civil rights groups call for grand jury probe of Metro Gang Strike Force

by Paul Demko
September 15th, 2010
http://politicsinminnesota.com/blog/2010/09/civil-rights-groups-call-for-grand-jury-probe-of-metro-gang-strike-force/

A half dozen local civil rights groups are calling for a grand jury investigation of the disbanded Metro Gang Strike Force. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced last week that no criminal charges would be filed against officers assigned to the disgraced law enforcement agency.

In part, Freeman blamed the gang task force’s shoddy record keeping as part of the reason that a credible criminal case couldn’t be built. “The record keeping is so bad, it’s stunning,” he told reporters.

But the civil rights organizations ­ including the Minneapolis and St. Paul chapters of the NAACP ­ say that such an excuse wouldn’t be tolerated in most criminal investigations, particularly those focused on minorities. Here’s part of their statement:

In the African-American community and other communities of color, irrespective of whether a criminal defendant cooperates with the prosecution in disclosing participation in criminal activity, he or she is still often prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Excuses are not accepted in those instances and the excuse that has been offered here, such as a lack of evidence, should not be accepted in this instance. From where we stand shredding of documents sounds like obstruction of justice, to say the least. Not to mention numerous other ethical, civil liberties, and civil rights violations that allegedly occurred at the hands of the Metro Gang Strike Force.

A pair of scathing reports released last year describe officers assigned to the gang strike force routinely seizing property from individuals without justification and failing to maintain any reasonable records of their investigations. Last month, a class action lawsuit accusing the agency of civil rights violations was settled for $3 million.


KEEP ON WATCHING THE COPS!

You may have seen a recent flurry of articles on arrest and prosecution of people for videotaping the cops. Most of these cases rely on "two party" laws that state that both parties have to be aware of the taping of private conversations. The article below gives a good analysis of the flimsiness of that argument. However, you should know that Minnesota is a "one party" state--only one party to a private conversation need know that it is being taped, and that party can be you. Nonetheless, we are watching these cases closely. A few people have already been convicted and given significant sentences, so this issue will probably wind its way up to the US Supreme Court soon.

The flip side of this story is that cops have installed hundreds of cameras at intersections and along sidewalks of large swaths of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul (as well as other cities around the country). Apparently it is okay for the cops to tape us, even without evidence of criminal conduct, but they are claiming it's not okay to tape them conducting stops and arrests in public. Hogwash. Keep taping the cops, as cop watch is an important way to give the community a measure of safety and hold cops accountable for their conduct.

Should Videotaping the Police Really Be a Crime?

By Adam Cohen
Time Magazine
August 4, 2010

Anthony Graber, a Maryland Air National Guard staff sergeant, faces up to 16 years in prison. His crime? He videotaped his March encounter with a state trooper who pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle. Then Graber put the video ­ which could put the officer in a bad light ­ up on YouTube.

It doesn't sound like much. But Graber is not the only person being slapped down by the long arm of the law for the simple act of videotaping the police in a public place. Prosecutors across the U.S. claim the videotaping violates wiretap laws ­ a stretch, to put it mildly.

These days, it's not hard to see why police are wary of being filmed. In 1991, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) beating of Rodney King was captured on video by a private citizen. It was shown repeatedly on television and caused a national uproar. As a result, four LAPD officers were put on trial, and when they were not convicted, riots broke out, leaving more than 50 people dead and thousands injured (two officers were later convicted on federal civil rights charges).

More recently, a New York Police Department officer was thrown off the force ­ and convicted of filing a false report ­ because of a video of his actions at a bicycle rally in Times Square. The officer can plainl be seen going up to a man on a bike and shoving him to the ground. The officer claimed the cyclist was trying to collide with him, and in the past, it might have been hard to disprove the police account. But this time there was an amateur video of the encounter ­ which quickly became an Internet sensation, viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube alone.

In the Graber case, the trooper also apparently had reason to want to keep his actions off the Internet. He cut Graber off in an unmarked vehicle, approached Graber in plain clothes and yelled while brandishing a gun before identifying himself as a trooper.

Back when King was beaten, it was unusual for bystanders to have video cameras. But today, everyone is a moviemaker. Lots of people carry video cameras in their pockets, on iPhones, BlackBerrys and even their MP3 players. They also have an easy distribution system: the Internet. A video can get millions of viewers worldwide if it goes viral, bouncing from blog to blog, e-mail to e-mail, and Facebook friend to Facebook friend.

No wonder, then, that civil rights groups have embraced amateur videos. Last year, the NAACP announced an initiative in which it encouraged ordinary citizens to tape police misconduct with their cell phones and send the videos to the group's website. [Note: CUAPB is building a new website and you'll be able to publish your videos on our site.]

Law enforcement is fighting back. In the case of Graber ­ a young husband and father who had never been arrested ­ the police searched his residence and seized computers. Graber spent 26 hours in jail even before facing the wiretapping charges that could conceivably put him away for 16 years. (It is hard to believe he will actually get anything like that, however. One point on his side: the Maryland attorney general's office recently gave its opinion that a court would likely find that the wiretap law does not apply to traffic stops.)

Last year, Sharon Tasha Ford was arrested in Florida for videotaping an encounter between the police and her son on a public sidewalk. She was never prosecuted, but in June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida sued the city of Boynton Beach on her behalf, claiming false arrest and violation of her First Amendment rights.

The legal argument prosecutors rely on in police video cases is thin. They say the audio aspect of the videos violates wiretap laws because, in some states, both parties to a conversation must consent to having a private conversation recorded. The hole in their argument is the word "private." A police officer arresting or questioning someone on a highway or street is not having a private conversation. He is engaging in a public act.

Even if these cases do not hold up in court, the police can do a lot of damage just by threatening to arrest and prosecute people. "We see a fair amount of intimidation ­ police saying, 'You can't do that. It's illlegal,'" says Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer with the ACLU's Washington office. It discourages people from filming, he says, even when they have the right to film.

Ford was not deterred. According to her account, even when the police threatened her with arrest, she refused to turn off her video camera, telling her son not to worry because "it's all on video" and "let them be who they continue to be."

The police then grabbed her, she said, took her camera and drove her off to the police station for booking.

Most people are not so game for a fight with the police. They just stop filming. These are the cases no one finds out about, in which there is no arrest or prosecution, but the public's freedoms have nevertheless been eroded.

Ford was right to insist on her right to videotape police actions that occur in public, and others should too. If the police are doing their jobs properly, they should have nothing to worry about.

Cohen, a lawyer, is a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board


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