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(en) US, Tween Cities, Media, Anarchists: We aren't the terrorists, cops and Republicans are

Date Fri, 05 Sep 2008 07:52:43 +0300

The RNC Welcoming committee* opened the doors of its headquarters today for
media, trying to put a human face on the group of anti-authoritarians linked by
police to planned and perpetrated violence during the Republican National
Convention. ---- Member Celia Kutz said the group also had to talk because
police actions had become personal. ---- "The Welcoming Committee has become a
target," she said. ---- The panel of six members — three women and three men —
used their real names to address the press and detailed their involvement with
the group while also decrying the treatment of members being held in the Ramsey
County and Hennepin County jails.

"They put a bag on my head with a gag in my mouth and used pain compliance on me
for an hour and a half," said a bruised Elliot Hughes of his days in the Ramsey
County jail. "I was screaming for God, for mercy, crying, asking why they were
doing this."

Hughes said he was arrested while riding his bike Monday in downtown St. Paul.
He claimed a bicycle officer crashed into him and apologized, but a group of
riot police still took him into custody.

Hughes, 19, said he planned to sue law enforcement for their alleged actions.

In a sometimes-dodgy question-and-answer session, the group said it only
provided logistical support to other groups, and took no responsibility for
damage caused during Monday's skirmishes downtown.

When asked about the items Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said he found in
the group's convergence space on Smith — caltrops for popping tires, urine,
"sleeping dragon" arm links for forming human barricades — member Andy Fahlstrom
said he never saw those items in the space.

"I have never seen my friends on the Welcoming Committee commit acts of
violence," he said.

But that doesn't mean acts of violence weren't committed on them, he said: "Real
people are being hurt, and they are being hurt in the Twin Cities."

Betsy Raasch-Gilman, one of two older women in a group of mostly young adults,
said she is not a terrorist.

"There are terrorists in the Xcel Center, there are terrorists in the White
House," she said. "That's why we hold these protests."

The press conference started about 20 minutes late — police had closed the Smith
Avenue high bridge just before the meeting was to start, and organizers wanted
to give media extra time to arrive.

The rental space at 627 Smith Ave. on the west side of St. Paul has two floors —
a large communal space on the ground floor with white tapestries on one wall and
a kitchen on the other, and a theater with stage on the second.

Welcoming Committee members said the theater level was in the same condition as
when law enforcement raided the building Friday night, including a movie
projector set up in the middle of the room and a door splintered by a police
battering ram to stage right.

The building is rented out for weddings and meetings at other times of the year.

The group spoke in advance of the "No Peace for the War-Makers" anti-war march
planned to leave the state Capitol at 5 p.m. tonight. The organizing group, the
Anti-War Committee, said its permit to march expires at that time, but the group
will march anyway.
* An antiauthoritarian anticapitalist initiative
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