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September 8, 2008 | 12 Comments

Dear Garrison Keillor,
I am a native of Minnesota, born in Red Wing in 1929. For years I have been proud of my native state as a place of tolerance and fair mindedness, not to mention good sense. That is, until last week and the RNC complete with police state tactics worthy of Pinochet. Amy Goodman, one of the best of the independent journalists arrested and waiting to hear what she was charged with. The repression of the Poor People's March, especially when daylight failed. The unwillingness of public officials to respond to questions, the use of paid informants, the use of major force — all of these lead me to wonder, "What has happened to Minnesota?" I hope you are wondering, too and will bring this issue to light on your programs. PHC is more than a source of quiet amusement, it is also a place to ask questions about the state of the State of Minnesota. Of course, Sinclair Lewis was not far from the mark in the '20's. wonder what he'd say today.

In grief for the blot on the name of my good state.

Pete G.

Why are the St Paul Police repeating the performance of the NYPD at the last GOP performance — full riot gear, arrests of lawyers and at least one journalist, etc.? I expected better of Minnesota.

Dale P.
New York

I wish you would comment on the outrageous behavior of the St. Paul police during the RNC. I know St. Paul is your home and I'm sure everyone there (including the police) are just as nice as pie any other time and I'm guessing that having all those Republicans running around that week just made everyone in St. Paul nuts. The good citizens of St. Paul started acting nasty and sarcastic and snarling and lost all contact with reality. I don't think there's a vaccine for this.

Rick Z.

Numerous listeners have written in similarly asking about what happened here. I live up the hill from the hockey arena where the RNC took place and ventured down there a couple of times and it wasn't a good idea. The police were brusque, to say the least, didn't like people hanging around and were in no mood for small talk. It was pretty intense, even after the President had cancelled his trip here, and what I heard from cops is that security was run by the RNC, the FBI, and Homeland Security, and that it was out of the hands of the locals. A lot of cops were brought in from Ohio, Philadelphia, and elsewhere, plus private security, plus Men In Black who it was hard to tell who they represented. And riot police, who tend to look the same whether in St. Paul or Rangoon. The heavy security was in response to threats of violence from "anarchists," who turned out to be a lot of boys around 18 or so and who, like the security guys, have a thing about dressing up in black. The security certainly changed the event, isolated it from St. Paul and insulated us from the Republicans. It was rough on businesses downtown, like Cossetta's Italian restaurant which put up a big tent in the parking lot (a couple blocks from the convention) and which did much less business than they had hoped. Delegates stayed behind the fences. I suppose there are lessons to be learned here, and maybe some old lessons that we've forgotten. Martin Luther King, Jr., had to figure out how to control rash elements within his own movement so he could conduct non-violent marches. And we are a twitchy, paranoid people. Look at airport security — this will probably go on for the rest of our lives — removing our shoes in homage to Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber, and showing liquids and gels, etc. It's a bow to the god of security. Any anonymous person can pick up a phone and empty a school. A few 18-year-old boys in black can bring out enormous security forces. And when an air of apprehension and hostility is created, the door is opened to many many small invidual acts of cruelty. I am sorry that people exercising their legitimate right to march, to shout, to wave signs, to make speeches, were manhandled and pushed around. It shouldn't have happened. But many people in St. Paul had visions of gangs of toughs running through downtown busting windows and burning cars and they decided that that shouldn't happen either.


I, too, have wondered about our "security" conscious society. Granted, there are (and always will be) individuals who are determined to frighten, threaten or otherwise hold the rest of us hostage to any type of fear, for whatever reason. I am certainly not pooh-poohing the fact that there are indeed real dangers present and we should conduct our lives appropriately.

But that is just the point, I think. An idea, a threat, can hold us hostage to fear and the fearmongers. As FDR indicated, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Sue Keehnen

I wouldn't wish the GOP convention on anyone, least of all St. Paul, MN. Here in Michigan, two states over, there was no media coverage of anything going on outside the convention hall except perhaps to show some happy convention goers out looking for a latte. It was as if there were no protests, no need for police and everyone has taken their happy pills and is content with the GOP. I suppose this mirage is easier to pull off if you arrest reporters and demote the likes of Olbermann and Matthews, rare media voices that dare speak truth to power.

The recent focus on security has had some nice payoffs -- a few months ago I pulled my rig up to the guardhouse at the Federal Reserve in Helena MT. As the guards went about the trailer with their mirrors and other equipment they discovered that a fawn they had watched being born earlier that morning had scampered to a spot between the trailer tires. They called in an animal control officer who drug it out and used a wheelbarrow to take the fawn up to a nearby copse where the mother and its sibling were hiding.

As much of a fan of Garrison as I am (particularly his Rossini "Cat Duet" with Fredrika von Stade), I was disappointed by his response to the original question about what can only honestly be termed Jack-Booted Thuggery by "police" outside the RNC last week.

Manhandling is not what happened; flat-out "Minority Report" pre-emptive harassment is what happened; additionally, journalists were assaulted and arrested and threatened with felony charges.

Does Garrison need to be reminded of what Niemoller said after narrowly escaping immolation by the Nazis?

