Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Baghdad on the Mississippi

I found a piece by Ray McGovern in Common Dreams on police action in St. Paul.

This sounds as nasty as I had feared: police spies and infiltrators and police preemptive strikes against people doing nothing illegal.
The St. Paul City Council? Only one member had the courage to speak out -- Councilman Dave Thune, who was particularly enraged that Sheriff Fletcher took action within St. Paul city limits:

"This is not the way to start things off...I'm really ticked off...the city is perfectly capable of taking care of such things...This is all about free speech. It's what my father fought for in the war. To me this smacks of preemptive strike against free speech."

Thune objected in particular to Fletcher's deputies using battering rams to knock down doors, then entering with guns drawn, and forcing people to the ground, as they did on Friday night.
This behavior sounds exactly right for Fletcher, the Ramsey County sheriff. He is a small town sheriff, who wants to make his job big and important and scary. I've heard him ask the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners for crime labs and canine units -- expensive goodies that aren't needed in a small and mostly peaceful city. The Commissioners react to him the way most of us react to slugs.

I found an MPR (or NPR) piece on the economic effect of the convention. Hotels, caterers, transportation companies and security firms did well. Business in general did not benefit, which makes sense. The delegates were in hotels all over the metro area, being bused to the convention center and attending a lot of private parties. Why would they go out into the streets of St. Paul, which were full of huge numbers of scary police and wander around looking for the stores and restaurants that are not there.

You cannot believe how empty downtown St. Paul is. There is one store -- a Macy's -- and half a dozen restaurants. The office workers leave between five and six. After that, there is no one downtown except poor people changing buses.

Minneapolis did somewhat better, apparently, most likely because downtown Minneapolis has stores and restaurants. But the extra business was not huge.

In the article, civic and business people talked about how much good the convention would do in future years -- all the national advertising for the Twin Cities, which would lead to future conventions and more visitors and so on.

What this tells me is, they can't say much about any immediate benefit.

The St. Paul police chief said the city police got all kinds of neat new equipment and training, and this would be useful. Ray McGovern describes a guy who was released after being arrested in St. Paul. He'd been tasered seven times, and blood from his wounds was soaking through his clothing. I don't think we need this new equipment -- which includes enough tasers for every single cop in the city -- or the kind of training that leads to tasering someone seven times. None of the behavior I saw described required this kind of violent response.


Blogger Charles Platt said...

I'm just leaving this comment as a way to communicate with Eleanor, whom I used to know.

6:03 PM  

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