Sunday, May 29, 2011

Activists Get $50,000 for FBI & St. Paul Police Raid Prior to 2008 Republican Convention

For Immediate Release: May 26, 2011
Contact: Plaintiff Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

Activists Get $50,000 for FBI & St. Paul Police Raid Prior to 2008
Republican Convention
Preemptive, politically motivated raids are emblematic of police
tactics used to suppress dissent

St. Paul, MN -- Three activists and their attorneys won a $50,000
settlement today in a lawsuit that challenged an August 30, 2008
police raid on a St. Paul home in advance of that year's Republican
National Convention (RNC). The plaintiffs in the case -- Sarah
Coffey, Erin Stalnaker and Kris Hermes -- are giving most of the
award to the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, the Institute for
Anarchist Studies, and the formation of a national legal defense fund
for political activists. The St. Paul house raid was one of several
police actions taken against protesters days before the RNC began,
including the search and seizure of a central political meeting
space, which is also the subject of pending litigation.

"The City of St. Paul and the federal government were forced to pay
for their politically-motivated attack on organizers," said Sarah
Coffey, one of the plaintiffs. "Rather than spend years in court
fighting the government over its political surveillance program, we
decided to use settlement money to invest in projects that oppose
such repressive tactics." The lawsuit, which was filed in August 2009
and accused the St. Paul Police Department and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) of violating plaintiffs' First, Fourth and
Fourteenth amendment rights, is so far the largest settlement of its
kind stemming from the convention protests. "We hope this sends a
message to law enforcement officials who would enter homes illegally
or suppress political dissent," said Coffey, "there is a cost to
their actions."

The raid garnered significant media attention at the time due to an
hours-long standoff between 10 activists and residents and a heavily
armed police force that had surrounded the duplex. Because the police
attempted to raid the home without a search warrant, those inside
refused them entry. After allegedly getting verbal authority from a
local judge, the police used force to enter 949 Iglehart Avenue and
detained everyone inside. The owner, several tenants and activists,
including members of the I-Witness Video collective were detained for
hours. No illegal items were found, no one was arrested and nothing
was visibly seized, although computers and camera equipment were searched.

The search warrant affidavit, which was under seal until a month
after the raid in a likely attempt to avoid media scrutiny, relied
solely on a confidential informant who made the claim that weapons
were being shipped to 951 Iglehart using the U.S. Postal Service. In
a sensationalist move, the police also tried to tie property owner
Michael Whalen to a defunct 1970s political group, the Symbionese
Liberation Army, in order to bolster the warrant's outrageous claim
of arms shipments. However, once inside 951 Iglehart, police
discovered that the boxes contained only vegan literature.
Unsatisfied, police broke through a locked attic door to enter the
neighboring but separate 949 Iglehart, which plaintiffs claimed was
the operation's true objective.

St. Paul Police Officer David Langfellow was in charge of the
operation as a cross-deputized FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)
agent. Langfellow testified during a deposition that although the FBI
had been surveilling the duplex for more than a week before the
convention, the investigation was not targeting Whalen, the main
subject of the search warrant affidavit. Langfellow either was not
told or refused to reveal details about the underlying investigation,
which plaintiffs speculate had nothing to do with the shipment of boxes.

Plaintiffs' attorneys also contributed a portion of the award to the
Impact Fund, which provides money to small law firms and nonprofits
for lawsuits involving issues of civil rights, environmental justice,
and poverty.

Further information:
Settlement agreement:
Search warrant affidavit:

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