Tag Archives: Republican National Convention

Lawsuits filed for alleged RNC police misconduct

More than 800 people were arrested at last year’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Now, many are filing lawsuits alleging misconduct on the part of St. Paul police and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department. It is the first major action taken since last September’s convention.

Also, during the the week of the RNC, nearly 50 journalists were arrested while attempting to cover the protests in the streets outside the Xcel Center. Be sure to read this article I wrote about the 2008 RNC that addresses the legal restrictions of newsgathering at demonstrations.

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Filed under Activism, Criminal Justice, Law, Media/Journalism

The Legal Restrictions of Newsgathering at Demonstrations

Journalists Arrested While Doing Their Job: The Legal Restrictions of Newsgathering at Demonstrations

By Kieran K. Meadows

Inside the Xcel Center the first week of September, the Republican National Convention was finally getting underway after a slow start because of Hurricane Gustav. Outside the convention center on the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota, a completely different story was unfolding. Thousands of protesters had converged in St. Paul to take part in demonstrations or engage in acts of in civil disobedience. More than 800 people were arrested, including many reporters who were covering the convention story.

“If you were a journalist covering the protesters, then you were subject to any number of these tactics,” said Sharif Abdel Kouddous, referring to police crowd control tactics such as concussion grenades, tear gas, mace, and police on horseback. Kouddous, a producer of the nationally syndicated TV/radio news program Democracy Now!, was arrested twice while covering the protests.

“It made it difficult and dangerous to be on the street,” he said. “The fact that you had a camera with a press ID didn’t seem to matter.”

During the week of the RNC, police detained or arrested nearly 50 journalists, including independent media and traditional media journalists, according to the Minnesota Independent.  Some were arrested violently and sustained injuries inflicted by police, actions that drew a sharp rebuke from the organization Reporters Without Borders. Some journalists were released right away, but many spent at least a night in jail. These events illustrate the challenges journalists face in covering this type of story. A series of legal questions arise around issues of censorship, prior restraint and newsgathering restrictions all related to First Amendment rights.

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Mocking Community Organizing Is Telling

The most consistent theme of last week’s Republican National Convention seemed to be Anti-Community Organizing. Speaker after speaker belittled Sen. Barack Obama’s community organizing experience — as if it wasn’t experience at all. This, however, was actually quite telling. It seems the apparently out-of-touch GOP does not understand what community organizing is. And, that is quite ironic. For, as Peter Dreier and John Atlas argue in their excellent piece in The Nation magazine:

At a convention whose theme was “service,” GOP leaders ridiculed organizing, a vital kind of public service that involves leadership, tough decisions, and taking responsibility for the well-being of people often ignored by government.

What Republicans do not seem to understand is that community organizing is what ordinary people do to try to make their community a better place in which to live. It is all about empowering people to become leaders themselves when politicians have failed them.

Craig Newmark, the founder of the web-site Craigslist (his own contribution to community organizing), said the attacks on community organizing seemed to reflect something bigger:

I’m personally more than a little disappointed by the attacks on grassroots democracy we heard at the Republican convention. As you see, it’s basically an attack on American values and democracy, and that’s not right.

So, could it be that when GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Gov. Sarah Palin dissed community organizing, she wasn’t putting “Country First,” but rather “Politics First”?

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