Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Twin Cities bracing for the RNC: ACLU expects 800 arrests

August 13, 2008 |  9:02 am

We guess it makes sense to prepare for all contingencies when you plan a protest. Portable toilets. Water stands.Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, which will play outside both political conventions; the Minnesota ACLU is preparing for 800 arrests outside the Republican convention nominating John McCain in St. Paul. A little vinegar for the bandanna to counter the tear gas (as suggested to our colleague Ann Powers the other day by singer Zack de la Rocha, whose Rage Against the Machine will perform outside the Democratic and Republican conventions).

So how does the American Civil Liberties Union plan? By rounding up the legal volunteers. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Minnesota branch of the ACLU has signed on 75 lawyers to be available during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul to represent protesters who get arrested.

The ACLU estimates 800 people will be arrested, compared with 600 nabbed outside the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia and the 1,800 people who were rounded up outside the 2004 GOP convention in New York City.

As for preparations for the Democratic National Convention in Denver, we have a call in to the Colorado ACLU. Lawyers, meetings -- who knows when they'll call back. When they do, we'll update.

And remember, nothing says "political convention" like the smell of tear gas in the air, and police in those big helmets carrying see-through shields. Ah, democracy!

UPDATE: Mark Silverstein of the Colorado ACLU phoned to say that it has no estimate of potential arrests and is not arranging for legal help, though other local groups apparently are lining up lawyers. And yes, we have another call out and will update again when we hear back.

UPDATE II: Brian Vicente of the People's Law Project, which came together around free-speech issues related to the Democratic convention, said the group has 50-60 Denver-area lawyers and other legal experts trained and ready to deal with "a couple hundred" anticipated arrests. "Of course, we hope there won't be any arrests" given that the group focuses on free speech, he said.

-- Scott Martelle

Photo credit: Ed Jones / AFP / Getty Images