Bust St. PaulSeptember 4th, 2008

The city of St. Paul received multi-million-dollar guarantees from the Republican Party to insure against lawsuits resulting from police misconduct and other unconstitutional acts. In other words, a political party conspired with local government to violate the law of the land.

And the Twin Cities did just that. Storm troopers armed and outfitted in kevlar and gas masks by the governments of Minneapolis and St. Paul unleashed wave after wave of violent force against people on the streets to protest government policy.

There were pre-emptive seizures and arrests. There were beatings. There were gas and percussion grenades. Tightly-handcuffed protestors, along with bystanders swept up in the dragnet, were manhandled and jailed. Cameras were confiscated, and press credentials were ignored.

These two city governments violated fundamental constitutional rights to assemble, to speak and publish, to be secure from government searches and seizures, to report on events, and to maintain political affiliations, not to mention the right to walk the public streets unmolested by thugs in police uniforms.

New York City just settled with protesters arrested several years ago in that big, rich city. A two-million-dollar damage award isn’t going to bust the apple, but 20 or 30 million in punitive damages could cause St. Paul’s constitutionally deficient leaders some serious hurt.

In fact, legal strategies are being plotted, and we should all press for a mammoth class action, plus criminal prosecutions, and make sure the awards exceed whatever insurance and other guarantees these two lawless boroughs think they have.

I’d like to participate, but from a thousand miles away in Connecticut, all I can do is holler. I can turn off “Prairie Home” at the first mention of anything Minnesotan and lay off Scotch tape, but I’d like to do more.

So I’m suing my city over something that happened here in April, when George Bush paid a visit. A hastily-arranged peace demonstration in which I participated was herded into a “free-speech” zone a block away from the Hartford street down which the Bush motorcade drove. This was a violation of my rights under the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, and I decided to bring suit today, as a citizen, as a writer, and as a candidate for public office.

If all of the 200 or so people who were with me when Bush passed within a quarter-mile of us were to join my suit we could cause some heartburn among the city leaders who impeded us in our exercise of the duties of citizenship. Between Hartford and the Twin Cities, we mIght even raise a bit of money for progressive causes. My city has till September 23 to respond to my complaint, which is posted on-line at www.fournierforcongress.org/lawsuit.