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Police actions in MPLS/St. Paul

Freefall
This is reposted, mostly for my Minnesota peoples, mostly as an FYI.  Starhawk is a feminist and pagan writer and activist, author of books like The Spiral Dance and The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, and someone I fairly highly respect.  She's currently doing community and magic work near the Twin Cities...but I'll let her explain the rest of it behind the following cuts.  And those of you with alternative media contacts (you know who you are) might find her interesting to talk to.  I've met her, but she wouldn't remember me.  I have friends who've worked with her fairly closely, though.  Anyway, here's one view of what's happening just off-stage in the Cities, in the lead up to the RNC.  All the words after this are hers.

 Republican National Convention—Raid on the Convergence Center
by Starhawk, Saturday Aug 30th, 2008 6:16 PM

It’s Friday night. Our Pagan Cluster is sitting on the bluff of the Mississippi having our first real meeting, when Lisa gets a call. The cops are raiding the Convergence Center, where we’re organizing meetings and trainings for the protests against the Republican National Convention. It’s not a role play, the caller says. It’s real.

Instantly, we jump up and hurry back the six or eight blocks to the old theater we are using for meetings, trainings and social gatherings. I ‘ve spent the last two days doing magical activism trainings, teaching people how to stay calm and grounded in emergency situations and when things get chaotic. Now it’s time to put the training into practice. Aaron, a tall, red-headed young man who could be one of my nephews strides along beside me. “Are you grounded?” I ask him. He nods, and runs ahead.

Nobody can keep up with Lisa, who speeds ahead like an arrow, walking, not running, but still covering the ground quickly. Andy and I trail behind. We’re often street buddies, because we’re both big, slow, and supremely calm and stubborn, willing to wade into almost any situation and become the immovable object.

We’re stopped by a line of cops just before we reach the building. They refuse to let us through, or to move their van which is blocking Scarecrow’s car. There’s an investigation underway, they say, and won’t say more.

Brush, our dear friend, is inside, having gone to a jail solidarity meeting, ironically enough. So are two very young people who had just joined our cluster that night. I try calling Brush’s cell phone, but get no reply.

We wait. That’s what you do when the cops have guns trained on kids inside a building. You wait, and witness, and make phone calls, and try to think of useful things to do.

We call lawyers. We call politicians. We try to call media. We call friends who might know politicians and media.

Through the kitchen door, we can see young kids sitting on the floor, handcuffed. We walk across the street, back, made more phone calls. An ambulance is parked in front, and the paramedics head into the building, leaving a gurney ready. Susu, from her car around the corner, reports that the cops have been grabbing pedestrians from the street, forcing them down to the ground, handcuffing them.

Song, one of the local organizers, calls her City Council member. She wants to call the Mayor, Chris Coleman, who has promised that St. Paul will be as welcoming to protestors as to delegates, but no one has his home number.

What I have forgotten to tell people at the training is how much of an action is just this: tense, boring waiting, with a knot of anxiety in your stomach and your feet starting to hurt. Song talks to a helpful neighbor, who’s come over to find out what’s happening. He knows where the mayor lives, says it’s just a few blocks away, and draws us a map.

We decide to go and call on the Mayor, who could call off the cops. About five of us troop down there, through the soft night and a neighborhood of comfortable homes and wide lawns on the bluffs above the Mississippi. The Mayor’s house is a comfortable Dutch Colonial, and lights were on inside. We decide that just a few of us will go to the door, so as not to look intimidating. Song is a round, soft-bodied middle-aged woman with a sweet face. Ellen is a tiny brunette with a gap-toothed smile, and Lisa, formidable organizer though she is, looks slight and unthreatening. The rest of us hang back. Someone opens the door. Our friends have a conversation with the mayors’ wife, who is not pleased to be visited by constituents late at night, and who tells us we should call the office. The Mayor, she says, is asleep, and she will not wake him up.

We think a mayor who was doing his job would get up and go see what’s going on. Nonetheless, we head back to the convergence space.

A protestor has been released from the building. A small crowd has gathered across the street, and Fox News has arrived. They interview Song, who does her first ever Fox media spot. She tells them the truth—that people were in there watching movies—a documentary about Meridel Le Seuer. Meridel would be proud, and I’m glad she is with us in some form.

