RNC Welcoming Committee Organizers Seek Sanctuary From Illegal Arrests
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- SATURDAY, AUG 30, 8:10PM
CONTACT Andrew Willis Garcés willisa [at] gmail [dot] com
ST.PAUL, MN -- Today two members of the RNC Welcoming Committee sought sanctuary from illegal disappearances carried out by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office at the Twin Cities Friends Meeting in St. Paul. Andy Fahlstrom, 27, and Betsy Raasch-Gilman, 56, appealed to the meeting for sanctuary following the arrests of five other Welcoming Committee members on Saturday, August 30. Warrants for the "search" of two other members have been made public – others have been "searched" and then arrested and held without bail for "probable cause." Many have been snatched on the street by plainclothes officers.
"In the past two days we have seen numerous instances of police harassment and arrest of Bushville campers on Harriett Island, independent journalists, and now the arrest on false pretenses of activists who have worked for over two years, in the open, to provide support for public dissent this week," said Raasch-Gilman.
The mission of the RNC Welcoming Committee is to provide meeting space, medical and legal support, food, housing, and other forms of support to activists coming to the Convention to express their opposition to the policies of Bush/McCain. The Welcoming Committee itself is not planning any demonstrations.
"We're seeking sanctuary to call attention to the illegal tactics – police violence, harassment and mass arrests – of the Ramsey County Sheriff, who has ordered the politically motivated arrests of dedicated community activists on false pretenses to make it more difficult for ordinary people to express their dissent," said Fahlstrom. "We're calling on Mayor Coleman, Chief Harrington, and other St. Paul councilmembers to join Councilmember David Thune in denouncing and calling for an end to the illegal tactics of Sheriff Bob Fletcher, and to affirm that the important work of creating supportive environments for dissent by all people that is the mission of the Welcoming Committee continue."
The two were offered support by members of the Meeting, which planned a special Meeting for Worship for Saturday night in response to today's events.
"There's a very long tradition of Quakers giving protection to persecuted people. So I'm completely in favor of my Meeting giving sanctuary to those who are currently being persecuted by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office," said Meeting member Charley Underwood, 60. Ralph Hilgendorf, 75, said, "I've always viewed the sheriff and the local police as people who are here to protect us and our civil rights. Today's events are uconscionable and inconceivable in a free society. "
The two sanctuary seekers are available for phone interviews, as is a member of the Twin Cities Friends Meeting. Call Andrew Willis Garcés at willisa [at] gmail [dot] com.