Tim Pawlenty, Friend or Foe?…Foe!
By Nancy Mancias
Former governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty officially throws his hat in the ring on May 23rd as the 2012 Republican presidential hopeful. Pawlenty is described as laid back and low key, but beware this Minnesota native is ready to squash first amendment rights.
Months leading up to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN, peace advocates and artists were coordinating efforts to host a nationwide community interested in demonstrating against the convention. But local organizers had undergone surveillance and experienced preemptive raids.
Activists with the women’s peace group CODEPINK had reserved a studio in a famous Minneapolis puppet theater for the summer of 2008 to build cardboard doves, sew costumes, paint and hold community meetings, but at one such meeting a couple of plain clothes officers randomly showed up, wanting to set up a time to speak, and leaving a business card for follow up. On more than one occasion the women had been followed by local police and randomly pulled over. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was immediately contacted.
Just days before the convention, a few homes were preemptively raided, eight young activists were arrested and taken into custody, each charged with “conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism” under the Minnesota version of the USA PATRIOT ACT. Sources were paid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to gather information on the activists. After a couple of years of drawn out legal work, the activists were either assigned community service, charged with a fine, and/or served a short jail sentence.
While Pawlenty was inside the Republican National Convention energizing the delegates for “Country First” Sen. John McCain to speak, a different scene was taking place outside the convention halls. Activists who had traveled from all across the country were met with baton waving riot police who restricted their movement through the city streets, bludgeoned and wrongfully arrested them. This holds true for members of the press.
Producers and host Amy Goodman with the independent news program Democracy Now! were forcibly arrested by police, since then Amy Goodman has now become a plaintiff suing local Minnesota law enforcement and Secret Service. Overall there were 46 journalists arrested and detained during the convention.
Pawlenty applauds and defends the aggressive handling of protesters and press by law enforcement. During his time in office, FBI house raids continued to happen against human right advocates and activists.
Former governor Pawlenty will swing through the country for the 2012 election, but don’t let his laid back demeanor fool you because he is no friend of peaceful dissent.
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