Minneapolis Police Attack Protestors at Animal Genetics Conference

Subject: Minneapolis cops pepper-spray and arrest
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2000 14:53:10 -0500

Police Pepper-Spray And Arrest ISAG Protesters In Minneapolis
Source: DAMN News Report

Biodun Iginla, biginla@email.com

About 65 activists and protesters protesting the work being done by the
International Society for Animal Genetics (ISAG) conference at the
Minneapolis Hyatt Regency were pepper-sprayed and arrested around the
hotel on July 24, 2000. Some of the activists are members of the
Bioengineering Action Network (BAN), Upper Midwest Resistance Against
Genetic Engineering (grainRAGE), and Anarchist Spiritual Syndicate (ASS).
By 8 PM, Hennepin County Sheriff Pat McGowan said 62 adults were booked
into jail. Three juveniles were also jailed. The charges ranged from
disorderly conduct to inciting riot.

The five-day conference--sponsored by the University of Minnesota--of
approximately 600 international scientists and researchers is being held
to map the genome of common livestock animals and to determine new methods
of disease resistance for market and lab uses. One of the people attending
the conference, a Belgian woman scientist, told me that she the protests
upset her. "This meeting is about mapping the genome of animals so we can
help these animals with disease. This meeting is not about genetic
testing." But Mark Niemi, another conference participant, confirmed that
the meeting was also about licensing the genomes for market-economy, and
that he had been conducting business transactions with the University of
Minnesota all week.

Although protesters against animal genetic-engineering is popular in
Europe, the Minneapolis protest was the first of its kind in the US. One
of protesters, Nathalie Chamagne, from Strasbourg, France, said that in
France food is labeled as genetically engineered or not in supermarkets.
After more than three hours of protest activity, including a violent clash
between riot-geared police and activists, around 80 protesters were
pepper-sprayed and loaded into police vans and arrested near the
intersection of 12th Street between Nicollet and La Salle Avenues. The
police also knocked down a couple of local TV cameramen trying to record
the events.

Using batons and pepper spray, about 200 police officers circled and
stopped about 100 protesters at various intersections trying to get to the
Hyatt Hotel. During the three hours of protest before the arrests, I spoke
to a few police officers and protesters. The Reverend Rusty Membrane of
Anarchists Spiritual Syndicate (ASS), who was all dressed up in a
three-piece suit and who identified himself as anarchist, said:

"Police will need to arrest people to justify the amount of money they've
spent to prepare for this conference."

"We don't want any violence. We want to work with the protesters," said
Inspector Sharon Lubinski, the commander of the downtown unit, who was
directing the police operations.

The police reportedly spent from $200,000 to $500, 000 in overtime,
riot-gear, and concrete barricades around the Hyatt Hotel to prepare for
the protesters. When asked about the Reverend's comments, the Deputy
Police Chief, Greg Hestness, responded, "Look, I run the budget, and we
don't need to arrest anybody to justify the amount of money we've spent
for this conference. We don't want to arrest anyone."

When I told Deputy Chief Hessness that one of the crucial issues people
will be debating in the following days is the First-Amendment issue of not
letting protesters on the sidewalks near the Hyatt Hotel for their
peaceful protests, Deputy Chief Hessness said: "Look, we're on sound legal
grounds about all this. Our lawyers have advised us that we can keep
groups off the sidewalks who want to prevent other citizens from using the
sidewalk. Individuals can get on the sidewalks, but not these groups of

When I pressed him that some of the protesters are individuals who do not
belong to any groups, he said, "Look, these individuals can access the
Hyatt like everybody else." Ironically, Deputy Chief Hestness later issued
orders that protesters be allowed access into nearby Loring Park, but
these orders did not reach other police officers confronting protesters at
the park in time, where the worst confrontations happened, and where most
of the protesters were pepper-sprayed and arrested. Police claimed that
rocks were thrown at police officers.

Legal observers for the protesters condemned the police department's
handling of the demonstrators.

"I think the police presence prevented any type of protests that dealt
with issues," said Randall Morris, a law student at Hamline University in
St Paul and a legal observer for the protesters. "We were repeatedly
prevented from walking on the sidewalks, which is a public space," he
said. Earlier before she was arrested, Ms Mary Scully of St Paul said
she's been participating in marches and protests for 35 years, but she had
never been treated as she was on Monday. "I've never seen anything quite
like the provocation from the police that I've seen today," she said. "We
just want to leave...We'll be escorted by them. We just want to leave,"
she said. "We wanted to jeep things peaceful. No rocks were thrown at
anyone," said one of the protesters.

Some of the protesters were booked and released several hours later. But
those who were released still faced some problems.

Police had confiscated their belongings when they were arrested. "They
took our things. My car keys, everything. I have no way to get home,"
claimed Ms Scully.

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