3/18/2008 Newsletter


  • Mayday! Free Speech Under Attack! Attend "Free Speech" Working Group Meeting
  • Stand Up with Brooklyn Park Youth Under Attack
  • Book Reading--The Lyncher in Me: A Search for Redemption in the Face of History
  • CUAPB to Receive NLG Social Justice Award
  • RNC Welcoming Committee Orders Tasers for Every Protester
  • New Study: 1 in 100 US Adults Behind Bars


As you may remember, Minneapolis and St. Paul have been using some pretty creative ways to try to deny free speech rights to people who are planning to protest the RNC in 2008. They’ve both formed “free speech working groups” that are busy crafting new ordinances and resolutions to severely restrict our ability to protest.

Minneapolis is holding a working group meeting tomorrow and we just learned that there are three proposals on the table:

1) a voluntary proposal that's bad because it includes sidewalks and other traditionally open areas and because it precludes counterdemonstrations

2) a MANDATORY proposal that's bad for the reasons above PLUS criminalizes people who don't get permits

3) an absolutely draconian ORDINANCE CHANGE that would make these assaults on our free speech PERMANENT--so long after the RNC has moved on, we'll be stuck with this crap

We must oppose these proposals (all three are bad), while we still can!

Move heaven and earth to get to this "free speech" working group meeting tomorrow:

“Free Speech” Working Group of the City of Minneapolis
Wednesday, March 19
11:a.m. to 12:00 noon
Minneapolis City Hall
350 S Fifth Street, Room 333


Brooklyn Park cops have always been on our radar screen. For as long as we've had the hotline, BP is the suburb we get the most complaints about. At times, they outranked St. Paul (before Harrington became St. Paul's police chief). So there has always been a problem with racially insensitive and outright thuggish cops in BP.

Their latest move has been to target and attempt to criminalize youth of color and white youth who stand with them. We are working on a number of these cases, in which youth have been arrested standing in the front yard of their own homes, harassed and arrested at school, etc. In one case, some youth were at school when a fight broke out at the end of the day. These young people were not in the fight and had nothing to do with it. As they tried to leave the school, the cop assigned to the school demanded to know the names of the kids involved in the fight. When these youth told the cop they didn't know the names, they were arrested and brought up on false charges, which have changed several times. This is just one of several incidents. Youth in these various incidents will be going to court soon but we need to send a strong message to the BP cops now: "hands off our kids!"

Please join us for a little "education" session with the BP cops. We'll be holding signs in front of the Brooklyn Park police department at rush hour on a busy main artery:

Thursday, March 20
5:00 p.m.
Brooklyn Park Municipal Plaza
5400 85th Street (Intersection with Regent)
Brooklyn Park

The Lyncher in Me with Warren Read
Tuesday, April 1, 7 p.m.
Merriam Park Branch Library, 1831 Marshall Avenue, Saint Paul

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 651-222-3242 or [email protected]

March 12, 2008, SAINT PAUL, MN ­ The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library presents author Warren Read, reading from his debut book and family story, The Lyncher in Me: A Search for Redemption in the Face of History.

In June 1920, in Duluth, a mob of over 10,000 charged the police station, inflamed by rumors that black circus workers had raped a white teenage girl­-charges later proven false. Three men were dragged from their cells and lynched in front of the cheering crowd. Over 80 years later, Read discovered that his beloved great-grandfather had incited the deadly riot years before. In this poignant memoir, Read explores the victims and perpetrators of the heinous crime, and investigates the impact of the long-held secret on his family, calling even himself to task. Listen to excerpts from The Lyncher in Me on Tuesday, April 1, at 7 p.m., at the Merriam Park Branch Library, 1831 Marshall Avenue, Saint Paul.

Warren Read is a writer and elementary school teacher on Bainbridge Island, Washington. This is his first book. This program is free and open to the public. Contact The Friends at 651/222-3242 or visit www.thefriends.org for more information.


We are extremely honored to learn that the National Lawyers Guild, Minnesota Chapter will be recognizing us with their Social Justice Award at their annual social justice dinner. Larry Leventhal will be presented with the Paul Marino People's Lawyering Award. Cheri Honkala of Poor People's Econonomic Human Rights Campaign will be keynote speaker. Please join us as we proudly receive this prestigious award.

The Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild
Annual Social Justice Dinner
Saturday, April 5, 2008
6:00 to 10:00 pm
William Mitchell College of Law
875 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, Minnesota

To reserve your tickets or for more information, reply to this email or call (612) 326-4315.


By RNC Welcoming Committee
March 13, 2008

The RNC Welcoming Committee (RNC-WC), an anarchist and anti-authoritarian organizing body based in the Twin Cities, announced today that it has ordered tasers for each of its members and friends. The announcement comes on the heels of last month’s St. Paul City Council approval of a St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) request for 234 tasers. Due to a unique corporate-anarchist confidentiality agreement, the exact number of tasers or documentable evidence of this new order will not be disclosed.

