RNC 8: Report from 5th day of hearings

On Friday, we heard the testimony of Chris Dugger, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Dugger started attending Welcoming Committee meetings in November of ’07. He was told to “listen and figure out what they were up to.” He didn’t start getting paid until spring of ’08, and was deputized at the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department after the RNC.

He was not informed much about the WC or anarchist philosophy before being sent in, but was told to read up on the Welcoming Committee website. He said that he developed a better understanding of anarchism in his time with the group, but not a full one. His understanding of anarchism is that it’s “kinda broad” and he “can’t cover everything,” but that it is “anti-government, anti-capitalist, and anti-law enforcement.” Later, when asked whether he considered anarchism to be a political philosophy, he said that he thinks it is more than that to the people he met, that it is a way of living by their beliefs. He said that anarchists can’t be recognized by how they look, and don’t have a uniform. He agreed that they had shared food and lodging and support for each other and for him.

Dugger discussed trips that he took with Welcoming Committee members to Madison, WI, for a conference, and to Waldo, WI, for the 2008 CrimethInc. Convergence. In Madison, he attended a workshop on direct action tactics led by Lisa Fithian. He does not recall if any of those tactics included violence or destruction of property. He described the CrimethInc. Convergence as a kind of a gathering where different workshops were taught, not just about protesting. He did not recall there being any workshops about harming people or property.

One thing he mentioned was that the members of the Welcoming Committee shared a common understanding of the definition of violence that differed from his. He said that they generally did not consider destruction of property to be violence. He said he knew they all agreed on this because when it would be mentioned at meetings, people would nod or “throw up sparkles.” He demonstrated this by doing some awkward sideways twinkle fingers [sparkles, also known as twinkle fingers or metal fingers, are a hand gesture commonly used by many anarchists to indicate agreement or approval].

When asked about statements and actions of the defendants that endorsed violence or destruction of property, Dugger brought up a time that Rob had said that the perimeter set up around the Xcel center would be “a stone’s throw away” from the convention. He testified that he had never heard that phrase used before, and did not know whether Rob was quoting from the St. Paul chief of police [he was]. He also brought up a time shortly before the RNC when Garrett said something about there being “fire in the streets” during the convention. He testified that this was a casual comment, and he didn’t recall the context or whether it was meant to be literal or figurative. He also mentioned trainings on “de-arresting” people, specifically some that were done during an Unconventional Action consulta in Minneapolis, in which people played tug-of-war and Red Rover. Dugger was not familiar with the game Red Rover. He felt that the trainings included tactics which, while not intended to harm an officer, would have the effect of assaulting them while trying to free the person being arrested. He also brought up a meeting at Denny’s involving Garrett, Monica, Eryn, and Andrew Darst, the FBI informant who infiltrated the Welcoming Committee. He said that at that meeting they discussed methods of disabling police cars, but did not make any plans or agreements to do so.

Dugger discussed a time in which members of the Welcoming Committee had confronted him over suspicions that they had. He testified that WC members had said he gave off a “bad vibe,” that they felt uncomfortable around him, and were concerned he might be a cop. Dugger had tried to fit in with the group by repeatedly stating that he hated cops and wanted to “kick cops’ asses.” Monica had said that she felt uncomfortable around him because he was a big guy who hated cops and possibly women and had past problems with domestic assault. He testified that the part about domestic assault was part false, part true. He had been accused of it once, but not convicted. He testified that he assured them he was not a cop, and he cried during the discussion, but that it was a part of the act of convincing them.

After Dugger left the stands, counsel discussed the subpoena of Darst. The defense had attempted to subpoena Darst at the address listed on his drivers license, which turned out to be his mother’s house. They gave the subpoena to his mother. They had also gotten an address from his probation officer, but the people at that household said he did not live there. Since Darst had been subpoenaed but had not appeared in court, the defense asked the judge to issue a warrant to have the sheriff bring him in. The prosecutor argued that he had not been properly subpoenaed because in Minnesota a subpoena has to be delivered to a person’s usual place of abode. They also argued that the defense should not be allowed to call Darst to the stand at all. The defense gave an offer of proof as to why he should be called for the Florence hearing, stating that Darst’s truthful testimony will contradict many of the “facts” relied upon in the complaint against the RNC 8.

During these discussions, Prosecutor Derek Fitch said that much of the defense’s case was centered around clients not being privy to conversations or events, but that it didn’t matter because it was a conspiracy and therefore they were all responsible for everything that occurred with or without them. Nestor countered that the prosecutor has to actually prove that a conspiracy exists before co-conspirator statements are admissible. Fitch also said that of course there’s no direct evidence of conspiracy in this case because the defendants wouldn’t say anything to anyone, adding “Do you think these people are idiots?”. He said that the evidence lay in the fact that riots occurred during the RNC.

The judge is going to consider the subpoena of Darst and issue a ruling later. They scheduled the next hearing for June 9th, with July 9th as a backup date.

In solidarity,

The RNC 8 Defense Committee

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