Yesterday, safely on the East Coast, I was stopped by a man with an FBI badge asking for information about a neighbor. I declined to speak to him.

What is this country coming to? What we really need global discourse on is the upcoming environmental changes and how we are going to deal with the unravelling of nature's web and huge displacement of populations due to flooding and drought.

And we're discussing whether the police can violate the Bill of Rights routinely? What a diversion!! Get rid of the Republicans so that the real discussion can begin.


I used to work in a place where I had to get a high level security clearance. The FBI was the agency that talked with my family, friends, and neighbors--all in order to try and ensure I didn't have problems that would compromise my ability to keep necessary government secrets. I was happy when the people agreed to be interviewed, I could obtain my clearance, and I could start work that I felt to be important. So there's just the possibility you did your neighbor a disservice by refusing to talk about him/her.

For many years, when St. Paul came to my mind, there was a feeling of personal safety and comfort, and I really like to be there. Now, I see people who do not agree with the government positions, arrested because of what they may feel and think. Many seen abused physically, many who just happened to be in the area.

This does not make me feel that St. Paul is a safe place. Knowing that there were "moles" put into protest organizations by the previously respected "security" people, which "moles" in the past, have been known to be the provocateurs of violence during the protests and there is current evidence of the same, gives a sense of danger and discomfort. Also knowing that St. Paul knew that these things would happen, and insisted that the committee who runs the RNC insure St. Paul for the "first" $50 million of damages to protesters. Well I am afraid I hope it costs you Millions in bad publlicity for the stupidity and causing me to not feel good when I think if You. Those thoughts will not go away unless the people and organizations in St. Paul show that they do not approve of such actions. I have not seen ANY evidennce of that disapproval. When I think of St. Paul now, not only does my heart and mind hurt, but I hear threatening sounds, and bad odors like rot. And "Numerous Listeners..." above really is a nothing "answer." Not satisfactory.

When the disregard and violence against citizens who dissent is so transparent and random, and the language of charges against them are so laughably, bogus, how would one know how to act in a particular local?

These things do not happen in a vacuum. The local population appears to approve. That may not be true, but no disapproval is evident. That means that when my mind goes to St. Paul, it goes into caution about where to be, what to say, and know before hand what may be safe. It means a sad uncomfortable feeling in my mind and heart. It means that Fitzgerald Theatre, now has clouds and fog around it. I hope that feeling can go away, but it may be a while.

I am so disappointed. As a person who believes what Jesus taught, and having met Amy Goodman in person, I can really identify with her and other journalists who have been used and abused by this system. I saw your city attorney let me have the impression that there will be no cost to the officers who perpetuated this abuse. That is shameful. Absolutly no accountability. As a man of consicience, I have to tell St. Paul, in my mind, you are accountable, and it will bite you in the back side because of the nature of your disregard for your visitors' humanity.

You had fear of violence? Now, so do I, in St. Paul.

Dr. Robert Simmons
Lebanon, Ohio

Re Grace N and Mark Steele's comments: If Grace's neighbor had informed her that he was undergoing a security check and she might be asked questions by a government agent, then she could have made an informed choice to assist her neighbor. Otherwise, I'm with Grace... I wouldn't have spoken with the agent either!

RNC was terrible. Sad to see so many young Minnesota kid going to jail on felony charges. But I guess when you drop 30lbs of crap off freeway bridges and pitch 5 gallons of urine on people thats understandable. Thank you St. Paul Police and associates for keeping us safe from this walking trash pile.

I agree that the police were especially hard handed in this situation. many of the arrests and incidents that occurred should not have happened. It was a sad state of affairs.

However, what if a riot or something similar had taken place? At these events, it's not the locals (St. Paul residents) you have to worry about. It is other groups from around the world who see these political events as a theater stage to push a larger agenda. We have seen time and time again where these events get out of control, windows broken, stores looted, cars burned, etc. What would the news coverage be had something like this happened? Poor store owners interviewed as to how they do not have insurance, lost their life savings, and blaming the local police for not protecting them more?

It is a delicate balance that in this case probably went to far on the side of caution. I feel for the local authorities who had to meet the needs of the federal guys. However, did anyone get physically hurt? No. Could it have been worse? Oh yeah, in both directions.

dear english major:
individual contains more than one d and i.
10th grade grad

Something has changed in the demeanor of the police, and it probably has to do with 9/11 and the shock-doctrine type reaction to it, and the proclivities of the current president and his henchpersons. Remember when cops were members of the community, normal people who had a job keeping people from doing things that would get them in trouble? My workplace was burgled the other night, after everyone was gone (it's a factory, and the thieves got a lot of copper wire.) The young, small-town cops came, looking testy and uninterested, and acting like they'd like to do some butt-kicking. They had their heads shaved, like so many of them do nowadays. They weren't interested in following the rules, or the law. They were intimidating, and it was not pleasant to be around them, and they liked that. That kind of behavior comes from the top - from our national examples. I like to think that there's a chance that the rule of law will soon be returned to our country, and boys like these will grow up and quit emulating pro wrestlers.

Or, maybe it's just me.

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