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(MO) Arrests and weapons allegations spark activists' anger

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Drizzt, May 17, 2003.

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  1. Drizzt

    Drizzt Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Moscow on the Colorado, TX
    Arrests and weapons allegations spark activists' anger

    updated: 05/16/2003 11:05 PM

    St. Louis police say they confiscated rocks, nails, whips and torches from homes of some people planning to protest the World Agricultural Forum. Activists insist the raid was an excuse to snoop and that police are guilty of "political repression."

    It was good fortune, St. Louis police said, when raids Friday to enforce housing laws yielded "weapons" like rocks and nails from homes of some people planning to protest the World Agricultural Forum here this weekend.

    But the activists said it was just an excuse to get in and snoop.

    More than a dozen people were arrested - none on weapons violations - and most remained in jail into Friday night.

    "This is political repression. We're being targeted," said Molly Dupre, glassy-eyed as she emerged on bail from police headquarters after about seven hours in custody on a charge of occupying a condemned building.

    DuPre, 23, of St. Charles, described herself as an anarchist and six weeks pregnant.

    Joe Mokwa, chief of a police department clearly edgy about what the coming days will bring, told reporters, "We are very concerned. We can certainly draw conclusions and expectations after we found these items."

    Some of those things - a bag of rocks and a bucket of nails - seem fairly common to a home under rehabilitation, as some of those raided were. But they appeared more sinister when paired on a display table with a sling shot, whips and torches.

    Similar devices were used as weapons in large-scale demonstrations at international conferences in Seattle and Washington, D.C., officials said.

    These were seized from a condemned building at 3309 Illinois Avenue and a building at 3022 Cherokee Street. Mokwa said no weapons charges were filed because nothing could be linked to specific people.

    Police said neighbors' complaints spurred the raids; names of those complaining were not revealed. The building on Illinois had been condemned.

    "The timing is coincidental because these people just got here," Mokwa said. "We have an obligation to investigate complaints. We are not going to allow people to reside in abandoned buildings."

    Activists said police circled the buildings for days, questioning anyone on foot or bicycle.

    "It's definitely systematic harassment of protesters," said Art Friedrich, who lives at 3022 Cherokee.

    Fifteen people arrested at the home on Illinois were cited for a city ordinance violation of occupying a condemned building, Mokwa said. It had no occupancy permit, according to building inspectors.

    Some of those staying there insisted it was not condemned. Three people, who bought it from the city for $800, have been staying there for a year, they said.

    They opened the house, which they called "Bolozone," to out-of-towners attending the Biodevastation 7 conference at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.

    Biodevastation 7 was scheduled as a counterstatement to the World Agricultural Forum, which begins Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Union Station.

    Dupre said she was in her upstairs bedroom at Bolozone when police arrived. She said one officer told her they had a warrant and another said they didn't need one.

    She said police told her there were orders to sweep the city for anyone who looks like an anarchist.

    Dupre scoffed at any suggestion of violent people staying there. Most are puppeteers, she said.

    "It's a rehab site," she said. "These are things that are going to be found in every garage across America."

    Mike Liebhart, who said his girlfriend was arrested, told a reporter: "I'm shaken. I feel like my constitutional rights are being taken away. Why are they raiding these houses? Why are they arresting people?"

    Mokwa said police will accommodate peaceful anti-World Agricultural Forum protests in Aloe Plaza, across from Union Station.

    "We are here to protect the rights of everybody," Mokwa said. "We want people to be able to voice their opinions. People who go into a vacant condemned building have no rights to be there."

    The chief noted, "These people are not here attending seminars. They are sitting in vacant buildings in the middle of the day."

    The building on Cherokee houses the nonprofit Community Arts and Media Project, a collection of seven grassroots organizations including Gateway Green Alliance, which is sponsoring Biodevastation 7.

    A housing inspector noticed suspicious items during his search, and police obtained a search warrant, Mokwa said. It was not clear what was seized from which address.

    Friedrich, 23, pulled a copy of the warrant from his pocket. It said police were looking for barrel traps, Molotov cocktails, gas masks, PVC pipe, whips, chains, flammable liquids and nails with washers attached.

    At one point, police emerged with two 8-foot wood dolls with papier-mache heads. One was a caricature of a police officer, the other of an alderman. Such dolls are common to protests, sometimes being used as a signal or diversion.

    Police also removed mirrors, camping equipment, several bags of molding clay, a disassembled kiln, a length of metal pipe and two construction respirators.

    Friedrich said police told him he could reclaim the items Wednesday, which is the day after the end of the World Agricultural Forum.

    He said he expected to see police, but added, "We didn't really expect them to flip out about this like they did."

    Brian Tokar, one of the organizers of Biodevastation 7, said police overreacted. "We've been doing these events for years," he said. "Every year in the U.S. we've gotten these insane, inflammatory issues from the police. It's to inflame public passion and to prevent public discussion of the dangers of agribusiness."

    Matt LeMieux, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, said, "I think if the police are going to conduct searches and arrest people, it ought to be based on the conduct of what a person is doing now. But what they're doing is pre-emptively trying to arrest people. It's a bad and unconstitutional policy."

    He called the housing inspections "a trick" to get in without a warrant and suggested police should have worked with protesters instead of antagonizing them.

    J. Justin Meehan, a lawyer called by some of the jailed activists, complained that police would not release detainees' names, charges or amounts of their bails.

    He showed up at police headquarters at 6 p.m. with $500 to bail out as many as he could.

    "Whatever violations there are have existed for some time," he said. "This is a ruse to prevent people from their legitimate right of assembly. This is almost an ideal civil rights case where the police, acting under the color of law, violate rights guaranteed under the Constitution."

    Also Friday, officers stopped a van of activists and arrested the driver just after the group visited the Regional Chamber and Growth Association headquarters downtown.

    Occupants of the van said police told them they violated the seat belt law. They said officers photographed each passenger then took in the driver, Sara Bantz. Her friends said she was charged with a drug violation for carrying a bottle of vitamins.

    Mokwa said the woman was arrested on a warrant in Columbia, Mo.

    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/ne...rests and weapons allegations spark activists'%20anger
  2. fmjcafe

    fmjcafe Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    St. Louis, MO.
    Anarchist my butt! Why don`t you try the anarchy of the alarm clock there little girl! Get a job!
  3. Ian

    Ian Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Did it say somewhere that she didn't have a job? :confused:
  4. CZ-75

    CZ-75 member

    Jan 2, 2003
    How many gainfully employed folks sit around in buildings during the day? This wasn't even the day of the conference, so I'm doubting she took off work for a week to get ready to protest.

    = stoned????????????
  5. Sergeant Bob

    Sergeant Bob Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    The Swamps of Goldwater, MI
    a bag of rocks , I'm guilty of that one. Got a bag of rocks in the back of my pick-up for traction.

    bucket of nails That one too. Got a bucket of nails in my garage. Use them for putting pieces of wood together.

    sling shot Got a Wrist Rocket, pretty good for chasing off feral cats!

    torches Tiki torches for the patio to help keep the mosquitos away. Can't be too careful these days what with West Nile virus and all.

    whips , uh, nevermind.

    I have some of those items or the parts needed to make most of them. Does that mean I should be expecting a visit from the local JBT"s real soon, or do we endorse that option only for Liberal Anti Capitalist Scum?;)
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