Activists: new RNC police policies too watered down

By Andy Mannix

Minneapolis police say they have no intentions of using rubber bullets as crowd control during the Republican Nation Convention. But if they change their minds, it will be all right with the city council.

On June 20th, the city council passed a resolution that set new policies for Minneapolis police to follow during public assemblies and mass demonstrations. They also voted that it supersede the past policies, which were created after a protest at an International Society for Animal Genetics meeting in 2000 where more than 65 protesters were arrested. Ward 2 city councilmen Cam Gordon proposed an amendment to the new resolution that would restrict Minneapolis police from using rubber bullets, limit the use of tear gas or pepper spray and bar the targeting of activists. All of the eight clauses in the amendment were taken from the 2000 resolution, and were policy in Minneapolis before June 20th.

The city council sent Gordon's amendment back to the Public Safety and Regulatory Services committee to be voted on after further discussion.

In a move that appalled activists who came to show their support for Gordon's motion, Gordon proposed a vastly reconstructed version of the amendment to the committee Wednesday. The new version, which many complained was watered down with vague and bureaucratic language, is absent of restrictions against rubber bullets or the targeting of activists.

Though the amendment passed, and will move onto the city council with the committee's recommendation, many activists and future RNC demonstrators present at the meeting refused to call the day a victory.

The biggest issue most who were present had with the new resolution was that it left out a ban on rubber bullets.

“If they think rubber bullets are so safe, then why don't they try them out on themselves?” Michael Letkowitz of Youth Against War and Racism protested.

About 15 people demonstrated against the use of rubber bullets by waving signs with graphic images of people who have been severely injured by rubber bullets in the past.

Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said Minneapolis police do not use rubber bullets and do not have intentions of doing so in the future.

But for Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, this isn't good enough.

“The point isn't whether or not they're going to actually use them,” Gross said. “The point is that they shouldn't be able to.” -- Andy Mannix


Amendment proposed June 20, 2008:

25. That MPD presence will be commensurate to the size of public assemblies to avoid an intimidatory or chilling effect on First Amendment rights.

26. That medical attention must be given immediately to those who require it.

27. That MPD officers will not use pepper spray, tear gas or similar substances except in situations justifying the use of force.

28. That the MPD will not use plastic bullets, and will use projectiles other than plastic bullets only in situations justifying the use of force.

29. That MPD officers will not target demonstration organizers or compile political dossiers.

30. That the MPD will not harass journalists, camera people, legal observers and others not engaged in demonstrating.

31. That MPD officers will not confiscate videotapes, film, and other recording materials.

32. That bail release provisions must be constitutionally valid. For example, restrictions on travel, legal contact with merchants, union members and government officials cannot be a condition of release.

Amendment proposed to the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee July 16, 2008:

25. That MPD presence at public assemblies will be based on legitimate public safety concerns and not be based upon intent to chill First Amendment rights.

26. In concurrence with state law, and city ordinance, MPD officers will not use pepper spray, tear gas, or similar substances, or projectiles except in situations where the use of force is reasonable.

27. That MPD officers shall not confiscate, destroy or tamper with cameras or other recording devises being used to document public assembly activities or MPD enforcement actions. This shall not apply to situations in which a) cameras or recording devices are to be used as evidence, or b) MPD officers arrest an individual in possession of cameras or recording devices.

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