One by one, protestor’s trickle out. Now we get more pieces of the story. The cops burst in, with no warning. They pulled drew their guns on everyone—including a five year old child who was there with his mother, forced everyone down on the floor. It was terrifying.

They had a warrant, apparently, from the county, not the city, to search for ‘bomb making materials.’ They were searching everyone in the building, then one by one releasing them as they found nothing.

They continue to find nothing, as we wait through long hours. Meanwhile, more and more media arrives. These cops are not as creative as the DC cops during our first mobilization there against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Those cops confiscated the lunchtime soup—which included onions and chili powder, claiming they were materials for home made pepper spray.

We wait until the last person gets out. He’s a twenty year old who the cops have accused of stealing his own backpack—but apparently they relented.

And now it’s morning. I wake up to the news that cops have been raiding houses where activists are staying, bursting in with the same bogus warrant and arresting people, including a four year old child. They’ve arrested people at the Food Not Bombs house—a group dedicated to feeding protestors and the homeless. They’ve arrested others, presumably just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Poor Peoples’ Campaign, which had set up camp at Harriet Island, a park in the middle of the Mississippi, has also been harassed, its participants ordered to disperse and its organizers arrested.

Let me be perfectly clear here—all of us here are planning nonviolent protests against an administration which is responsible for immense violence, bombs that have destroyed whole countries, and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

This is the America that eight years of the Bush administration have brought us, a place where dissent is no longer tolerated, where pre-emptive strikes have become the strategy of choice for those who hold power, where any group can be accused of ‘bombmaking’ or ‘terrorism’ on no evidence whatsoever in order to deter dissent.

Please stand with us. Because it could be your home they are raiding, next.  Call the Mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Tell them you are outraged by these attacks on dissent. Urge them to let Poor People encamp and to let dissent be heard.

FLOOD THE MAYORS' OFFICES ASAP
St. Paul Mayor -- Chris Coleman 651-266-8510
Minneapolis Mayor -- RT Rybak (612) 673-2100 (612) 673-3000 outside Minneapolis
 
*****
New Moon Ritual
By Starhawk

We are gathered on sacred ground overlooking the Mississippi to celebrate the new moon and to begin this week of demonstrations and actions outside the Republican National Convention. We have an intention for the ritual, an intention the planners have been working with here in the Twin Cities for months: to court an upwelling of earth wisdom.

Magic, we say, is the art of changing consciousness at will, that's Dion Fortune's definition. Implicit in that is art, imagery, poetry, and we've been looking for the imagery that will embody our intention. The most powerful rituals are built around one clear image and one clear intention.

But we keep getting multiple images: webs, crystals, bedrock, surging water. The hurricane, roaring toward the Gulf, back toward New Orleans where many of us volunteered after Katrina. And dragons.

"Oh please Goddess not dragons!" I¹m saying silently inside my own mind. "With or without dungeons = high wince factor. Overused. Disneyesque." But dragons it is - protective Chinese dragons, ancient earth serpent powers, water dragons, fierce, fire-breathing guardians.

Many years ago, I had a friend who lived in a group house in San Francisco. He used to say that every collective needed a dragon who lived in the basement, someone really ill tempered who will emerge from time to time and drive off those people who come to visit for a night and end up staying for a month, eating up all your sweet pickle chips and losing your bicycle.

And so, when we do ritual in a public place, we always name some people as "dragons", to guard the boundaries of the circle. This ritual coincides with the arrival of a group who has biked from a conference in Madison, Wisconsin all the way to the Twin Cities. Paul has contacted them, and asked them to be our dragons.

I am having a lot of trouble shifting my own consciousness as the ritual begins. It's been a hard, tense day. All day we've been getting news that the police have been raiding houses, breaking down doors, arresting people, with or without warrants or warnings. We hold the morning meeting in a public park, because our Convergence Space has been raided and closed the night before. Someone says, "We¹re a community that includes children - we can't clear them out of their own living spaces. Remember if the police raid your space it's important to have someone negotiate with them to get the children out."

I am a tough person. I've been through a lot of these things and in spite of all my efforts to stay open I've grown something of my own protective scales. But those words pierce through them, and I find tears welling up in my eyes. It just hits me, that we're standing here in the United States of America, in the liberal city of my birth, talking about how to protect children from armed police.

