I have just received an e-mail from I-Witness founder, Eileen Clancy:
Police have arrived at our office in St. Paul. They say that they have
received reports of hostages barricaded in the building. We are behind a
locked door. Lawyers are outside dealing with them.
This is the second encounter I-Witness has had with police at the RNC. The first encounter occurred on August 30 when seven members were preemptively detained at the house where the group is staying.
St. Paul police were sent this afternoon to a call about someone being held against their will in a Selby Avenue building where a National Lawyers Guild attorney and an independent media organization has an office, but determined it was bogus.
Ted Dooley, who represents clients who are in St. Paul in connection with the Republican National Convention, has his law office in the 1500 block of Selby Avenue. So does I-Witness Video, a New York-based media group that is in town to cover the RNC.
"Some misguided citizen called a false kidnapping in and indicated one of our offices (in the building) as a place where someone was being held," Dooley said. "It's a vicious act of intimidation."
Dooley said he believes the call was directed against one or several of his clients, but he wouldn't discuss who his clients are.
He said at least eight St. Paul officers arrived about 1:50 p.m., and left after determining the call was unfounded. Dooley said he didn't think officers acted inappropriately.
Eileen Clancy, executive director of I-Witness Video, said officers came and looked into her office and then left when it became apparent no one was being held.
"It's hard to know what to make of this. It's blatant harassment," Clancy said, referring to what happened today and an incident Saturday.
From the official I-Witness blog:
The (August 30) incident began in the late morning when an FBI agent and a Wisconsin Deputy Sheriff showed up on the doorstep of the house in which members were staying (on Igelhart St.), interrupting a collective planning meeting. The officers left after a short conversation with members through a locked front door. Two hours later, around 30 police surrounded the house. Two people who left the house were detained in handcuffs; several others, who were inside, were told that if they left, they would be also be detained. Around the same time, three other I-Witness Video members who had left the house on bikes and two others who were riding in a car across town were also detained by police.
Two hours later, after the search warrant arrived, police at the Igelhart Street house stormed in, pointing an automatic handgun at the people inside. They handcuffed all the individuals inside, collected their personal information, and corralled them in the back garden. While police held the media activists and their friends there, members of the media, who had gathered in an adjoining backyard, interviewed I-Witness Video member Eileen Clancy from behind a fence. After completing their search, the police finally uncuffed everyone and departed. Within about two hours, the other I-Witness Video groups--who had been detained on bikes and in a car, all of whom also had their identifications verified and had undergone searches of various kinds--were also released.
I-Witness describes itself as a watchdog group that uses video to protect civil liberties. They probe police actions at First Amendment events. I-Witness Video has uncovered perjury and abuse by police officers and prosecutors, revealed illegal police surveillance and exposed official lies.
Journalists have experienced frequent conflicts with police at the RNC. On Monday, Amy Goodman and two Democracy Now! producers were detained after a violent run-in with police officers along with an AP photographer.
Three UK journalists were also arrested for alleged rioting.
Follow Allison Kilkenny on Twitter: www.twitter.com/allisonkilkenny