Question For Demonstrators

I’ve seen quite a few “demonstrators” and “professional media” from this past week claim that the police were “out of control” last week at the RNC – even accusations that there was a “police riot”.

And let’s make one thing clear; I oppose police overreaching. Indeed, since an Obama administration would likely try to shut down conservative talk radio and regulate political blogs, I oppose all government overreaching.

But let me ask you all; where was the overreach?

Let’s allow for the moment that I, too, am concerned about some of the reports of excessive use of mace on people who weren’t actively resisting the police. It’s technically and legally a gray area (whether it should be or not is another entire discussion), but let’s acknowledge some mutual concern here, and move on.

And let’s balance that by acknowledging the concern I have that the local lefty media and Sorosphere is trying to ignore both the threat that did exist before the convention – threats to “shut down” the convention, kidnap or harass delegates and so on – as well as the violence that did happen (the sandbag attacks and bum-rushing of the various incoming buses on the first day), to say nothing of the constant, peek-a-boo refusal of the various protest groups to renounce, condemn and work against violence. This was the background against which law enforcement had to work, and it was a daunting one.

With that out of the way, please, “demonstrators” and “professional media”, take a whack at answering these questions, if you please:

  1. At any time, did the Police try to shut down a permitted demonstration that was operating during its permitted time?
  2. If so, were significant numbers of the demonstrators involved engaged in violent or destructive behavior?
  3. Did the police do anything against any protester taking non-violent part in a legally-permitted protest? And remember, by “legally permitted protest”, I mean a protest operating under a permit that had not either expired or been voided due to the demonstration veering outside its permitted limits (because demonstrators have to follow the law, too).
  4. In an “overwhelming display of law-enforcement power”, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department executed (ahem) five search warrants and arrested, um, six people before the convention started. The thirty-page affadavit claimed that the six were parts of a conspiracy to commit all manner of mayhem on the convention – chains across freeways, kidnappings, pee-and-poop bombings, tieing up traffic and worse. Which of the Ramco Sheriff’s claims do you contest, and why?

I’m genuinely curious.

32 thoughts on “Question For Demonstrators

  1. I’m neither a demonstrator — this time around; if my back hadn’t been out I’d quite possibly have been around, wearing my I WAS SLOW-ROLLED BY THE PAWLENTY ADMINISTRATION AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT tshirt, perhaps along with my INNOCENT BYSTANDER raid jacket — nor professional media. But I think there’s a fair number of examples of Bad Cop Stuff. Let me give you a few. — with a warrant for one half of a duplex, the authorities break through the attic into the other half.

    Huh? Well, I guess there might be some sort of non-overreaching reason for that; maybe they had good reason to believe that the folks inside were assembling, say, nuclear weapons or molotov cocktails? Or quickly working the toilets to flush away some incriminating urine? (I don’t make this stuff up, you know.)

    Nah; it was to raid the Iwitness video folks. That couldn’t wait to put PC in front of a judge and get a warrant? Huh?

    This one is pretty ugly. For all I know, the woman holding the flower was taking place in a properly prohibited demonstration. If so, fair enough; hook her up, and charge her. Resisting arrest? I don’t see it, but maybe there’s something that happens before the video opens. But — and do watch this carefully — spraying her not once, not twice, but three times (you have to watch closely to see that she gets sprayed, up close and personal, right at the start of the video), including when she’s staggering away, in pain? Please.

    Consider this, and pay pretty close attention to the 6:46 and 6:48 items.

    Then there’s this.

    And this. Again: if the kid was violating the law, hey, fine: arrest her. But play that again: there’s at least eight nine cops facing her. Count the number of times she’s sprayed in the face and struck with bicycles. And hit with paintballs? Huh? No, that’s not okay. (I’ve got to ask: do none of these guys have daughters or sisters?) I understand why they wanted the Fox9 crew to leave; don’t you?

