Some political bloggers are buzzing about police raids targeting a self-described anarchist group, the "RNC Welcoming Committee," which was allegedly planning to disrupt the Republican convention. The AP's story about the raid is here. Some popular bloggers appear to be outraged by this: They are presenting the group as political protesters, just a bunch of peaceful kids, while the police are presented as overbearing thugs that are trying to intimidate them.
But if the group's website is any guide to the group's plans, it's certainly unsurprising that the police are trying to stop the group from executing its plans. The website explains that the "goal for Day One [of the convention] is to blockade Downtown St. Paul, so that the only show worth watching is the one we create in the streets." It includes this invitation:
September 1st, 2008, we, the RNC Welcoming Committee, invite all anarchists and anti-authoritarians, all radicals and rabble-rousers, all those who are fed up with government lies and spectacles to show up ready for action and ensure that we leave no place for these expired politicians. What we create here will send the convention crashing off course into insignificance.Among the plans for the convention listed on the group's website are efforts to blockade the convention and keep the delegates from meeting. One of the pages lists this three-tiered strategy:
Tier One: Establish 15-20 blockades, utilizing a diversity of tactics, creating an inner and outer ring around St. Paul's Excel Center, where the RNC is to take place.The page continues:
Tier Two: Immobilize the delegates' transportation infrastructure, including the busses that are to convey them.
Tier Three: Block the five western bridges connecting the Twin Cities.
As the specific blockade sites are established, there may be a system of delegating some sites as "red zones" (prepared for self-defense), "yellow zones" (peaceful but assertive), and "green zones" (aiming to avoid any risk of arrest) so as to accommodate a wide variety of creative tactics and involve individuals with differing needs and talents.To try to "blockade" the downtown area and stop the convention, the group divided downtown St. Paul into individual sectors and had different groups take on responsibility to engage in "3S" — "Swarm Seize, Stay" for each sector. According to the website, "Swarm Seize, Stay" is a three-step strategy that works as follows:
1. Move into/around Downtown St. Paul via swarms of varying sizes, from multiple directions, and with diverse tactical intentions.As you might guess, the police weren't about to let this plan play out. As best I can tell from news reports, the County Sheriff's Office obtained warrants to search a handful of so-called "hippie houses" (open group homes, apparently) and storage sites based on probable cause to believe that the members of the anarchist group had engaged in "conspiracy to riot" and either had evidence of the crime there or were themselves present. They executed the warrants and made a handful of arrests of the group's organizers. Although there are blog reports of a lawyer for the group being "arrested," it seems that it was only a temporary detention because he happened to be present when a warrant was executed. This is generally permitted, see Muehler v. Mena, 544 U.S. 93 (2005) (person present at scene handcuffed while warrant executed).
2. Seize space through both hard (e.g., lockboxes) and soft (e.g., congestion), fixed and mobile, blockading methods.
3. Stay engaged with the situation in downtown St. Paul as long as necessary. Regroup. Reinforce.
The police may claim that the raid was executed according to protocol - however, the violence inherent in this action may only be a hint of the violence to be expected on Monday and beyond, and is only a hint at the violence perpetrated daily by the police.Um, okay.