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RNC Protesters Tried on Terrorism Charges Despite Acknowledgment They Didn’t Commit Alleged Acts

StoryFebruary 18, 2009
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Last September in St. Paul, Ramsey County prosecutors formally charged eight members of the group RNC Welcoming Committee with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism. The criminal complaints reportedly do not allege that any of the defendants personally engaged in any act of violence or damage to property. Instead, authorities are seeking to hold them responsible for acts committed by other individuals during the RNC’s opening days. We speak to one of the defendants, Luce Guillen-Givins, and RNC 8 Attorney Jordan Kushner. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s broadcast by looking at the latest developments in the case of the RNC 8. Last September in St. Paul, Ramsey County prosecutors formally charged eight members of the group RNC Welcoming Committee with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.

The eight activists are believed to be the first people ever charged under the 2002 Minnesota version of the federal PATRIOT Act. The activists face up to seven-and-a-half years in prison. The criminal complaints filed by the Ramsey County attorney reportedly do not allege any of the defendants personally engaged in any act of violence or damage to property. Instead, authorities are seeking to hold the eight defendants responsible for acts committed by other individuals during the opening days of the Republican National Convention.

In December, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, who is also running for governor of Minnesota, added three more felony charges. Combined, the charges could carry a maximum of twelve-and-a-half years in prison.

Luce Guillen-Givins is one of the RNC 8 — Luce. She’s also joined by Jordan Kushner, an attorney for the RNC 8. They both join us from Minneapolis.

Luce, when do you go to court?

LUCE GUILLEN-GIVINS: My next hearing is on February 27th in the morning, and it’s a motions hearing on discovery.

AMY GOODMAN: And what are you exactly charged with?

LUCE GUILLEN-GIVINS: I have four felony counts that I’m facing: conspiracy to commit a riot in furtherance of terrorism, conspiracy to commit riot, conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in furtherance of terrorism, and conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property.

AMY GOODMAN: Luce, what were you doing at the Republican convention?

LUCE GUILLEN-GIVINS: Well, at the convention, I was in jail. I had been in jail since the Saturday before. But I did spend more than a year and a half beforehand organizing with a group called the RNC Welcoming Committee. And we were primarily an infrastructural logistical group bringing together a lot of different people for radical protests at the convention.

AMY GOODMAN: Jordan Kushner, there has already been a case that’s gone to trial that we covered, because it involved an FBI informant. That case went to mistral. What is the significance of the two men who were charged in that case? In that case, what was it? A hung jury? And what it means for the RNC 8?

JORDAN KUSHNER: That’s right. It was a hung jury, and technically it doesn’t mean anything for the RNC 8, because there’s no connection whatsoever between the RNC 8 and those people, even though the prosecutor in that case was trying to tie them to the Welcoming Committee.

But the fact that you had people who indisputably had Molotov cocktails and the jury couldn’t agree on convicting them, I don’t think that bodes well at all for the state in this case, where you have people who were locked up in jail while the convention protests were going on, aren’t accused of having or doing anything that could cause any harm to other people, and yet they’re being charged with felony terrorist charges.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Jordan Kushner, the latest information about an FBI informant within the RNC Welcoming Committee that has just come out?

JORDAN KUSHNER: That’s right. He was an FBI informant and actually was an FBI informant in that Molotov cocktail case, too, although he wasn’t called because of the criminal charges of his own that he’s facing. He was arrested for some violent burglary charges in January, where he broke into someone’s house, assaulted two people. And so, he’s facing felony charges right now in Hennepin County over that. He was the most — he’s the principal informant in the RNC 8 case, the main person they’re relying on to accuse them of planning the destruction of property.

AMY GOODMAN: What will it mean for your case, given that he was just charged in a criminal case? I mean, could charges against him be lessened depending on what he said in the RNC 8 case?

JORDAN KUSHNER: Well, we don’t know right now, because his prosecution is at the beginning stages. And, of course, it shouldn’t have any affect. This is something he did on his own, and it’s actually much more violent than anyone that’s involved in the protest is accused of doing. So I think it would be scandalous if they lessened his charges in that case and let him out of committing violent felonies because he’s cooperating against — in a political prosecution against political protesters. And so, we’ll have to see how this dynamic plays out.

AMY GOODMAN: Luce, did you know him? According to the paper this morning, Andrew Darst, thirty years old, spied on anarchists planning disruptions at the RNC, the paper said.

LUCE GUILLEN-GIVINS: I did know him. He was an active part of the Welcoming Committee for a number of months before the convention, and he was somebody that I saw and spoke to on a regular basis.

AMY GOODMAN: For those who are watching TV, we had just showed a picture of Brandon Darby. Now, Brandon was the self-confessed FBI informant when documents came out showing — was in the other case of the two young men who were charged whose case went to — ended up with a hung jury, so they face another case.

Luce, you’re the — your case, it’s believed that you’re the first people to be charged under the Minnesota version of the USA PATRIOT Act that was passed in 2002. The significance of this, as we wrap up?

LUCE GUILLEN-GIVINS: I think the significance is that this is one more step in the process of criminalizing dissent. Of course, people were outraged when the PATRIOT Act passed in the first place. And then state versions were passed across the country. And it’s significant anywhere that people would be prosecuted as terrorists for involving themselves in political dissent of any nature. And, of course, it’s not about necessarily agreeing with our politics or toeing any sort of party line. It’s the fact that we do have a right to protest. Any prosecution under a PATRIOT Act or any similar legislation infringes on those rights.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Luce Guillen-Givins, one of the RNC 8. They face trial now. Jordan Kushner, attorney for the RNC 8.

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