So this is on my mind as I try to center for the ritual, and then comes the news that our PermiBus has been pulled over and our friends in it are being arrested. My own organization, Earth Activist Trainings, has helped to build and fund this bus, and our dear friends Delyla and Stan Wilson and their daughter Megan have been traveling in it for seven months, offering trainings in Sustainable Skills, and tours of the bus itself as a living example. It has solar panels and graywater systems, a worm bin, hydroponic herb garden, composting toilet and three resident chickens. Megan, a gifted poet at sixteen, says: "We know the world is not as it should be: we want to live in a way that shows people what could be."

So I'm trying to wrench my mind away from worrying about them, using all my magical tools to try to get calm and grounded and centered, and not having great success. I'm responsible for a major part of the ritual, and though I've been meditating on it and thinking about it for days, my mind is still pretty much a blank and now, as the ritual begins, I still don't know exactly what I'm going to do.

And then the dragons ride in. Paul signals to them, and they ride down the hill and around and around the circle on their bikes, while we cheer and laugh with delight. For each of them has made a dragon costume. They have long snouts of painted cardboard and foam spikes in their helmets and wild wings of wire and gauze and webbing. They ride around and around, and just for a moment, the clouds of stress and worry roll away and I'm filled with wonder and delight. Three bald eagles circle above us. Magic.

As the ritual begins, I know what I am going to say, what images and energies are asking to be expressed. We honor the ancestors, and ask permission to do our work on that sacred land. We cast a circle, call in the elements of earth, air, fire, water. A young woman from the biking group has asked to spin fire, and her dance with twirling balls of fire on chains lights up all our hearts. All the while, the dragons stand guard around us, calm and still in their snouts and wings.

Susu, who is a poet, calls the Mississippi by having us all chant the letters of the mother river's name, spelling a spell. We call in the earth spirits, and we call protection, for the circle, for all our friends in the street, and for our friends and all those in the path of the hurricane heading toward the Gulf.

My turn comes. Right away, I abandon my plans. This circle needs to move, to sing and dance, so I call in the drummers and we sing a chant to Spider Woman and to change.

"Spiders and webs are positive images for us," I tell the group when the chant dies down. "The web is a symbol for the web of life, the web of connection. But there are other sorts of webs, too. Sticky webs. Webs of lies. Webs of entrapment. There's a web of negative energy that has been covering this country, media webs that whisper to you day and night that you're not good enough, not good looking enough, webs of scorn and judgment. And those webs get inside us."

I ask people to turn to each other, to draw out the threads of those webs and let them sink into the ground as pure energy. To open up a space for something new.

If there's a core belief in the Goddess religion, it's this: that each of us is part of the web of life, and precious, bringing our own unique gifts to the world. We don't ask people to believe in things, not even the Goddess who is simply our term for the great creative mystery that weaves the world. But we do ask people to believe in yourself, in your own deep work, in your sacred purpose. You are here for a reason.

And then I ask people to sink down into that web of life, to feel it beneath our feet, in the soil, in the web of waters that flow beneath us, in the very bedrock below us which was once living things and which in the fullness of time will return to life as soil and root and growing thing. To listen to that web of life, and to know that all we really need to do to court its upwelling is to open up a space for it, and listen.

Eagles circle, and then as the sun sets, so do helicopters, circling around us, their thrum making it nearly impossible to hear. But we begin to dance and drum, to weave a spiral and raise a roaring cone of power, and the helicopters finally move away. Energy pours through us, roaring upwards like dragon fire.

At the end of the ritual, someone calls for anyone who was in the convergence center when it was raided to come forward. A young woman steps into the center of the circle. She was in the building the night before, with her five year old son, who was scared and crying as the police drew their guns on his mother, handcuffed her, patted her down. Now we lay soft hands on her, chant and sing and send her healing. When it is done, she's glowing; and immediately begins organizing housing for all the people who have been displaced by the raids.

I sit down, spent. A man and a woman come over to talk. They are thinking of offering housing, but worried. What about the anarchists? Won't they destroy things, or bring down the police on their home? If they march with us, will they be in danger? They've heard that anarchists like to provoke the police to attack peaceful demonstrators, to radicalize them.

