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RNC Glean: McCain's change, and journalists detained

The Strib's front-page headline on the McCain speech ("'Change is Coming'") seems credulous since that's the main point Obama disputes. The PiPress' hed is similarly friendly: "The Maverick's turn." A Strib editorial calls McCain's speech "rousing," while the PiPress' Rachel Stassen-Berger and Bill Salisbury pick a softer adjective, describing the crowd as "animated." (Our own Doug Grows calls the cheers "robust.")

So what exactly was the change? Parsing the dailies' stories, the Strib notes McCain's promises to fight corruption, reform government and reduce foreign oil dependence. If your paper is going to banner "Change," shouldn't you vet it a bit? There are no real fact-checks accompanying the speech reportage, a weakness this week. MinnPost's fact-check is here.

Attempting even-handedness, the Strib editorial says Obama hasn't countered jabs at "job-killling tax increases on businesses and affluent Americans" but dings McCain for deficit-ballooning tax cuts and ignoring health care and infrastructure. McCain is also too willing to use force, they say, though the edit couches it as "worries many Americans." Hey, you're an edit page: just say what you think. A PiPress editorial calls McCain's speech "powerful" and says "two fine men are running for the presidency."

Did anyone get more details on those Code Pink protesters who interrupted McCain's speech? Not really, but WCCO's Don Shelby talked to a couple of group members about how they got in the night before. My take: Anytime the protesters got McCain ad-libbing, thereby breaking his hypnotism-by-teleprompter, they were doing him a favor.

A police phalanx blocked Capitol protesters from downtown. The Strib says 200 people were arrested; the PiPress puts the number at 300. MPR's Bob Collins has an awesome liveblog, as does the City Pages staff and Minnesota Independent's Jeff Guntzel. A marching permit expired at 5 p.m., but some wanted to keep going to the X to catch arriving delegates. Demonstrators say cops changed their minds about letting them march past permit time.

The Strib says 14 journalists were also arrested or detained. The City Pages crew was maced. Minnesota Indepedent's Paul Demko — who was just trying to get a beer — details his flexicuff experience here. A KARE cameraman was pinched; over the arrestee's narration, correspondent Boyd Huppert intones, "Tonight, police set the limits for freedom of press, speech and assembly, leaving the courts to take it from here." An Uptake videographer was also arrested. Fox9's Tom Lyden calls it "a theater of the politically absurd."

Fireworks on the ground: There are tons of incident video. PiPress "flash-bang grenade" video here. WCCO's here, here and its cameraman's arrest here. KARE's, linked above, features a great chant: "You're sexy, you're cute, take off your riot suit."

Was a 19-year-old "tortured" in the Ramsey County Jail after being swept up by riot police? Elliot Hughes says jailers beat him "after he and other prisoners were chanting for food," the Strib's Herón Márquez Estrada writes. Sheriff Bob Fletcher says Hughes, a self-described anarchist but not RNC Welcoming Committee member, was "extremely disruptive." Hughes did wind up in Regions Hospital. Fletcher says jail surveillance tape will prove authorities justified.

It's not a shock, but parents of Welcoming Committee suspects say their kids are innocent, the PiPress' Emily Gurnon writes. Their lawyer says the case rests on confidential informants with incentives to lie (a not-uncommon defense argument) and there's a difference between "civil disobedience" and "domestic terrorism." One dad says his daughter marched peacefully; the criminal complaint says she and buddies threw feces and blacktop at cops from behind a shield. The suspects are charged with felonies.

MPR's Sea Stachura says arrests now total 818, almost precisely Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher's low-end prediction of 800. KSTP's Jennifer Griswold looks at how special police dispatchers coordinated the police response.

The Strib's Nick Coleman nails a sentiment many locals probably share: "That was fun. Let's never do it again." Business in St. Paul stank, Minneapolis got the cash instead, "anarchist/narcissists" got too much face time and 8-foot-high security fences turned St. Paul into a "corn maze."

Was it worth it? MPR's Laura Yuen quotes officials saying "yes," for the police goodies and amorphous "St. Paul" mentions during the week. But she acknowledges business was "hit or miss."

