Outraged that authorities embarked on a review of thousands of hours of surveillance video footage in hopes of finding victims of violence during the Republican National Convention, protesters and their advocates said Thursday it was the police, not the public, who committed much of the violence.
And they demanded release of the footage to strengthen their own investigative work.
The advocates said at a State Capitol news conference, that police had yet to provide any of the 6,000 hours of surveillance footage, despite requests filed under the state data practices act.
City Attorney John Choi said protesters were not being ignored, but that the footage must be reviewed before releasing it, "and that is a monumental task, requiring lots of staff time."
Police, meanwhile, have begun to assemble a public archive of RNC-related materials, accessible by computer at its Western District office, said Cmdr. Doug Holtz, a police spokesman. For now, however, the material consists only of written documents. Holtz did not know when video might be available.
Choi said video evidence involving specific cases would be provided to defense attorneys, "as required by the rules of criminal procedure."
The news conference was organized by CRASS (Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure), and came in response to the Police Department's recent formation of an RNC investigative unit. Chief John Harrington and Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said last week that investigators planned to study surveillance footage to identify victims of violence during the convention Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center.
CRASS contends it was police who brutalized citizens. Among the speakers Thursday was Mick Kelly, 51, of Minneapolis, who has alleged in a federal suit that he was hit at close range by a projectile fired by police.
Jason Johnson, 33, of El Cerrito, Calif., said police tased him without cause multiple times on the convention's second day, making him feel as if his body "had been set on fire." Johnson was cited for obstructing legal process -- a charge he described Thursday as "a feeble attempt to justify police brutality."
Choi said he will meet with lawyers affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild, which is working on behalf of some RNC defendants. He was hopeful the talks could help narrow the evidence to be released. To date, he said, his office has received more than 380 data requests.
Prosecutors are focusing on gross-misdemeanor cases as their first priority, Choi said. Yet to be decided, he said, is how prosecutors will proceed on the nearly 400 arrests recorded just north of downtown on the convention's final day.
Anthony Lonetree • 651-298-1545