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Organizers of RNC anti-war protest say, "Permits now! No police spying and Tasers"

by staff |
March 1, 2008
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Banner says Stop the War
Above:
March 1 protest demanding permits to demonstrate at RNC (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Banner with a big red star
Police watching and filming the protest.
Right:
March 1 protest demanding permits to demonstrate at RNC (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Left:
Police surveillance of March 1 protest (Fight Back! News/Staff)

St. Paul, MN - About 300 people demonstrated here, March 1, as part of the continuing fight to get permits for the massive anti-war protest scheduled for the opening day of the Republican National Convention. Organized by the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, protesters marched from the State Capitol to the Xcel Center.

Katrina Plotz of the Anti-war Committee and the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War told the crowd that organizations from all over the country are building for the Sept. 1 protests and slammed city officials for holding up the permits.

Says Plotz, “We’re frustrated that the St. Paul police seem more concerned with spying on activists and intimidating protesters than with upholding our right to freedom of speech. We applied for permits over a year ago. Having a permit is crucial for our ability to organize a national anti-war demonstration that will draw tens of thousands. We have the right to protest the war within sight and sound of the Xcel Center during the RNC, and we expect a permit to guarantee that right.”

The March 1 protest was the second in a series of recurring demonstrations to pressure the city of St. Paul to grant a permit for an anti-war march on Sept. 1.

A St. Paul city ordinance states that permits for a recurring event can be granted within 30 days of the request. As part of a new strategy first enacted in January, the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War applied for a recurring permit to rally in front of the State Capitol and march to the Xcel Center on the first of every other month culminating with the Sept. 1 protest at the RNC. So far, city officials have granted permits for the January and March demonstrations but continue to withhold a permit for Sept. 1.

St. Paul police have given no indication that they will grant permits in a timely manner, instead focusing on their capacity to repress protest activities. Last week St. Paul police documents revealed a framework to use when infiltrating and spying on activist groups. St. Paul police recently ordered 230 additional Taser weapons, enough for every officer on the force. They claim these policies are not related to the RNC.

“The protest on March 1 is important because it kicks off a month of protests against the war in Iraq,” said Anh Pham, also a member of the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War. “This is the fifth anniversary and anti-war activists still say no to war. As long as the Iraqi people suffer under occupation, progressive people will come to Saint Paul to say, ‘no to the Republican agenda; no to wars for profit; money for human needs and not for war; troops out now!’”

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