City council to vote on rubber bullet ban, other limits on police power during RNC

By Andy Mannix

The restrictions on force that Minneapolis police will have to abide by when dealing with protesters during the Republican National Convention and beyond could rest heavily on the outcome of a vote by the Minneapolis City Council's Regulatory Services and Public Safety Committee Wednesday.

The committee will determine if eight amendments should be added to a resolution passed by the City Council on June 20th that put in place new policies for police to follow during public assemblies. The amendments would prohibit Minneapolis police from using rubber bullets, targeting or compiling dossiers on activists, harassing journalists or other legal bystanders, confiscating video or other recording devices and resorting to the use of substances such as tear gas or pepper spray “except in situations justifying the use of force.”

All of the amendments are derived from a resolution passed in 2000 following the arrest of about 65 protesters at a Minneapolis International Society for Animal Genetics meeting, and they stood as policy until the City Council voted in June for the new resolution to supersede them.

Cam Gordon, Ward 2 City Councilman and proposer of the amendments, said the new resolution is, as a whole, more thorough and clear than the former, but he wanted to make sure the City Council wasn't hastily leaving out anything important.

“I wanted us to have thoughtfully considered these things that we were repealing and taking away and superseding with the new ordinance,” Gordon said. “These seem like some protections that got put in there for a reason in 2000, and the council was taking them away without giving them some consideration.”

Gordon proposed the amendments to the resolution in June, and the council referred his motion back to the Regulatory Services and Public Safety Committee. If it passes Wednesday, the motion will go back to the city council for a final vote. Gordon was not optimistic that all eight amendments will make it.

He will, however, have the support of many activists groups from around the city, and maybe even the country.

Michelle Gross, President of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said she has received calls from sympathizers nationwide that plan to join her in City Hall Wednesday in supporting Gordon's proposal. For Gross, the biggest issue with the resolution as it stands is the absence of clear and stringent restrictions on the use of rubber bullets.

“The council voted to get rid of the protections against use of rubber bullets, and they did it without even asking the community,” she said. “We fought really hard for that back in 2000. To me it’s crazy that they would jettison something that was important to the community at the time that the Republican National Convention is coming.”

Minneapolis Police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said Wednesday’s vote won’t change much for Minneapolis police either way, as most of what’s included in it is already standard practice in the department. The use of rubber bullets, for example, are equivalent to “using a horse and buggy,” Garcia said.

“It’s just something that’s not applicable in this day and age,” he said. “There’s better, newer things that are available.”

“We’re still going to have a job to do, and we’ll deal with protestors a certain way if things get out of hand, but for the most part a lot of these things are things we already have in place.”

The meeting will begin at 1:00 p.m. in room 317 of City Hall. -- Andy Mannix


* City Pages' story about the ISAG protest

* Excerpt from City Council proceedings in 2000 when the original resolution passed. Download Word file.

* Excerpt from the June 2008 resolution that supersedes the former, including Cam Gordon’s proposed amendments in full. Download Word file.

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