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2003-03-11

Police in Montpelier Photograph Student Protesters & Ask for Surveillance Help From the Local Media: Meanwhile in Minnesota, Law Enforcement Identifies Student Anti-War Group As Possible Threat

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Last week over 60 students walked out of classes in Montpelier, the state capitol of Vermont. As part of an international student strike, they marched through downtown to the steps of the statehouse. After a couple of failed attempts they were allowed in for a personal meeting with the governor. Then they continued the protest downtown.

The event made local headlines. On Democracy Now! we talked to one of the students.

But we have since learned it was not just the press that was a keeping a close eye on the student protesters. So were the Montpelier police.

According to the Rutland Herald, the police took photographs of the students that are to be kept in the department’s files. One local police officer even asked a local news photographer for copies of the photographs he was taken.

The office reportedly told the news photographer, "Make sure you get close ups of their faces in case they need to be suspended."

The American Civil Liberties Union says the police should not be collecting information of citizens who are exercising their First Amendment Rights.

Ironically, on the day before the protest, voters ratified a City Council resolution condemning the USA Patriot Act. The resolution directs the local police to QUOTE "uphold its policy of respecting and protecting the freedoms of speech, religions and assembly and privacy."

  • Aria Allen, 10th grade student who organized student strike at Montpelier High School.
  • Douglas Hoyt, Montpelier police chief.
  • Joseph Gainza, program coordinator for the Vermont office of the American Friends Service Committee.
  • Peter Evans, Montpelier High School principal.

Last week an expert on counterrorism identified his group Students Against War alongside other groups such as the Aryan Nation as a potential threat to the state of Minnesota.

The Star Tribune reported, "A Hennepin County sheriff’s official with expertise on counterterrorism efforts urged Minnesota law enforcers Tuesday to become aware of several right-and left-wing organizations operating in the state. 'We are not calling any of them terrorists. We call them domestic identified groups that may affect our communities,' Capt. Bill Chandler said after giving a presentation to emergency management personnel on 'Understanding Terrorism in Minnesota.'

Among the groups named were Students Against War, a Minneapolis book store called Arise, Ruckus Society and the group Anti-Racism Action.

  • Nathan Mittelstaedt, member of Students Against War at the University of Minnesota. He is a senior majoring in political science.

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