The PiPress's Megan Boldt distills GOP pollster Frank Luntz's recipe for a John McCain victory: Talk up common sense and accountability, leadership in times of crisis, and refer to "offshore drilling" as "deep-sea exploration." Like Jacques Cousteau!

Third District GOP congressional candidate Erik Paulsen used his podium time to announce, "I will work to requaint my party with the principle of fiscal responsibility," the PiPress' Dennis Lien reports. DFL opponent Ashwin Madia says Republicans have been saying that for too long. The Strib's Mark Brunswick writes that Pawlenty again touted "Sam's Club Republicans" looking for value and accountability and sending money to China. Just kidding about that last one.

The GOP dummies up about the number of black delegates, writes the Strib's Jon Tevlin, who quotes one nonpartisan group putting the figure at 1.5 percent, down from 7 percent in 2004. The party says it won't ask participants to "check boxes" about race or religion. Minnesota claims 13 percent of its delegates were Hispanic, black or Asian.

Tim Pawlenty didn't have to be told he wasn't McCain's veep pick; he knew before the announcement, the Strib's Mike Kaszuba and PiPress' Bill Salisbury write. Pawlenty said when the campaign booked him on a flight to Minneapolis on Thursday, he wouldn't make it to Dayton that Friday. Sounds like the vetting process was Palin-like and Googlesque for him, too: "I'm not aware that they talked to anybody." He got the deflating call about 5 a.m. MPR's Tom Scheck says insiders still rate Mitt Romney the 2012 front-runner.

Minnesota Independent's Paul Schmelzer posts some video fun of a guy handing out "Bush-McCain" stickers to GOP delegates.

MPR's Collins talks to local interns for "The Daily Show." One of their jobs? Rescuing cast members from protests. Anticipating riots, "Daily Show" officials moved lines inside Thursday, WCCO's Darcy Pohland reports.

Strib sportswriter Jim Souhan, on-site as an "outsider" covering the convention, says "happy liberals" is an oxymoron akin to "jumbo shrimp." Sigh. Don't quit your day job, Jim.

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Comments (7)

Again we see parents unable to accept that their mature or adult children must take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.

“It's not a shock, but parents of Welcoming Committee suspects say their kids are innocent, the PiPress' Emily Gurnon writes. Their lawyer says the case rests on confidential informants with incentives to lie (a not-uncommon defense argument)”

It’s also frequently true. For instance such confidential informants produced all kinds of bogus intel about the anti re-route demonstrators over at Hiawatha Avenue a few years ago. I suspect many of the accusations leveled by these informants will be quietly forgotten or disallowed as these cases (those that aren’t dropped) wind their way through the courts. By the way, anyone and everyone who belongs to any of the groups involved in these demonstrations from Code Pink to the “Anarchists” knew that police agents and/or informants were in their midst all along, they always are. If you belong to any of these groups you know they’re there, you may not know for sure who, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Furthermore these informants frequently act as provocateurs, the joke used to be that you could always spot the informants because they were always the ones who wanted to blow something up. I just mention this because I’ve gotten little tired of all the bragging about “infiltration” that’s been going on. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back there big fella.

By the way again, these informants also participate in the demonstrations and it’s not unheard of for them to actually instigate the property damage. This is what happened a few years ago at the anti bio-whatever demonstration in MPLS. The cops surrounded the demonstrators cutting off all egress, and then commanded them to disperse even though there was no way to disperse. Then a police agent started the ball rolling by throwing a bottle. Prosecutors have already admitted that they are not going to even try to find the individuals that actually broke windows and what not in St. Paul. This could be simply an acknowledgement that they can’t actually figure that out, or it could be that they already know who did it. I don't know who did it, I'm just sayin.

As far as I can tell from watching the demonstrations over the past week, what we had in St. Paul and MPLS was a series of police riots. With the exception of the demonstration on Monday where windows were broken, tires flattened etc. there were no other reports of vandalism aside from some garbage cans being pushed around. For four days the police attacked people who by and large were just standing or even sitting around on public streets and sidewalks. The only injuries reported have been those inflicted on demonstrators by police. To put this issue of violence in perspective consider this: if I break a window it’s vandalism, if walk up to someone on the street and spray mace in their face its assault. Which of the two is more violent? For all we know, even the vandalism in St. Paul was police violence.

