The following describes my experience as a protester being mistreated by the St. Paul police during the RNC. My name is Jodin Morey, and I'm a Cofounder of Impeach for Peace.The police abuse I'll describe includes the use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and batons.
I joined the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign in a march from Mears Park On September 2, 2008 at 4 p.m. Having heard that some peaceful protesters had been arrested the day before, I was concerned about joining this march. I had been the one to reserve a one-hour slot on the protest stage at 1 p.m. on the following day. National speakers had come from around the country (Ray McGovern, John Nichols and Debra Sweet from the World Can't Wait). The St. Paul Park and Rec. had made it clear the stage would only be available if I were physically present with my driver’s license at the time reserved. I therefore had decided to join the march with the idea of being extremely cautious to avoid any interactions with the police that could result in my arrest.
I was dressed as a Guantanamo Bay detainee to protest the denial of habeas corpus as a human right. There were speeches that went on for a very long time. The organizers spoke about human rights and the need for housing, education, and health care. There was a scuffle between the police and some of the protesters during these speeches, but I was not in a location to see what occurred.
I dove to the ground on the west sidewalk of St. Peter somewhere between West 7th and Exchange Street. Several police barked an order not to move, while pointing their weapons at me. I let go of my cell phone and Guantanamo hood so that they would not mistake them for weapons and placed my hands beside me on the sidewalk. I said, “I am not moving, I am not moving.” I lay there for a little while and then I heard someone walk up beside me. I then heard what sounded like a camera shutter going off a few times before that person wandered off again. I believe that it must have been a police officer taking my picture, as the reporters were not being treated any differently from the protesters. If there had been a reporter around me when the bullets were fired, I believe they would not have been able to freely move in the area with out the police addressing them.
A few moments later, an officer in riot gear approached me and told me I could get up. As I got to my feet, the officer asked me if I was ok. I replied, “I don’t know.” I obviously had not checked my back yet, as I was not able to move while on the ground. I also was not sure if shock had caused me to underestimate the possible damage to my back. But the officer must not have been terribly concerned about my well-being because he told me to continue north on St. Peter without checking out my back. I believe they must of known they shot me. The reason I say this is because they ordered me to the ground, took a picture of me, and asked me how I was. After asking me how I was, however, he showed in his response a clear lack of concern for my well-being. The only other motive I can ascribe to his having asked me how I was is a possible desire to relieve themselves of liability for having injured me with the hope that I would say I was okay When I did not say I was okay, he did not choose to continue the conversation, perhaps because he did not want to open up the conversation to my having been hurt.
I asked if I could pick up my cell phone, not realizing he had already picked it up. He held it out and said he didn’t know if it is was mine. I also asked if I could “get my hat” (Guantanamo hood) but he said he also did not know if that was mine so I did not pursue it further. The police were extremely intimidating with their guns pointed at me and barking out orders. I felt that if I engaged in any type of conversation with them, I was risking being maced or having them hit me with their batons. So, instead of getting badge numbers or inquiring into how I’d later obtain my stuff, I abandoned my things and walked north with my hands above my head. Reporters were videotaping my walk and had possibly been recording my interactions with the police.
I arrived at an intersection where the protesters and reporters were gathered at the location (around 10th Street) that seemed consistent with where the policed wanted us to be. Once there I checked my back by just touching it and seeing if it hurt. From what I could tell, I didn’t seem seriously hurt. I asked a reporter to borrow her cell phone so I could let my friend know that I was safe. I assumed that they were pretty worried about me after my previous phone call.
After I got of the phone, within a minute or two, once again I heard a ruckus and everyone started to run away from the spot closest to the police towards the north again. The police apparently again were trying to move us by the use of tear gas or pepper spray without first giving us an audible warning. I did not stick around in an attempt to find out exactly what was happening. Instead I tried to get out of the area once again by heading north. When I reached 11th Street, I turned the corner to the east and removed my Guantanamo Bay jumpsuit. I did this in case the police had any residual negative feelings about me and might associate it with the suit. Then, as I continued eastward, I saw another line of officers and therefore asked someone near me if it was safe to head in that direction. The person indicated that the police were rounding people up and that it as not safe to go that way. I backtracked to St. Peter and attempted to cross the bridge over 94 to the north. Once I was clearly away from all the activity, I checked my back more thoroughly and saw that I had a red spot where the bullet had hit. It was obvious at this point that the bullet had been some non-lethal version (rubber bullet). Luckily, I was then able to get to my car and drive home.
I’m still unsure how citizens were supposed to express their free speech during the RNC if not in the free speech zone set up by the city. I’m also not sure how someone in the U.S. is supposed to avoid police brutality if the police aren’t expected to give individuals who they are about to abuse, fair warning of how to avoid that abuse by following whatever directives they feel are necessary. I am in talks with the ACLU, however. They have preliminarily agreed to work with me on a lawsuit.