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From Freedom of the Press to "Free the Press" in St. Paul

September 3, 2008

St. Paul, MN - Freedom of the press means never having to ask the authorities to "free the press." That's what National Lawyers Guild members say about the treatment of journalists and others by police as protests and arrests continue outside the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

An Associated Press photographer and Amy Goodman, host of the syndicated radio program Democracy Now!, were among those swept up in arrests during chaotic clashes between protesters and law enforcement. Attorney Gena Berglund, with the Minnesota National Lawyers Guild chapter says targeting journalists doesn't look good for police.

"What is so harmful about somebody using a camera to document police activity? If the police are behaving appropriately, they shouldn't be afraid of anything."

Berglund says police have been overstepping their authority this week in St. Paul, beginning with weekend pre-emptive raids on homes housing visiting demonstrators and journalists.

"Why is the Constitution being treated like a doormat, instead of the basis on which we build our system of governing and our system of democracy, here in the United States?"

Thousands demonstrated in St. Paul Monday and Tuesday, and nearly 300 people, including journalists, were arrested after a group of protesters splintered off and began smashing windows. Eyewitnesses say many of those arrested were merely caught up in the chaos. St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington says police "won the day" against those who intended to disrupt the convention through violence and vandalism.

Eric Mack/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - ID