St. Paul settles suit with RNC protester

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2009 - 11:15 PM

In paying $5,000, the city said it did not admit to wrong, but the defense said the deal is still a victory for free speech.

A war protester will be paid $5,000 by the city of St. Paul to settle a federal suit he filed after he was detained by police last June for handing out leaflets outside the Xcel Energy Center.

Mick Kelly, 51, of Minneapolis was distributing fliers promoting a march on the Republican National Convention that took place three months later. He was stopped by St. Paul police, put in a squad car, driven 10 blocks away from the Xcel center, issued a citation and released. He then walked back and continued to hand out leaflets.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota protested the arrest, and Kelly told his story to the news media. Police investigated and announced the next day that he had been improperly detained and that the citation would be dropped and Kelly would be issued an apology. Mayor Chris Coleman called the arrest a "mistake." Kelly nonetheless filed suit in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

Ted Dooley, one of Kelly's attorneys, said the city of St. Paul does not admit wrongdoing in the settlement. But he said he still considered it a victory.

Noting that police had confiscated 100 fliers, he said, "They just paid $5,000 -- that's $50 a sheet. You cannot prevent or prohibit people from passing out political information on the streets of St. Paul, not today, not tomorrow, not ever."

Said Kelly, "The fact they are paying me $5,000 speaks volumes." He said he will give the money "to movements for peace, justice and equality."

However, St. Paul City Attorney John Choi said, "I'm not sure what the plaintiff doesn't understand about the language in the agreement that states, 'The city admits no wrongdoing,' but $5,000 in the world of civil litigation is nominal and says everything about the weakness of the plaintiff's case against the city. Any lawyer should know that. The settlement is a great outcome for the city."

Randy Furst • 612-673-7382

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