RNC arrestees plan class-action suit

A group of people arrested during last year's Republican National Convention plan to file a class-action lawsuit against the city of St. Paul today, on the first anniversary of their arrest.

On the first day of the RNC, police officers in riot gear fired tear gas and rounded up protestors and others into a riverfront park off Shepard Road near downtown St. Paul.

About 200 people were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly.

The lawsuit alleges that the city violated the constitutional rights of the arrested individuals. The twenty-six plaintiffs charge that law enforcement officials used excessive force and had no probable cause for the mass arrests.

Bob Kolstad, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said he believes the city carried out the arrests as a tool to control crowds.

"The people we are targeting are the people who made the decisions and told the people on the ground to make those arrests, not the individual officers who ended up doing the dirty work," Kolstad said.

At the time, law enforcement officials defended the arrests, and claimed that some individuals were hurling rocks and fireworks at the officers.

The arrests were made after a police officer on a bullhorn told the crowd, "Ladies and gentlemen, you are now under arrest. Please kneel down and place your hands on top of your head."

An MPR reporter on the scene did not see any protestors throwing items at the police.

If the lawsuit is successful, the city of St. Paul could avoid paying any legal fees or losses, due to a liability policy the city negotiated in 2007. The police-liability policy would cover up to $10 million in damages.

Over eight hundred people were arrested during the week of the RNC. Most cases were declined or dismissed, but a handful of felony cases remain unresolved.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.