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Friday, September 19, 2008

How Magnanimous of You, Mr. Mayor

posted by on September 19 at 10:09 AM


Charges will be dropped against journalists who were arrested and charged with misdemeanors for unlawful assembly during the Republican National Convention, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said today.

Many reporters, photographers and bloggers were among the 818 people arrested during the Sept. 1-4 convention. Many were trapped on a bridge with protesters on the Thursday night, just before Sen. John McCain made his acceptance speech. Police had warned the large group to dissipate, then closed in from both sides of the bridge and made mass arrests.
“This decision reflects the values we have in Saint Paul to protect and promote our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press,” Mayor Coleman said. “A journalist plays a special role in our democracy and that role is just too important to ignore. At the scene, the police did their duty in protecting public safety. In this decision, we are serving the public’s interest to maintain the integrity of our democracy, system of justice and freedom of the press.”

First: Can police just insist a large group of peaceably assembled people to dissipate and start arresting them when they don’t?

The crowd’s permit to march on downtown that day had expired an hour or two prior, according police on the scene. So police corralled them into a tense, but peaceful standoff, then started arresting.

Second: Dismissing charges against journalists doing their jobs isn’t some kind of gift, Mayor Coleman. Don’t crow about it.

Third: What about the preemptive raids on video bloggers and protest crash pads before the RNC began?

How’d that “protect and promote our First Amendment rights,” Mayor Coleman?

RSS icon Comments


Is he related to that toad, Norm Coleman?

Posted by Toe Tag | September 19, 2008 10:21 AM

Sue sue sue! Sue them until they bleed.

Posted by Mahtli69 | September 19, 2008 10:24 AM

To your first question: a sad yes.

Posted by Jason Petersen | September 19, 2008 10:26 AM

They are acting unlawfully and they know it or they wouldn't routinely drop charges. They are using arrests to harass people and stop them from having their say in public, and then making it all go away later after the time for protest is long past. Their hope is that almost nobody will bother to contest their treatment in court, but for those who do there is no doubt a city slush fund (just like Seattle has) to pay settlements to the injured parties.

The First Amendment isn't the only piece of the Bill of Rights that has been all but voided in the last eight years, but it's one of the more noticeable. "Protest Zones" and byzantine "protest permit" processes are all pretty blatant abrogations of the intent of the First Amendment.

Nice lip service to the mission of the press, though. I'm sure that makes you feel better about being pepper-sprayed, right?

Posted by flamingbanjo | September 19, 2008 10:28 AM

Your first question is something I've wondered about at a broader level. Do you have to obey a police officer, even if you are not breaking the law or posing any threat to anyone? The RNC protestors, and that Slog post from a few months ago with the video of the people holding the sign on a highway overpass come to mind.

In theory, the answer should be no. But, in practice, it seems like police take the attitude that 'I am the law and you must do what I say', even if 'what they say' infringes on your rights... In practice, our system functions as if the policeman is always in the right.

Posted by Julie in Chicago | September 19, 2008 10:37 AM

"dissipate" or "disassemble"?

Posted by max solomon | September 19, 2008 10:52 AM

"First: Can police just insist a large group of peaceably assembled people to dissipate and start arresting them when they don't?"

Yes. See the last 8 years (where have you been?).

Is it legal? Not in my interpretation of the constitution. But unfortunately, when the ACLU challenged Seattle's no-protest zone, thinking that surely the courts would rule it unconstitutional, the strategy backfired. Invoking laws originally meant to prevent anti-abortion protesters from blocking access to abortion clinics, courts have decided no-protest zones are constitutional!

Posted by Trevor | September 19, 2008 10:57 AM

Can police just insist a large group of peaceably assembled people to dissipate and start arresting them when they don’t?

Pigs can do whatever the fuck they want. That's it. Simple as that.

Posted by Mike in MO | September 19, 2008 11:03 AM

I know they can, but I'm wondering whether anyone's challenged this in court recently and made headway.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | September 19, 2008 11:51 AM

@1 & 3 Actually, they are not related. Sen. Norm is an east coast douchebag, Mayor Chris is the brother of MPLS Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman.

Posted by ur doin it rong | September 19, 2008 12:04 PM

How would one get in touch with the mayor of MPLS?

Posted by how would one | September 19, 2008 12:56 PM
Posted by Brendan Kiley | September 19, 2008 2:19 PM

#2 I am in complete agreement!

Posted by Vince | September 19, 2008 3:02 PM

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