Letter to Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan about continuing, post-RNC harassment
Chief of Police
350 South 5th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1389
Fax: (612) 673-2613
28 March 2009
Dear Chief Dolan,
I am writing to you as a resident of the Steven's Square neighborhood in Minneapolis.
Today, the so-called "RNC 8"—charged with organizing direct action during the 2008 RNC—held a bike tour of the sites of the pre-RNC house raids in Minneapolis, before planning to cycle on to the sites of similar raids in St. Paul. The two parts of the day were organized to be split with a community lunch at the Walker Church. The participants were a wide range of people including local quakers, community activists, journalists, lawyers, educators, etc.—basically a cross-section of the city.
At 3:00pm today (Saturday March 28th), there were 6 bike police, a police van, a squad car, and a creepy-looking dark sedan stationed outside the Walker Church during the lunch.
The planned ride to St. Paul was cancelled because of this climate of intimidation. Nonetheless, the police continued to deploy in great numbers on the Marshall St. Bridge, where the ride had been scheduled to cross. And in St. Paul, several patrol cars were observed at the RNC raid sites that the ride had planned to visit, including 3 cars blocking the intersection at Iglehart and Chatsworth, next to Mike Whalen's house which was raided.
You may recall that Mr. Whalen's house was raided as the FBI believed that he was "collecting weapons" for the RNC. It turned out to be boxes of vegan literature for his room mate that had in fact been arriving at the house for a year and a half prior to the event. A video crew from New York was raided at gunpoint and handcuffed. Haven't you all already done enough to Mr. Whalen? This is blatant police thuggery.
It is estimated that 20-30 police officers and federal law enforcement officials took part in this apparently joint powers operation to harass a few dozen people on bicycles eating a community lunch in a church. Is the City's budget not already in trouble enough without this wanton waste of public funds?
Despite all road rules being obeyed and respected, there was one arrest for "disorderly conduct" of someone attempting to leave the event earlier. From what I understand, he was picked off as he left the main group, which continued on the Greenway. The Greenway, for heaven's sakes, an official city bike route with only pedestrian and bike traffic! Is there no sense of proportion left in in the Cities?
My question to you is very simple: What exactly is going on in the Twin Cities these days, when the police feel that it is acceptable to harass people peacefully gathering for political/community events and taking a casual bike ride around the cities—a group of no more than a few dozen people?
Enough is enough. We are supposed to be living in a free society. It is the job of government officials to guard those freedoms jealously. It is therefore totally unacceptable that police deploy in such large numbers for small events or—frankly—even at all if no crime is being committed.
The job of the police is not to intimidate citizens, yet this is exactly what is going on these days. It is completely disgusting to see this in America. Something needs to be done. A clear message needs to be sent to end—for once and all—such intimidation of the community.
The RNC has left the Cities, apparently the Cities cannot let go of the RNC overkill mentality of policing. I urge you to take immediate, unambiguous action.
You are making the Cities a scary place to live. We should be able to go about our Constitutionally-guaranteed business, our political associations, and our vegan potlucks without this kind of—frankly—pervasive and fascist intervention.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
[contact information redacted for publication]
RT Rybak, Mayor of Minneapolis
Chris Coleman, Mayor of St. Paul
Robert Lilligren, Ward 4, Minneapolis City Council.
Cam Gordon, Minneapolis City Council.
Patricia Lindgren, Dave Thune's assistant, St. Paul City Council
Coleen Rowley, FBI (retired)
Bruce Nestor, National Lawyers Guild
Michelle Gross, Communities United Against Police Brutality
and 400 local media contacts BCCed