    And now, consider this, which didn’t happen on the streets of St. Paul, but in NYC. It looks pretty bad, but there could be a (relatively) innocent explanation. Maybe the bicyclist had taken a swing at another cop, off-camera, and the one that we see is merely being perhaps just a touch overly aggressive getting him under arrest. Credible story? Maybe, or maybe not, but we know that that’s not the case, because fortunately (or unfortunately), Patrick Pogan made up a lie to justify his assault in the bicyclist, and got his deposition on the record before he got blindsided by the video that shows that he was, well, lying. A cynic would suggest that, just perhaps, there’s going to be some clever depositions made — think any of the guys who slugged that kid with their bicycles will ever answer for it?

    Yup: lots of the folks who reported on this — including some behind the cameras and in front of the shock troops — are squishy lefty types; certainly, in a full-tilt-boogie police state, worse would have been done. So what? That isn’t your standard for the behavior of police in your city.

    Orthogonally: I’m going to be doing an HR218 class for some retired LEO folks this weekend. I’m not going to ask these guys a question like, “Hey, how many times would you spray a non-violent 21-year-old kid in the face with mace, hit her with paintballs, and slug her with a bicycle?”

    Wouldn’t insult them that way; they don’t deserve it.

  2. Joel, when you lay down with dogs, you’re going to get fleas.

    In 1789 Paris, the authoties were unable to quell mob violence. The next five years were extremely unpleasant. This is not a Monday morning quarterback or armchair general situation. They could have been completely shut down after the first window was broken. Lawlessness and anarchy cannot be tolerated.

  3. If St. Paul had descended into a riot of overturned cars, Molotov cocktails, looting and general chaos, jrosenberg and the nattering couch fainters “reporting” at MinnIndy would no doubt be screaming and asking why the police couldn’t keep the peace.

    Pepper spray and paintballs? Sounds like quite a few of my days back in college, dealing with my roommates.

  4. Yossarian,

    Whatever Joel is, it’s not one of the nattering couch-fainters.


    As I noted, I also have questions, let’s just say, about some of the use of force I saw against non-resisting protesters – which seemed to be most of what you cited.

    I have similar questions about the use of force for people who don’t comply with other “lawful orders” – say, tasing people who don’t get out of cars. How much force is excessive when enforcing a lawful order? I don’t know, and would love to have cops and lawyers comment. But given the scenario – the lawfulness of the order to disperse when a demonstration is or has become illegal – I’m not sure of either the letter or spirit of the law.

    In other words, I’m not sure if pepperballing a non-resisting protester who is nonetheless at an illegal demonstration and has recieved at least the standard three warnings over four minutes is fully illegal, merely distasteful, or (given the context) neither or both.

  5. Let’s say Joel is right, the cops were too aggressive in handling the demonstrations with pepper spray. What would have been the correct procedure?

    Billy clubs?
    German Shepherds?
    Fire hoses?

    What is the correct method of breaking up a massive crowd of people? It’s easy to say that what they did was wrong – now tell me what they should have done instead, then we can talk about why that would better.


  6. Sure; the use of clearly excessive force is the major (not, by any means, the only) well-documented problem I have with what went on in St. Paul, and the video that the St. Paul cops didn’t want Fox 9 making (but, to give minimal credit where minimal credit is due, didn’t thump the Fox 9 reporters or run up and grab their cameras to stop them from making).

    Would have been more widespread in, say, Tienamen Square or Chicago (if, say, you’re a skinny female bartender who doesn’t want to serve a drunk cop quick enough), but if we’re going to grade on the curve, we don’t have to make the curve that steep.

    Or do we?

    Let’s back up a second. Mayor Daley had it wrong when he said, “Get it straight: the police aren’t there to create disorder; they’re there to preserve disorder.”

    Cut ’em some slack — a lot of slack — when they’re putting down a riot? Fair enough, and there were at least some small dozens of just plain evil people in the crowd who were rioting — like the five “black block” bozos who beat up a guy with a counterprotest sign. If it takes unpretty force to get them off that guy, and in the rush the masked muggers get hurt, well, that’s the way it goes; they could have just kept their hands to themselves. Got it.