I explain gently that anarchism is many things - a political philosophy with widely varying strands, from nihilists to pacifists. But mostly a way of organizing, a stress on personal responsibility, on taking action oneself and not waiting for the government or someone else to do it for you.

A young woman from the biker's group comes over. She's dressed all in black - if ever someone looked the part of an anarchist, it's her.

"We were just talking about you," says the man, and soon they are deep in discussion. She tells him that yes, she is an anarchist, and so are pretty much all of the group with the bikes. And that for her, it's about building community, looking out for each other, making decisions together, mutual aid and respect. They have a long discussion, in which magic is happening: consciousness is changing.

I talk with her and with some of the other dragons as we share food made by Seeds of Peace. A tall young man with golden curls tells me how much it meant to them to be dragons. "We really got into it," he says. "We spent a whole day making our costumes, and getting into that guardian, protective energy. And now I don't want to let it go. I'm going to keep my foam spikes in my helmet when I'm doing deliveries. We want to be guardians for the marches, for the city. For the world."

This is how magic works.

The bikers are all hugging each other in a circle, reluctant to leave each other now that the ride is over. They have fulfilled their intention, built their community, spread their message, and brought us a
gift of wonder and delight.

And as we prepare to leave, I get a new message. Our friends with the bus have not been arrested, although the bus itself has been impounded. They are free, although their home and all their possessions, computers, permaculture displays, worms and the contents of their composting toilet are now locked up somewhere in a police yard, with no explanation or reason. The police had no search warrant - indeed, they did not search the bus, but explained that they were impounding it in case they wanted to search it later. They did, however, release the people, the two exuberant Australian shepherd dogs, and the three chickens, with whom we are reunited back at our home.

Magic. Like so many things, it doesn't work perfectly. But it works.

http://www.starhawk.org
http://www.earthactivisttraining.org
http://permibus.livejournal.com
 *****
Hey friends, we need your help! Our Earth Activist Training Sustainable Skills Bus has been seized without cause by the police. Below is an account from the Wilsons, who have been traveling in the bus for the last seven months doing trainings in permaculture and sustainability, including ways you can help. My own accounts from the action can be found on www.starhawk.org and I'll be posting daily as long as I can = or sign on to my own list by emailing starhawk-subscribe@lists.riseup.net. If you're on that list, my own account follows. Please support these folks who have been doing such good work for us all. Thanks!

Please Post Far and Wide including any Media Contacts You May Have

At approximately 6:25 pm on August 30, 2008 Minneapolis Police, Minnesota State Troopers, Ramsey County Sheriffs, Saint Paul Police, and University of Minnesota Police pulled over the Earth Activist Training Permaculture Demonstration Bus (Permibus) by exit 237 on Interstate 94. Initially the police told the people on the bus to exit. When the people on the bus asked if they were being detained they were told that they were but police were unable to provide justification. When asked why they pulled the bus over they refused to answer. After repeated requests to explain why the bus had been stopped Officer Honican of the Minneapolis Police explained that this was just a routine traffic stop though he did not explain the reason for the traffic stop. The police then told Stan Wilson, the driver and registered owner of the Permibus, that they were going to impound the bus in case they wanted to execute a search warrant later. After more than an hour of being questioned by Stan and Delyla Wilson as to the legalities of their detainment and the impoundment of the Permibus, the police then informed Stan that the bus, which is legally registered as a passenger vehicle in the state of Montana, was being impounded for a commercial vehicle inspection. Shortly afterward Sergeant Paul Davis, a commercial vehicle inspector arrived on scene. Despite the polices insistence that the reason for impoundment was for a commercial vehicle inspection the Permibus crew were not allowed to remove anything from the bus including computers, toiletries, and 17-year-old Megan Wilson's shoes. The police finally allowed the animals to be removed from the Permibus before it was towed, leaving the Permibus family standing beside their chickens and dogs, homeless on the highway.

