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Judge dismisses RNC protest case

Justice for protesters
By JEFF INGLIS  |  February 4, 2009

090206_wall_home
CASE DISMISSED: The Wall 7: (back row, left to right) Kate Bonner-Jackson, Sam Maron, Paul McCarrier, Tim Clifford, and Drew Wilson; (front row, left to right) Molly Adelstein and Katt Tolman.

What the Wall 7 learned in Minnesota. By Jeff Inglis.
Portlander Paul McCarrier, an activist with the Black Bird Collective and the North East Anarchist Network, Bostonians Molly Adelstein and Kate Bonner-Jackson, Drew Wilson of Worcester, and three others were among roughly 20 people arrested September 1, 2008, at the intersection of 6th and Wall Streets in St. Paul, Minnesota during the Republican National Convention. Police alleged that they had participated in a roadblock four blocks away, and charged them with unlawful assembly, impeding traffic, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of a legal process.

The defendants — who became known as the "Wall 7" — were in St. Paul during the RNC because, as Wilson puts it, "we think that our government should be held accountable for the crimes it has committed." They weren't released from jail until the last day of the convention.

Along with many of 800 others arrested (including journalists, a convention delegate, and a convention security guard), faced misdemeanor charges, 40 percent of which have since been dropped. More than 20 people — including the "RNC 8" activists who coordinated protests and protest support — face felony charges.

The Wall 7 were offered plea deals — the chance, says Bonner-Jackson, to "plead guilty to something you didn't do" — but, unlike many others, didn't take them. With legal advice and support from the National Lawyers Guild, Minnesota activists Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure (CRASS) the Seven, relative strangers, demanded a collective jury trial, which was scheduled for January 20, inauguration day.

But the case was doomed because the Wall 7 and other RNC protestors had demonstrated wearing masks, helmets, and padding for both protection and anonymity — the familiar "black bloc" protest tactic. As a result, witnesses couldn't identify who had done what in the streets of St. Paul, and the judge dismissed all the charges.

"Police had no basis for the vast majority of arrests made during the RNC," said defense attorney Jordan Kushner said in a press release after the trial ended. "The judge in this case decided there wasn't even enough evidence to require the defendants to put on any evidence and allow the case to go to a jury."

Bonner-Jackson (who works with Boston's Food Not Bombs group) is "kind of disappointed" their day in court didn't include the chance to explain what they were doing, but she's "not arguing" with the ruling.

"We did nothing wrong. We went there for good reasons. We did something right," says Worcester community activist Wilson.

The Wall 7's victory is significant in that it opens the courtroom doors for other protestors who've declined plea bargains. CRASS, meanwhile, is now organizing arrestees to sue authorities for wrongful arrest and use of excessive force.

Related: Next week’s Republican convention offers Mitt Romney a chance to get the voting public to like him — but he might as well not bother, Officials arm themselves for onslaught of democracy, Live Coverage: RNC 2012 updates, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Crime, Trials, Republican National Committee,  More more >
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