    But when you’ve got a twenty-one-year-old kid standing her ground, maybe, possibly committing a nonviolent misdemeanor by failing to move along (or maybe not; does a shout from a masked man with a gun and badge always have the force of law? Way I remember it, we let courts determine if a given action is a crime, and the judge gets to administer punishment after a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt by a trier fo fact), and she’s surrounded by nine masked men who flail away at her with chemicals, pellets, and metal tubes . . .

    Sheesh. What do the masked men have to do to her for it to be wrong?

    Just another isolated incident, I guess.

  7. Nate, I’ve got this radical (well, traditional; I’m like that) idea: when you’ve got, say, nine (at least; I think it’s probably fourteen or more) well-armed, presumably well-trained police officers facing off against a manifestly unarmed, almost preposterously nonviolent twenty-one-year-old girl who they have probable cause to believe might be guilty of an arrestable misdemeanor but is offering no violent resistance whatsoever nor threat thereof, perhaps they can look around and see if one of them might, perhaps, have a set of handcuffs on their persons.

    I bet they could find one.

    As to larger groups, in fact, when they chose to, the police simply did arrest people they felt were committing crimes. Nothing wrong with that, as long as there’s probable cause, and the force used is appropriate under the circumstances.

    Failing that, let those who don’t want to enforce the law put away the badges — and the guns and the other official equipment — and the protection of the use of force statutes, and the city-provided lawyers and insurance, and put on a VIG brassard, and let the professional cops round them up like they would any other vigilantes.

  8. What nate says.

    The real question is how iconic/video/photo friendly is a billy club? german shepards? firehoses? compared to pepper spray, pepper balls etc. Part of the battle is not to give the protesters the media ammunition they want.

  9. Joel, we can only let the law decide after the fact. You seem to be forgetting that those guys in the black kevlar are only people, just like you and me. They are tasked with a very difficult job, walking a very fine line.

    It wasn’t very long ago that the favorite weekend passtime in France was burning cars during “youth riots”. Your young lady who was “manifestly unarmed” and “might be guilty of a misdemeanor” was a percieved threat. She chose to be such, and is responsible for the consequences of that choice. Those cops don’t have the luxury of conducting interviews when confronting potential riots.

  10. Joel, we can only let the law decide after the fact.

    On the nosie. Which is why when a police officer enforces the law, he makes an arrest, using a reasonable amount of force, under the circumstances, to do so. When, say, he gropes a drunk girl who is waiting for a ride at a police station, or sprays a woman he’s pulled over because he’s having a bad day, or turns off a camera so he can leave an arrestee in a pool of her own blood on the floor, he’s not exactly enforcing the law.

    It’s not complicated — in a civil society, courts administer punishment, although not always the only consequences. It’s why when, say, a cop or a non-cop kills somebody in real self-defense or proper self-defense of another, he’s not being a vigilante; he’s not punishing the newly-expired for being a bad person who does bad things, but is stopping a reluctant participant from suffering death or GBH.

    Those who don’t get that really won’t understand the difference between, say, what happened to Abner Louima and Amidou Diallo. I’m sure Al Sharpton will be thankful; don’t know who else should be.

    As to the young lady being perceived as a threat, please, Kermit, look at the video again. If, under those circumstances, any of those cops thought she was a threat, nicht gehelfen. I mean, what kind of morons do you think that they are?

    Kel’s right — and if the idea is not to give the protesters the media ammunition that they want (I think that’s a legitimate goal, m’self), then how successful were St. Paul’s finest while a dozen of them were abusing that kid? Hell, I think there’s a more serious failing in all of that, but even if the only flaw you can find in it is bad cop agitprop, maybe that’s the best I can get out of some of this crowd.

    The idea of the kinder, gentler tools — the spritz with spray rather than clubbing a guy with a baton; not sending dogs to rip the flesh from folks bones’ — isn’t to make it easier for cops to administer thumpings and get away with it; it’s to keep everybody involved safer, and to leave the punishment where it belongs.