The Permibus was relocating from the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis, where they had spent the day teaching Urban Permaculture, to a friend's house in Saint Paul for a well deserved break. The Permibus has been in the Minneapolis area since August 2nd when the crew appeared at the Midtown Farmers Market for a morning of Permaculture education including Permaculture 101, chicken care, seed ball making for kids, and the Permi-puppet show. During the past month the Permibus has parked at several local businesses and, as a neighborly gesture of respect for local police, Mr. Wilson contacted the appropriate precincts just to let them know the Permibus was in the area and had permission from the business owners to be parked on their lot. Through this, as well as other casual discussions with Minneapolis and Saint Paul police officers, the Permibus crew found the local police to be interested and respectful. However on August 30th all that changed when, for no apparent valid reason the police pulled over and seized the Permibus. After the incident Stan Wilson said, "If the combined law enforcement of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Ramsey County, and the State of Minnesota can pull over and impound a vehicle and home used to teach organic gardening and sustainability, one has to wonder what it is our government really fears. After all, we seek to teach people that the real meaning of homeland security is local food, fuel and energy production. For that we have had our lives stolen by government men with guns."

As of now, after repeated requests to be present at any vehicle inspection, with an list of what they are inspecting for, as well as requests to be served any warrants for searches of the vehicles prior to a search and to be present during the search the Permi-family has been unable to ascertain the current status of the Permibus. On site Mr. Wilson was told that Officer Palmerranky was the inspector in charge of the case and would determine if the Permi-family's rights protecting them from unreasonable search and seizure would be respected. Neither Officer Palmerranky nor his supervisor has yet to return Mr. Wilson's calls. The loss of her home and possessions is particularly difficult on seventeen-year-old Megan Wilson. Megan, a shining example of what this country asks of today's youth, has dedicated herself to making positive changes in the world. She was the youth keynote speaker at the Local to Global conference in Phoenix AZ, has taught conflict resolution at youth shelters and is the outreach coordinator for the Skills for a New Millennium Tour, the family traveling educational project. Megan believes that, "While I understand that the world we live in is not as it should be I strive to live and teach in a way that shows the world how life could be. What I don't understand is why I can't get dressed for an evening out with friends in my own home without armed men stealing my life out from under me." The Permi-family, along with their dogs and Permaculture super-hero chickens are currently being housed by folks in the Twin Cities.

The Skills for a New Millennium Tour is a family education project that travels around the United States teaching homesteading, citizenship, and life skills at farmers markets, community gardens, churches, intentional communities, schools, and in people's living rooms. The Skills Tour is a donation supported project dedicated to providing tools for sustainable living, including Permaculture, to anyone who is interested, regardless of income. "We believe that any solution that is not accessible to the poor and urban areas is not a real solution for the future," states Delyla Wilson. Permaculture is a design system with ethics and principles that can be applied to food production, home design, and community building in order to increase sustainability in food production, energy production, and social systems. The Permibus is a rolling demonstration of small scale sustainable living with three people, three dogs, three chickens, and a box of worms as permanent residence. The chickens and worms are part of a closed-loop food productions composting system that supports the Permibus's traveling garden. For more information on the seizure of the Permibus, the Skills for the New Millennium Tour, or Permaculture, the Wilson's can be reached at 406-721-8427 or through email at skillstour@gmail.com. You can also see pictures and read stories about the last six months of their educational adventures at permibus.livejournal.com.

To our supporters: First we ask that as many people as possible contact precinct one in Minneapolis, MN at 612-673-5701 and Mayor Rybak at:  Phone: (612) 673-2100 or call 311 or call (612) 673-3000 outside Minneapolis.  Also call the Ramsey County Sheriff:  Sheriff - Bob Fletcher 651-266-9300  and demand the immediate release of the Permibus.

We are also in desperate need of donations. Though we do not yet know the full cost of getting the Permibus returned we know that it will include tow fee, impound fees, and legal fees. To donate contact us directly for a local address or...

Donate On-line:
Go to: www.earthactivisttraining.org/donate.htm
Click on: Donate Now!
Under "Gift Information" write: Permibus
Under "Please send acknowledgment of this gift to" write: skillstour@gmail.com

Donate by Mail:
Make check payable to: A.C.T.
On the "For" line write: Permibus
Send check to: A.C.T. 1405 Hillmount St. Austin, TX 78704

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
drowdancer
Sep. 1st, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
This is outrageous. Well, not the middle article. The bookends, though.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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