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Friday, September 5, 2008

St. Paul - A City Unfettered

The last image recorded on AP photojournalist Matthew Rourke's camera before he was shoved from behind and arrested without warning, as documented here.

The total arrests for this week's Republican National Convention appears to be around 820, at least 28 of those arrested were journalists and several more were legal observers and medical professionals who attempted to aid injured protesters. There were also accounts of innocent bystanders being rounded up with protesters and arrested as well, though no count is available for those numbers.

Reports were also coming out that those who were detained were denied medical care in jail and those that have been released days later were still suffering the effects of chemical agents as they were left untreated and unable to wash themselves off. Some reported witnessing people being dragged off to restraint chairs and then exposed to more chemical agents as punishment for demanding medical care.

Several videos and photographs have still made it out that show police using force against protesters who did not pose any threat to officers, the public, or property. Indiscriminate use of chemical agents, rubber bullets, baton rounds, concussion grenades, and direct use of force were documented on several occasions, some of which appeared to intentionally target members of the press who were documenting the police response to the protests.

(read this chilling account of journalists being sprayed and assaulted by officers)

(Also, this jarring account from a journalist who was arrested and detained)

(Kirk James Murphy MD gathered several different first-hand accounts describing egregious cases of police brutality that was inflicted on protesters and regular civilians alike over at Firedoglake.)

Now, many might expect that the resulting legal costs for the city in the wave of police misconduct and civil rights lawsuits will hold the city and it's police force responsible for such blatant and egregious abuses... Think again.

In a deal made prior to the convention the Republican party bought a $10,000,000 insurance policy to cover the costs of any civil litigation brought against the city for police misconduct or civil rights abuses. The federal government also provided the city with $50,000,000 to cover the expense of bringing in more officers from surrounding cities and the national guard for the convention as well. The city and it's police department will not spend one cent in damages, they will not suffer any consequence whatsoever in fact.

While a police spokesperson insisted that many officers probably didn't know about the deal, it still obviously affected the policies that govern how police use force against the public, under what conditions which types of force could be used, and the permissible targets for that use of force. These policies affected what directives were given to officers about who they may arrest as well, which is clearly demonstrable when we look at the arrests of reporters and other observers, if it were against policy to do that the charges against reporters would have been dropped, but they haven't and government officials are defending the arrests.

It is because the city will not be held accountable for it's actions this week that we've seen such abuses and little concern over the potential consequences of those abuses. No individual officers or officials can be sued because government indemnifies them from civil actions in the course of their duties and the city itself will not pay a dime.

This was the main ingredient in this recipe for abuse, it unfettered the city's police force from any responsibility or civic duty, and now we've seen the result. St. Paul became a city where there were no rights to speak of, and in the end there will be no justice for what happened there this week.

UPDATED: 09/06/08- added more links to just a few of the overwhelmingly numerous stories of abuses that occurred in St. Paul last week.

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