  11. Easy to say, Joel. You haven’t walked a mile in their jack-boots. This situation was set up to be a lose-lose for the cops. You can sit in your comforatable home, accessing hindsight, and listening to CSNY singing Ohio, but that doesn’t change the fact that hundreds of felonies were committed and tens of thousands of dollars of property damage was done.
    Misty Moonbeam was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Life’s a bitch.

  12. Oh, I think far more than hundreds of felonies were committed; I think I counted a dozen in the Thugs With Pepper Spray Gone Wild one, alone. Doubt that there’ll be any prosecutions for that, though.

  13. Joelr, you are gullible. The wackos and terrorists bring cameras, as we all know. They create violence and provoke the police. Then they film EVERYTHING. Perhaps hundreds of hours on tape/digital. Then they look for those few minutes that make the police look bad.

    I ask you this. How many delegates were killed by molitov cocktails? How many buses where set afire with people in them? How many truckers were murdered by 50 pound bags of sand thrown of overpasses? How many people died in abulances because roads to the hospitals were blocked?

    I think the police did a pretty good job. If the peace protestors had their way, many deaths would have occured.

  14. While I would love to sympathize with the cops, Joel makes a damn solid point. And yeah, the cops in that video spraying the girl deserve to be put up on charges.

    Chuck, what exactly did that girl do to provoke the cops?? If she’s breaking the law arrest her. Otherwise she’s clearly not a threat so just walk by her.

    And yeah, none of those things happened, thanks to the efforts of our police force. But the same thing could have happened if they had, for instance, rolled through the streets crushing protesters with a panzer tank.

    I think we’ll both agree my example is extreme, but then so is the video shown above by Joel.

    There is a fine line there between achieving the results you cite with acceptable force. Where that fine line is I think is the source of debate here. But I think trying to argue that that line wasn’t crossed several times by some of the more enthusiastic members of our police force is an act of futility on your part.

  15. As anyone that knows me will attest to, I’m no friend of cops. I am routinely hassled by cops and have seen and endured abuses galore. Cops make their own rules as a rule…I’ve just learned to adapt and carry on.

    But I have to say that with the exception of a couple of instances (like the video of a cop punching the sh*t out of a goof that was already down), the cops were remarkably restrained.

    Let us examine, for instance, the well played scene where moonbat girl is foisting “I love you’s” upon the line of riot cops, shall we?

    The cops had issued several warnings to disburse by then. They stood calmly by while everyone that wanted to leave, left. (That included me, BTW)

    Now comes the time that those who volunteered to be arrested get their wish…cue moonbat “I love you” girl.

    At this point, moonbat “I love you” girl is already technically under arrest; the cops just have not taken her into physical custody. Her job now is to follow her fellow arrestees to processing…the time for her asshat dance ended half an hour ago.

    The cops are rounding people up, which is usually when the sh*t hits the fan. Is moonbat “I love you” girl trying to distract the cops while her moonbat pals pull some sh*t, or is she simply doing what moonbats do best (act like an ass).

    I’ll tell you right now. If it was me, and there was a chance that some asswipe was winding up with a molotov, a brick or a bucket of piss, I’d be spraying like a madman.

    It occurred to me that the cops were trying to spray the stupid out of her, but I don’t think they had much chance of success.

    Look, my point is this. Cops routinely break the law while supposedly enforcing the law. They are taught to use the lie as a tool. They are taught manipulation as a tool. They teach each other how to manipulate the courts. They are not the people you’d bring home to mom.

    Them’s the facts. You can bitch, moan and spray tears all day long but the cop today is the cop of yesterday and will be the cop of tomorrow.

    Personally, I don’t need cops. They didn’t stop the knife from entering my stomach, they never retreived any of the things I’ve had stolen from me and have never resolved any conflicts I’ve found myself a part of.

    As the guy that stabbed me could tell you, I’m perfectly capable of protecting myself and my family. If I need backup, I know where to get all I need.

    So if you want to put an end to police misconduct, I’m with you…let’s put an end to the police; ’cause that’s the only way that’s ever gonna happen.