Yes, some of the people who got arrested and maced were disobeying “lawful” orders, they were standing or sitting (again, on public sidewalks and streets) somewhere the police didn’t want them to be standing or sitting. Others found it impossible to follow the orders because of the way the area’s got cordoned off, and yet others just got caught in a melee of some kind or anther. Standing or sitting somewhere you’re not supposed to in this situation is called civil disobedience, it’s not rioting, and it’s not violent, and it doesn’t justify assault. The numbers speak for themselves, 800 arrests for a handful of broken windows and slashed tires tells us something bizarre was going here.

Be fair to Souhan. His sportswriting is awful, too.

It's bizarre how frequently the police just happened to mace or arrest journalists. From Paul Demko's piece, it's apparent the police were aware of who they were, so it appears they were picked out. This seems worthy of investigation.

Once upon a time, real journalists fact-checked a story as they wrote it. Nowadays, "journalists" are more like stenographers. They regurgitate what they record on their recorders, file a story and do nothing beyond that. If someone stood on a podium and liede through their teeth, you'd never know it unless you stumbled upon a separate "fact-check" story buried inside, or more often, reported a few days later. A story written by someone else who took the time to properly research the story.

If Sarah Palin claims in her acceptance speech that she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere, when the record and facts show she vigorously supported it, why don't reporters follow up her claim with that fact IN THE STORY, not two days later in a "fact-check" piece? Shouldn't ALL stories be fact-check pieces?

This a major problem with what passes for journalism these days.

I agree with Paul's comments on the "riots". Both my kids (high schoolers) were involved in protesting. My younger son Ben walked out of school to attend the "afternoon" protest march on Thursday. At that time, on the MPR site the article about the protests (that was updated throughout the day) quoted the police chief as saying "don't skip school kids, come to the protest that starts at 5 PM". The implication that the 5 PM protest was sanctioned (i.e., they had a permit) was one of the reasons that I agreed to let my older son and his girlfriend go. (oh, who am I kidding, he's 17 so I probably couldn't have stopped him, but it made me feel comfortable that it was OK). However, at some point during the afternoon during the "updating" that information disappeared from MPR's article. So did the police change their mind about this? My 15 year old experienced a very peaceful day march with police smiling at them - no problems. My 17 year old and his girlfriend were in the middle of the stand-off on John Ireland Boulevard, the incredible array of riot-clad police, horses, city of St. Paul trucks deployed to block them off, etc. Kit's girlfriend is 5 feet nothing and weighs 98 lbs, wet. At one point she was sitting on the ground when police approached her. She "scooted" back on her butt, but apparently not fast enough, because they began kicking and hitting her (still sitting). Another protester was able to pull her out of harms way (this good Samaritan was subsequently saturated with mace and had to be taken for medical treatment) and a DemocracyNow videographer got it all on tape, offering it up as evidence. My son's gf had the presence of mind to memorize the badge number of the law officer that was hitting her, so Mayor Coleman will have another complaint on his hand shortly. A couple of points though.. many of the kids we know weren't arrested, just brutalized. There was a lot of confusion about whether or not this was a sanctioned march and whether or not the protesters were breaking the law just by being there, nonviolently. So I say, what if they were breaking the law? This is called civil disobedience and there is a long and wonderful history of change that results from the action of brave folks that are willing to be arrested for their beliefs. So I had a long talk with the kids about the pros and cons of being arrested,and about how they had to distance themselves from anyone committing acts of violence, but it never occurred to me that their peaceful protest would be met with such a complete overreaction on the part of the police. Makes my "the police are our friends" speech pretty lame. and it makes me ashamed of St. Paul, who, up until very recently could say with some truth "oh, our police are MUCH better than the Minneapolis police. Really."

Yesterday I heard Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild interviewed on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! He said that as part of its contract with the RNC to host the convention, St. Paul negotiated a provision under which the RNC agreed that it or its insurers would cover the first $10,000,000 of legal damages which St. Paul might be found to owe on account of the conduct of any City of St. Paul personnel during the convention. That seems newsworthy to me, as it would have given the city license to sweep the streets clear of all protesters, regardless of their innocence or guilt, without regard to their civil rights and without fear of any financial consequences for violating anyone's civil rights. Do you know whether that claim is true?

Rory Rooney