Police in Minnesota raided a building in St. Paul and several homes in Minneapolis last night, confiscating materials believed to be stockpiled for protests, vandalism and riots by an anarchist group calling themselves the RNC Welcoming Committee.
Five people were arrested and more than 100 handcuffed, questioned and released when a Ramsey County police force – assisted by the FBI, Hennepin County, and Minneapolis law enforcement – executed a search warrant against a group considered a threat to launch violent protests during this week’s Republican National Convention.
Ramsey County Sherriff Bob Fletcher read from a statement this morning, describing the RNC Welcoming Committee as “a criminal enterprise made up of 35 self-described anarchists who are intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention.
“These acts include tactics to blockade and disable delegate buses, breaching venue security and injuring police officers,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher’s statement also included a list of items found in the searches, including PVC pipe, chicken wire and duct tape – believed by police to be intended for locking protesters together in human barricades called “sleeping dragons” – five-gallon buckets of urine, throwing knives, flammable liquids, homemade caltrops (devices used to puncture tires, presumably bus tires), bolt cutters, sledgehammers, protective padding, and plastic buckets cut into shields.
A video claiming to advertise for the RNC Welcoming Committee’s upcoming protests was posted on YouTube, showing a masked female running through streets to the lyrics, “One way or another, I’m gonna find ya, I’m gonna getcha,” and distributing riot gear and homemade bombs from materials such as those found in last night’s raids. The group did not respond to WND’s request that it confirm authorship of the video, though the group’s name and website are featured prominently throughout.
The video can be seen here:
Both the video page and the group’s website link to another group’s stated plan for disrupting the RNC, which includes establishing blockades around St. Paul’s Excel Center (where the convention is to take place), immobilizing delegates’ buses and blocking the bridges that connect Minneapolis to St. Paul.
“Those plugging into this strategy,” the plan states, “will be free to shape their actions as they see fit, using the tactics they consider appropriate.”
The RNC Welcoming Committee released a statement late Friday, criticizing the police action.
“The police may claim that the raid was executed according to protocol – however, the violence inherent in this action may only be a hint of the violence to be expected on Monday and beyond, and is only a hint at the violence perpetrated daily by the police,” the group said.
RNC Welcoming Committee member Tony Jones read from a statement calling the raids and effort to “derail RNC protest organizing efforts and to intimidate and terrorize individuals and groups converging on the Twin Cities to exercise what are supposed to be their basic civil rights.”
St. Paul City Councilman Dave Thune, whose district includes the building rented by the RNC Welcoming Committee, joined the criticism.
“This is not the way to start things off,” Thune told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “This is sending the wrong message. Regardless of how you feel about these people … they have a right to be here.”
“To me,” Thune told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “this smacks of preemptive strike against free speech.”
St. Paul Mayor Christopher Coleman, however, defended the motivation behind the police action.
“We have worked very, very hard to make sure we’ve protected people’s right to exercise free speech,” Coleman told the Pioneer Press. “To pick up a protest sign, that’s fine. If you’re here to pick up a brick or some other instrument, there’s a problem.”
The Pioneer Press reports that the five people being held in jail are under arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to commit civil disorder and conspiracy to damage property and that the St. Paul building that the RNC Welcoming Committee was leasing, found following the raid to be in violation of fire code, has since been turned back over to the property owner.