    If you’re not ready for that, you’re just flapping your gums. My suggestion for you is to stay as far from cops as you possibly can, and you’ll never have to experience their sh*t.

  16. I’m with Joel on this one. One girl, dozens of cops, and two of them can’t dismount their bikes and cuff her?

    Part of the issue might be the amount of equipment they’re using. On your belt you’ve got a Glock, pepper spray, tear gas, a tazer, walkie-talkie, and a billy club….if you engage to cuff a suspect and that suspect’s arm breaks free of your grip, you can bet your rear end that that arm is going to find one of your “hand tools.”

    Maybe for riot control, the first row of officers leaves some of that arsenal at home? I know, it’s not intuitive, but it just might free officers to arrest protesters with a little less fanfare.

  17. The video doesn’t show “I Love You” girl throwing smoke grenades back at the police. That’s why she was marked. It also doesn’t show the several people off to the side of the police line. While I think she should have been arrested right away, she was there to make us stop pursuit of the rest of the group (luckily, another squad caught them up).

    As for Ms. Van Pilsen, there was no tear gas used there, and she was simply ordered out of the street and on to the sidewalk, not to leave or stop taping us. She was angry because earlier we refused to let her through a police line to get closer to an arrest.

    swiftee, while I appreciate the support, tell me exactly when I was taught to lie as a cop, because I must have missed that day at the Academy.

  18. Discordian :
    1) Please explain how just pepper spraying her over and over and over accomplishes anything productive.
    2) If, as you say, she was there to stop the pursuit of other punks, then she’s obstructing justice. Why wasn’t she just arrested there, rather than continuously abused.
    3) In your opinion what IS the proper use of pepper spray/mace??
    4) Please explain how that is applicable to the above situation

  19. Kind of bizarre, that this one lone girl stopped fourteen (?) cops by, well, standing there and getting sprayed, shot with pepper balls, and bashed with bikes.

    Here’s a couple of predictions: the girl will never be charged with assaulting the noble defenders of the right of noble defenders to mace twenty-one-year-old girls (if she threw smoke grenades at them — I guess she must have tossed her gloves, eh? — that’s an assault on a peace officer; see Minn. Stat. 609.2231 — gross misdemeanor, in this entirely unlikely case, unless that’s part of a conspiracy to riot); when Heffelfinger’s and Lugar’s investigators question them, they will — understandably — assert their rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, not wanting to be the next Patrick Pogan.

    It’s not like there aren’t other ways to do things. A cop friend of mine was bragging (in a good way, honest) about a shoplifting bust he made not terribly long ago. He saw the couple going into the store with empty shopping bags, and come out with full ones, without having gone through the, err, formality of paying. Jump and thump? Nah. He goes up and, well, apologizes to them. “Sorry, man; you got caught shoplifting again. Can we, like, just do this the easy way?” Squad comes around, takes them away…

    … and out leaps the sergeant, from the van, who had been watching the whole thing, discreetly. (The guy was under investigation for a use of force complaint by another shoplifter, who had resisted arrest.)

    “You didn’t even touch them,” the sergeant says.

    Shrug. “Didn’t need to. Always start soft; that gives you somewhere to go, if you have to.”

    I smiled. “That sounds like something [a BCA cop I know] says.”

    He smiled. “Well, he did train me in use of force.”

  20. BB: yup; if you give a boy a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. It’s not utterly impossible that, say, Sheriff Lott of Richland County SC won’t find a use for his brand new M113, complete with the belt-fed .50 in the turret. But it’s not the way to bet. (Not just because of the presence of the toy, but because of the combination of that and the lack of accountability.)

  21. What the heck is a police force going to do with an armored vehicle with a belt fed .50? OK, I’m usually not one to argue that “you don’t need it” means “you can’t have it,” but that’s for private citizens. When I’m paying for buying, maintaining, and training with this kind of tool through taxes, I start to ask that question, though.

