We're getting ready – remaining Republican National Convention defendants head to trial

Four of a group of eight anarchists who were pre-emptively arrested just prior to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN — known as the RNC 8 — are set to go on trial October 25, facing two and a half years in prison if convicted. We are asking everyone who is able to come to the Twin Cities to help support Rob Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, Nathanael Secor and Max Specktor as they fight back against state repression. Prosecutors dropped all charges against three of the 8 defendants — Monica Bicking, Luce GuillĂ©n-Givins, and Eryn Trimmer — on September 16. Erik Oseland took a non-cooperating plea agreement to one count of gross misdemeanor conspiracy to damage property on August 27, severing him from the joint trial.

Targeted for their explicitly anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizing of logistics to support protests against the convention, the RNC 8 were surveilled, harassed and manipulated by infiltrators and informants in the year leading up to the RNC. Then they were arrested and charged with felony “conspiracy to riot in the furtherance of terrorism.” Shortly after the convention, they were slapped with yet more felony charges: conspiracy to damage property in the furtherance of terrorism, conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to damage property. But a successful pressure campaign against the head prosecutor’s run for governor and widespread public outcry ultimately forced the prosecutor to drop the terrorism enhancement charges in April 2009.

The baseless nature of these charges was seen yet again when the prosecutor entirely dropped the charges against Monica, Luce and Eryn. Of course, dropping charges against some of the co-defendants is also a divide-and-conquer move on the part of the State, an effort to weaken the solidarity that has forced the State’s hand on the terrorism charges and sustained the defendants through two years of pre-trial preparations. The strength and resolve the defendants and our movement as a whole have shown are real threats to the State’s efforts to justify their repression and perpetuate the myth that the system provides us with “justice.”

The dismissals dramatically changed the defendants’ legal situation just a couple weeks after it had changed dramatically with Erik’s plea deal. When Erik took the plea, he was made to acknowledge in open court that future rulings in the joint RNC 8 case would not apply to him. One of these rulings was about the probable cause hearings held in May and June of this year.

In these hearings, the defense argued that the government had not shown any specific evidence to establish probable cause for the charges and that the charges violated constitutionally protected free speech rights. The defendants said that they would prove in these hearings that despite tens of thousands of pages of documents, hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, and four infiltrators, the government has no proof of guilt in this case. The actions and activities advocated by the RNC Welcoming Committee were acts of civil disobedience such as blocking traffic, and the actions actually taken were legal, logistical activities such as feeding and housing demonstrators. The government’s main case rests on the satirical “We’re Getting Ready” video, guilt by association, statements and actions of people who are not the defendants, and discussions by the defendants that did not constitute any kind of a real plan or conspiracy to riot or damage property.

Two of the four informants and several other cops testified on the stand during the hearings. Although they admitted to having little evidence of the defendants possessing dangerous weapons or making agreements to damage property or injure people, they wanted to paint a bigger picture of conspiracy, continually referring to “gut feelings.” When directly questioned about what RNC 8 members actually did, they came up with things such as possessing knives in their kitchens and debating the merit of property damage as a tactic. When asked about illegal activity that the Welcoming Committee participated in, all that one informant could come up with was a banner drop in which no one but informants were involved.

In their efforts to counter the defense’s assertions, the prosecutors brought up the fact that the Welcoming Committee endorsed a diversity of tactics and refused to condemn or denounce illegal tactics. They also attempted to draw connections between the defendants and other people who were convicted of crimes during the convention. Further, they argued that there’s no direct evidence of conspiracy in this case because the defendants practiced security culture. But, they argued, that doesn’t matter because it was a conspiracy and therefore the defendants were all responsible for everything that occurred with or without them.

The judge issued her ruling on the probable cause hearing on September 21, the day before the final pre-trial hearing. She ruled in favor of the prosecution, stating that the defense had failed to provide exonerating evidence for the four remaining defendants.

Thus, the joint trial for the remaining defendants is still scheduled to begin on October 25 and could last a month or more. During the trial, we’ll be packing the courtroom every day, serving a few free meals each week, working with other groups to put on fun events every Friday night, sending out announcements to the movement, doing media work, fundraising, and a whole bunch of other things.

Your help is needed now more than ever. To figure out how you can get involved, email us at info@rnc8.org. To learn more about trial logistics (including housing), to download support materials to distribute in your community, and to donate to the legal defense fund, check out rnc8.org.