For good reason, many are ridiculing the NY Times presidential endorsement of Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar who presents herself as a liberal. In 2000, ninety animal rights activists, including myself, were arrested for peacefully protesting experimentation on live animals outside a conference co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota which engages in considerable & lucrative experimentation on living animals. She was the county attorney in charge of prosecuting us. It turned out that nearly half of those 90 arrested were undercover agents used later to testify against us in court.
After being assaulted with tear gas, about 100 protesters wearing sandals & tee-shirts were surrounded by over 800 police in riot gear with truncheons. We sat down on the ground to put ourselves in a defensive position because it was clear they were going to charge us. I approached the police in charge to say we did not want a confrontation & would leave in whatever manner they required. When more than one police officer told me to sit down & shut up, I stood up & addressed the hundreds of spectators outside the police cordon telling them our right to protest was being denied, we wanted to avoid a confrontation, were willing to leave anyway the police determined. After a lengthy stand-off & faced with hundreds of witnesses, the police moved in to arrest us instead of beating us up.
Under the direction of Klobuchar, those arrested were told that to be released we had to sign an agreement not to go in certain parts of Minneapolis, including on the campus of the U of M. Most agreed to sign the form out of fear. I refused, saying we did not have martial law in Minneapolis & no one could tell us where we could or could not go. Those who refused to sign were charged by Klobuchar’s office & put on trial.
What’s important about this confrontation is that it was at a time when US police departments resumed using riot police & SWAT-style policing against peaceful protests. After the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, this confrontation was one of the first exercises to normalize police aggression against peaceful protesters. Such aggression was routine against the Civil Rights Movement but ended during the antiwar protests of the 1970s. The use of excessive force was not so much to protect the U of M profiteering off the suffering of animals but more to test the political environment for using police force against protests.
Several of us were put on trial in Minneapolis. My trial lasted a week with several police & undercover agents testifying against me. Videos showed my conduct to be entirely peaceful, including my speech explaining that we wanted to leave without confrontation. The judge dismissed all charges saying the county attorney (Klobuchar) should never have brought this to trial. Despite the court ruling, ‘retired’ FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who now leads the US antiwar cult, placed an alert on my criminal record for using a weapon of mass destruction which prevents me from getting jobs that require a security clearance.