Saturday, September 6, 2008

Food Not Bombs activists charged under anti-terrorism law

The more I read about that country, the more freaked out I get:

In what appears to be the first use of criminal charges under the 2002 Minnesota version of the federal USAPATRIOT Act, Ramsey County prosecutors have formally charged eight alleged leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.

Monica Bicking, Eryn Trimmer, Luce Guillen Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Max Spector, face up to 7½ years in prison under the terrorism enhancement charge which allows for a 50 percent increase in the maximum penalty.

Affidavits released by law enforcement, which were filed in support of the search warrants used in raids over the weekend and used to support probable cause for the arrest warrants, are based on paid, confidential informants who infiltrated the RNCWC on behalf of law enforcement. They allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates to the RNC, assault police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. Evidence released to date does not corroborate these allegations with physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these allegations than the claims of the informants.

“These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism. This both trivializes real violence and attempts to place the stated political views of the defendants on trial,” said Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “The charges represent an abuse of the criminal justice system and seek to intimidate any person organizing large scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil disobedience,” he said.

From here. If indeed there's no evidence, they may well be quietly released, but this is a great way to put a chill on protests, don't you think?

Incidentally, Food Not Bombs have run into troubles in a lot of places, including the city I called home for several years:

The volunteer group that hands out free food and meals every Saturday in front of City Hall is not the problem and should not have to move, a spokesperson for Food Not Bombs told council last night.

"First we were asked by the City of Kitchener to stop serving, now we have been asked to move away from downtown businesses. We, however, are not the problem, and stopping us and hiding us will not solve anything," Laura Hamilton said.

More than 180 supporters of Food Not Bombs packed council chambers last night to protest the city's attempt to move the organization away from the location it has been using for nine years at King and Young streets.

"I have been volunteering with Food Not Bombs for five years and I can assure you there have not been any violent incidents or panhandling, aggressive or otherwise, at our servings," Hamilton said.

Source. Pretty typical stuff really; in Kitchener they particularly like to keep the poor out of sight (much of the public housing, for instance, is on the outskirts of town where the bus service is terrible, so as to keep the "problem" contained). It doesn't work, of course. But the real zinger in that story is this:

Anita Petsche of Petsche's Shoes linked Food Not Bombs to the terrorist group al-Qaida, a remark that drew jeers and boos from the group's supporters.

Hard to know what to say to someone like that, except maybe "fuck you and everyone who looks like you".

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