    Really, though, my comment wasn’t intended primarily as “everything looks like a nail when all you have is a hammer,” but rather “carrying too many tools makes it impossible to use the one you really need to use.”

    I’d be interested in Discordian’s take on this, to be honest. Is one of the results of having 50lbs (or whatever) of lethal and nonlethal weapons on your belt that you can no longer step forward with a billyclub and cuffs and actually apprehend a noncompliant suspect?

  22. What the heck is a police force going to do with an armored vehicle with a belt fed .50? OK, I’m usually not one to argue that “you don’t need it” means “you can’t have it,” but that’s for private citizens.

    On the nosie.

    The answer to that first question, though, is, historically: use it, and overuse it, at least from time to time. (About the only toy/tool I’ve looked into that pretty clearly doesn’t get overused too often are the PDs’ sniper rifles.) It’s the accountability thing.

    As to your other question, I’m very interested in his answer. (My own thinking, more and more, is that some of the tools issued PDs have turned out to be counterproductive in and of themselves, but that’s not because of the choice problems.)

  23. I honestly don’t know why she wasn’t grabbed right away. I’m of a mind that once mace is proven not to work, you can put it away. It’s for subdual. Usually it works.

    I can’t answer why it was done that way. It wasn’t the way I would have done it (the soft way described above is more my style), but the please comply tactic hadn’t been working for the last few hours, and it obviously wasn’t working then. Apparently someone (a sergeant) was telling them not to arrest her.

    She should be charged with Assault 4. If she’s not, I’ll be unhappy, but not surprised. Our courts are awful at charging criminals, especially when cops are the target.

  24. The question becomes, of course, what the proper (and, as long as we’re talking theoretical stuff that doesn’t have much application in real life, the lawful) tactic becomes when niceness doesn’t work.

    My own amateur theory is that if somebody’s apparently violating the law for a non-arrestable offense (say, they’re parked over time at parking meter), the right thing to do is ticket them and leave it at that; if it’s an arrestable offense (whether it’s murder or even real serious stuff, like suspicion of violation of 609.715) arrest them, rather than decide on what punishment should be inflicted, and then inflict it.

    But I guess I’m kinda radical.

    As to her being charged with any kind of assault, I not only won’t be surprised if she isn’t charged on that in that incident, but stunned if she is, particularly for a misdemeanor.

    I know of a local case (not at all related to the RNC) where the city attorney’s office is almost certain to back down on a bogus misdemeanor prosecution (having offered a continuation in contemplation of dismissal, which was turned down by defense counsel), as the discovery would be far too useful for the civil suit. Kind of a pity the senior jedi on such matters, Bob Bennet, can’t clone himself, although rumor has it that Noel and Vettelson are quite the paduwans.

    Most likely going to end up with a nolle on the 609.715 charge (if I’m right that that’s what she was booked in on).

    As, it is safe to predict, the majority (term used literally) of the ones out of the RNC will be either nolled or continued in contemplation of dismissal, even before St. Paul brought Heffelfinger and Luger in. (They won’t be looking into police misconduct; that’d pretty clearly be a conflict of interest, alas.)

  25. DS, how does one justify an “assault” charge when the girl didn’t throw a single punch, much less land one? Some serious assault on the dictionary is being committed if there’s a definition of assault that doesn’t include any hint of a physical or even verbal attack.

    (failure to comply with legal demands of officers, obstruction of a public street, yes, I get that….assault? Say what?)

    That said, I take it that you don’t think at this point that having too many tools prevents one from cuffing someone in this case, which is reassuring. Thanks for your comment.

  26. The justification is based on the story that she threw a smoke gas canister back at the cops. I’m very . . . unenchanted with that story, but, as a matter of first (and entirely amateur) impression, if you throw something that could be harmful at at a police officer acting in the course and scope of his duties, it could be Assault 4, even if it doesn’t do any harm.

    That said, it’s not going to happen, and at least he’s not apparently talking about the carpal tunnel syndrome she was obviously trying to inflict as they were striking her with their bicycles, or repetitive stress injuries from the repeated sprayings.

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