From the sarcastically-named RNC Welcoming Committee, Sept. 3:
We Will Not Be Intimidated
On Friday, August 31, nineteen people were arrested after police brutally attacked cyclists with Tasers, pepper spray, and excessive physical force. The cyclists were part of the monthly Critical Mass bike ride.
This month’s Critical Mass was a kick-off for the pReNC, a weekend of organizing against the Republican National Convention to be held in St. Paul in 2008. The RNC Welcoming Committee (RNC-WC), a group hosting the pReNC, gave a public speech before the ride exhorting riders to avoid confrontation throughout the weekend. While the police as a whole use excessive and brutal force in our communities on a daily basis, we feel that yesterday’s police response was highly inconsistent with their usual behavior.
The bikers did not provoke this incident, as they committed no violent or destructive acts. Unmarked cars filmed and targeted specific people. A State Patrol helicopter accompanied the entire event. Three police cars followed throughout the ride, attempting to intimidate the riders by sounding their sirens regularly and driving into the crowd, but issued no official dispersal orders.
Two cruisers—#993 and #998—drove into the back of the Mass at the corner of LaSalle and Grand. Witnesses report that at least one bicyclist was hit by a squad car. At this point, the police began to arrest and pepper spray those who had gathered at the site of the accident. They pointed Tasers at a nonviolent crowd, as if to create a sense of panic. Nearly twenty squad cars arrived on the scene. Over forty police created a line formation in which they advanced on bikers, arresting, and brutalizing those who fell behind.
One cyclist was pepper sprayed when she attempted to obey dispersal orders. She was then handcuffed and held to the ground as a third officer Tasered her in the neck. Witnesses were also pepper sprayed and Tasered and one bystander was amongst those arrested. Most of the nineteen arrestees were held on “Probable Cause” for Riot charges and their bail
was set at $3000 each.
We believe that the police aggression experienced last night was a pre-meditated attempt to intimidate anti-RNC organizers. Although members of the RNC-WC were the intended recipients of police violence, the officers present exercised no discretion in their brutality. All Critical Mass riders were subject to the police’s use of unrestrained force. This was, with no question, a police practice run for next year’s RNC. When the RNC-WC says that the State brings violence to the streets and leaves people, pacifist or otherwise, with no peaceful option for resistance, these acts of brutal force are what we speak of. We do not expect the police to be held accountable by a system that necessitates their violence; however, we remain committed to confronting this repression wherever it exists and with whatever means available.