Let me just preface this by saying that the incidents that happened in St. Louis this weekend are indefensible acts of repression on the part of the St. Louis cops and city government. These sorts of gestapo tactics will continue to take place until the cops and officials involved are made accountable for their actions and violations of civil rights. Unfortunately, these tactics are ingrained in the culture of policing, and probably more often used against poor, less well-organized people and communities who suffer everyday police harrassment in order to keep the public “safe” from petty crimes and in service of “the war on drugs.”
I am constantly amazed, though unfortunately not surprised, at how cops, the pro-war “partiot act” faction, the Bush administration and their supporters are so eager to run ripshod all over the rights and freedoms which they claim they are fighting to protect and support. Although you can almost never make sense of their illogic — it’s inherently nonsensical — I’m still flabbergasted at how whole legions of people are so adamantly willing to engage in such blatantly paradoxical behavior and inflict it on others. It’s as American as internment camps and smallpox blankets!
And now, the story: On Friday St. Louis, MO police conducted raids on the Community Arts and Media Project, which houses St. Louis IMC amongst other organizations, and Bolozone, a community housing project. These raids were intended to suppress the Biodevastation 7 conference and protests happening in opposition to the World Agricultural Forum.
Fifteen activists were arrested in the Bolozone raid and three were arrested outside the CAMP building. Some of the arrested include members of a bicycle circus who were arrested under the bizzare charge of bicycling without a license. The cops later tried to pass off the incident as a “misunderstanding,” since there had been an antiquated and never-enforced bicycle license law on the books up until a couple of years ago.
According to St. Louis IMC,
St. Louis Police Chief Mokwa tried to justify the police repression of peaceful dissent, by claiming that those arrested were planning violent attacks on the World Agricultural Forum. Mokwa based this accusation mainly on “weapons” found in the raid on the Bolozone housing collective, that is undergoing rehab work: a box of roofing nails, a bag of stones to build a retainer wall and three circus whips. …
Leading up to the raids, police and corporate media had nourished fear and hysteria by claiming that “50,000 Seattle anarchists” were about to descend on St. Louis, whereas Biodev7 organizers estimated that about 300-2,000 would travel to the conference. The Police have been preparing the downtown area for protests. St. Louis police officers were issued new 220V tazer guns specifically for the World Agricultural Forum protests and wrote about looking forward to using them on protesters in an online discussion forum.
Just hours after the raids I covered this story on the mediageek radioshow, now available for listening on-line. Sascha Meinrath, from the Urbana IMC, had been in touch with St. Louis Indymedia activists on Friday, and had also been to the two spaces that were raided, and was able to give context to this disturbing news.
By Saturday everyone who was arrested had been released or bailed out. But the police made a second visit to CAMP Saturday night, apparently to crack down on a party that had already been cancelled.
The members of CAMP released a statement to their neighbors about the police activity around their building this past weekend:
What happened on Friday — as many of you witnessed, police raided the bulding at the south-east corner of Cherokee and Minnesota streets on Friday, May 16th. They first gained access to the building by threatening to condemn the building if we did not consent to a buliding inspection. The city inspector had to be accompanied by a policeman “for his safety”. Over ten policeman entered the building without a search warrant. No citations were issued or major problems found. …
What will happen now- Well, that’s a real good question! Hopefully the police will return our possessions on Wednesday like they promised, because its hard to do rehab on a building when the police have seized all of your nails and respirators. We hope that we are allowed to protest the World Agricultural Forum peacefully, and we hope the police don’t use tear gas and tazers like they have promised us. We hope that the city inspectors act reasonably with us and are understanding that we have a shoestring budget and that the rehab is being done mostly by volunteers. We hope that we can integrate ourselves into this neighborhoood for the mutual benefit of all of us. We want to see people have an opportunity to use the pottery studio, computer lab and bike workshop that we have been working to create. We don’t want our lives to be confined by the police, exploitive jobs and political repression- we want our lives to be defined by our creations, our dreams our artwork and our strength as a community to love and care for everyone around us.