Both the SPPD and RNC-WC taser orders are scheduled to arrive before the September 1 so-called Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul. However, “The RNC Welcoming Committee’s order of tasers has absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming Republican convention,” said Ann O’ Nymmity of the RNC-WC. “These deadly, yet humane, weapons are needed simply to protect the safety of members of our community on a day-to-day basis. The timing is purely a coincidence.”

Last month, St. Paul police spokesperson Tom Walsh made similar statements to the Associated Press, saying that in regards to the RNC, his department’s purchase is “in no way related [to the timing of the RNC in St. Paul]. It simply isn’t.”

During scheduled protests of the RNC, local police and federal agents are likely to get violent. In Minneapolis last August, police used tasers and pepper spray to attack a nonviolent Critical Mass bike ride which coincided with the “pReNC”, a weekend of radical organizing in preparation for the RNC.

The RNC-WC does not have state-approved funding revenues. O’ Nymmity explained: “Our plan is to finance the purchase through raids on local WMD manufacturers, such as Alliant Techsystems.” The SPPD is funding their taser purchase through $210,000 from drug raids. O’ Nymmity added: “Through their website, the RNC Welcoming Committee is also accepting contributions from the public.”

Tasers, manufactured by Taser International, Inc., range from $300 to $1,000 and the fashionable weapons come in a variety of styles, including “black pearl,” “electric blue,” “metallic pink,” “leopard print,” and “forest camo.” O’ Nymmity noted, “We imagine St. Paul police will be visiting us soon, and now we’ll have something to talk about when they do. For instance, I can’t wait to compare my leopard print model to St. Paul police deputy chief Matt Bostrom’s metallic pink one!”

Once the RNC-WC order is finalized, the St. Paul Police Department will no longer have a monopoly on the weapons that have been implicated in hundreds of deaths nationwide, including the killing of a Fridley man by Minnesota State Troopers in January.

The Welcoming Committee has no plans to purchase machine guns, rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, concussion grenades, batons, water cannons or helicopters, all of which will be at the disposal of local police and federal agents in September.

O’ Nymmity concluded, “Convention delegates and attendees should feel free to enjoy their five-star hotels, three-course meals, and “gentleman’s clubs” without fear of protest or disruption. After all, if they follow the law and don’t start any illegal wars or anything, what should they have to worry about?”


February 28, 2008

For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report.

Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 are behind bars but that one in 100 black women are.

The report’s methodology differed from that used by the Justice Department, which calculates the incarceration rate by using the total population rather than the adult population as the denominator. Using the department’s methodology, about one in 130 Americans is behind bars.

Either way, said Susan Urahn, the center’s managing director, “we aren’t really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration.”

But Paul Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah and a former federal judge, said the Pew report considered only half of the cost-benefit equation and overlooked the “very tangible benefits ­ lower crime rates.”

In the past 20 years, according the Federal Bureau of Investigation, violent crime rates fell by 25 percent, to 464 for every 100,000 people in 2007 from 612.5 in 1987.

“While we certainly want to be smart about who we put into prisons,” Professor Cassell said, “it would be a mistake to think that we can release any significant number of prisoners without increasing crime rates. One out of every 100 adults is behind bars because one out of every 100 adults has committed a serious criminal offense.”

Ms. Urahn said the nation cannot afford the incarceration rate documented in the report. “We tend to be a country in which incarceration is an easy response to crime,” she said. “Being tough on crime is an easy position to take, particularly if you have the money. And we did have the money in the ‘80s and ‘90s.”

Now, with fewer resources available, the report said, “prison costs are blowing a hole in state budgets.” On average, states spend almost 7 percent on their budgets on corrections, trailing only healthcare, education and transportation.

In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase once adjusted for inflation. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.

It cost an average of $23,876 dollars to imprison someone in 2005, the most recent year for which data were available. But state spending varies widely, from $45,000 a year in Rhode Island to $13,000 in Louisiana.

The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, and will accelerate as the prison population ages.

About one in nine state government employees works in corrections, and some states are finding it hard to fill those jobs. California spent more than $500 million on overtime alone in 2006.

The number of prisoners in California dropped by 4,000 last year, making Texas’s prison system the nation’s largest, at about 172,000. But the Texas legislature last year approved broad changes to the corrections system there, including expansions of drug treatment programs and drug courts and revisions to parole practices.

“Our violent offenders, we lock them up for a very long time ­ rapists, murderers, child molestors,” said John Whitmire, a Democratic state senator from Houston and the chairman of the state senate’s criminal justice committee. “The problem was that we weren’t smart about nonviolent offenders. The legislature finally caught up with the public.”

He gave an example.

“We have 5,500 D.W.I offenders in prison,” he said, including people caught driving under the influence who had not been in an accident. “They’re in the general population. As serious as drinking and driving is, we should segregate them and give them treatment.”

The Pew report recommended diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and using punishments short of reincarceration for minor or technical violations of probation or parole. It also urged states to consider earlier release of some prisoners.

Before the recent changes in Texas, Mr. Whitmire said, “we were recycling nonviolent offenders.”

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