Ramsey County charges nonviolent Food Not Bombs volunteers under Minnesota version of USAPATRIOT Act, alleges acts of terrorism
In what appears to be the first use of criminal charges under the 2002 Minnesota version of the federal USAPATRIOT Act, Ramsey County prosecutors have formally charged eight alleged leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.
Monica Bicking, Eryn Trimmer, Luce Guillen Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Max Spector, face up to 7½ years in prison under the terrorism enhancement charge which allows for a 50 percent increase in the maximum penalty.
Affidavits released by law enforcement, which were filed in support of the search warrants used in raids over the weekend and used to support probable cause for the arrest warrants, are based on paid, confidential informants who infiltrated the RNCWC on behalf of law enforcement. They allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates to the RNC, assault police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. Evidence released to date does not corroborate these allegations with physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these allegations than the claims of the informants.
“These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism. This both trivializes real violence and attempts to place the stated political views of the defendants on trial,” said Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “The charges represent an abuse of the criminal justice system and seek to intimidate any person organizing large scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil disobedience,” he said.
Five Food Not Bombs volunteers were arrested in Minneapolis in early morning raids on Saturday, August 30, and are facing charges of conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to commit civil disorder and conspiracy to damage property.
The five, who are being held in the Hennepin County Jail, are Nathanael Secor, Garrett Fitzgerald, Eryn Trimmer, Monica Bicking, and Erik Oseland.
Officers from the Minneapolis Police Department, the Hennepin and Ramsey County Sheriffs’ departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, armed with search warrants, executed the raids. The FBI and county sheriffs’ departments held the cooks face down at gunpoint for several hours as they videotaped and photographed their cooking equipment and other belongings. Later that evening Monica Bicking, owner of the Food Not Bombs house at 2301 23rd Ave. South in Minneapolis, was interrogated in her cell by Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher. She refused to talk. Eryn Trimmer reported yesterday morning in a phone call to his mother that 50 new prisoners joined him in the county jail last night. Monica Bicking was released yesterday.
The FBI claims that Food Not Bombs had weapons stored at their homes are false. Fortunately, the FBI and Ramsey county sheriff’s department did clean out all the old belongings left behind in the garage by the past owners saving Food Not Bombs a great deal of work. Volunteers held at gunpoint reported that “we aren’t even painting banners here. All we have is food and cooking equipment.“
The FBI, Pentagon and other agencies have been investigating and disrupting the Food Not Bombs movement since at least 1988 when volunteers were first arrested for feeding the hungry. That same year, the San Francisco Police wiretapped my (Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry) home phone. By 1997, the San Francisco police had made over 1,000 arrests for sharing vegetarian meals. I faced 25 years to life in prison even though I have written many articles and a book on nonviolent social change and have never participated in any violence and promote vegan and vegetarian diets, animal rights and peace.
This past year Eric McDavid and Lauren Weiner were framed by the Sacramento California office of the FBI after they paid a college student $75,000 to join Food Not Bombs. Wren is starting a five-year prison sentence and Eric has been sentenced to 19 years. The FBI provided their informant “Anna” with a specially wired car and home. They also gave her blasting caps, a book on how to build bombs and instructed her to try and convince Eric and Wren to bomb a dam in California. Eric and Wren refused but because they failed to stop “Anna” talking about her plans they were convicted.
“This investigation pertains to actions of the RNC Welcoming Committee,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said in a statement at midday Saturday. “The ‘Welcoming Committee’ is a criminal enterprise made up of 35 anarchists who are intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention.
Food Not Bombs has spent the last year organizing to provide free meals to protesters attending the demonstrations outside the Republican National Convention in Minnesota and the Democratic National Convention in Colorado in the United States.
Food Not Bombs is an all volunteer movement dedicated to nonviolent social change. Food Not Bombs provides free vegetarian meals every week in over 1,000 cities all over the world. Food Not Bombs volunteers provided free meals to the rescue workers at the World Trade Center after 9/11, to the protesters at the Orange Revolution in Kiev, Ukraine and fed survivors in nearly 20 communities in the Gulf region of the United States in the months after Katrina. From Iceland to Chile, Nigeria, New Zealand, Israel and beyond thousands of Food Not Bombs volunteers will be sharing vegetarian meals, working for peace, planting gardens, fixing up bikes for poor children and responding to hurricanes and earthquakes.
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