MSNBC carried this report yesterday about the eight anti-Republican protesters facing terrorism charges in Minnesota, including an interview with one of the two women charged.
The Minnesota Post has a rundown of the case, which involves an anti-terrorism law passed by Minnesota in 2002:
"The language [of the law] clearly covers these kinds of allegations," Gaertner said. "Whether or not that is what the Legislature meant to do is much less clear. It's not completely unusual for the Legislature to pass a law and then, when it plays out in real life situations, that there might be a question about what the reach of the law should be."
So Minnesota must decide, while the nation watches, where to draw the line between terrorism and political protest that threatens to break laws.
"There is peaceful protest and criminal protest," said Nathan Sales, a law professor at George Mason University in Virginia and an expert on the federal PATRIOT Act. "Even the criminal protests seem to be pretty far removed from our common-sense understanding of what terrorism is."
All of these protesters were arrested in local authorities' preemptive raids on protester headquarters. The problem, as those who were paying attention (as well as those who were present) last summer noted, was that most of these preemptive arrests involved people possessing ordinary, everyday items that might conceivably be used in a criminal attack -- but which police had no evidence they either intended to use or were preparing to use. As the Minnesota Post story explains:
In raids on the group's hangouts, authorities seized PVC piping, paint, bleach, marbles and slingshots, bricks and cement blocks, gas masks, bolt cutters, firecrackers, empty glass bottles, flammable liquids, rags, etc. You get the idea. Items that made virtually every news report were containers of urine and feces.
Authorities allege that the mundane items were homemade ingredients for dangerous weapons such as Molotov cocktails and missiles that could be dropped from freeway overpasses.
Those charged and now free on bail range in age from 19 to 33. They are Monica Bicking, Erik Oseland, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, Nathanael Secor, Luce Guillen-Givins, Eryn Trimmer and Max Specktor.
Two of the four felony counts each of them faces are terrorism related: conspiracy to commit riot in the second degree in furtherance of terrorism and conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in furtherance of terrorism. Both are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or $10,000 fines. Further, state law allows terrorism-related sentences to be expanded by 50 percent.
You may recall that the behavior of St. Paul authorities bordered on what you might find in a police state: They arrested reporters and photographers without cause (including Amy Goodman), gassed docile crowds, and in general were role models in police brutality.
But the preemptive raids were especially noxious, because the cases against them are straight out of Brazil. They were concocted by an overambitious Republican prosecutor, and built out of trumped-up charges.
The "RNC Eight", as they call themselves, have a support page you can check out.