Thom Hartmann talks with Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul about their arrests and those of other members of the press, the protests, and the "preemptive raids" on peaceful non-protesting groups.
Thom Hartmann talks with Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar at the Republican National Convention, 02 September 2008
[Thom Hartmann]: And in just a moment, in just a moment, Amy Goodman will be with us. Ah, here she is, in fact. Welcome. Amy, welcome to the program.
[Amy Goodman]: It's great to be with you Thom.
[Thom Hartmann]: It's great to see you again. You, first of all, let me first for your benefit, I don't know if this will be any value, yesterday afternoon at 2 o'clock, 2:30, Janet Robert who owns the local progressive station here in town and I are having, sitting having lunch down here in town. And three cops chase this kid down the street, grab him in front of us, throw him to the ground and he's down, he's subdued, and one of them starts banging his head into the cement. And, you know, Janet and I are watching this, I mean, it's just like horrific. And it's, this is, you know, essentially what has happened to you as well. I mean, there's you and your two, and two of your producers who are here with you, well, let me just, you just tell us,
tell your story here.
[Amy Goodman]: Well, we'll give you the chronology as it went down.
[Thom Hartmann]: First of all, let me just, for our listeners who may not know, which I doubt there's even more than 3 of them, but Amy Goodman the host of Democracy Now!, the web site democracynow.org.
[Amy Goodman]: Right, and it's on Public Radio and television around the United States.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right, right, hundreds of stations.
[Amy Goodman]: And our whole team here is covering the convention and what's happening in the street, the major protests that are happening there. So yesterday was a big day, Labor Day, there was a major anti war protest outside, the first day of the convention inside, there were about 10,000 protesters outside and we were all inside and outside the convention. And when we began it was around 3:30 or so and our producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar were over at 7th and Jackson here in St. Paul. I was on the convention floor interviewing delegates from Alaska and moving over to the Minnesota section
and, well, Nicole Salazar, why don't you start by describing what happened to you right there at 7th and Jackson?
[Nicole Salazar]: Right. Hi. Well, basically we had come down on to the street because we'd seen some riot cops moving down the street and we wanted, you know, just to follow them and see what was happening.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right.
[Nicole Salazar]: We ended up just a few blocks away from the offices that we had just left, basically being what appeared to be getting corralled by officers. There were officers on horseback, other officers on bicycles, other riot cops. We had moved into the center section. We were watching them, you know, tear gas protesters. We were moving away.
[Amy Goodman]: Nicole was videotaping all of this.
[Thom Hartmann]: That's great.
[Nicole Salazar]: Right, I had my camera, I'd run out of the office with my camera,
and, you know, I was moving back but filming, moving back, moving back, they were coming towards me, they basically pushed us back into this parking lot at which point, you know, they were getting, they were getting closer. I videotaped them telling one person who identified himself as a journalist, "I don't care, move, move". We were moving. One protester was running away, ran by me right in front of the camera and you can see it on the tape an officer takes his wooden rod and knocks her to the ground. She falls out of frame.
I keep trying to move back, they say 'move, I say, 'where do you want me to go?' I'm trying to get back and I'm holding up my press pass in my hand, my left hand. My camera's in my right hand and at that point they slam be back into the cars and I am surrounded by officers. They push me to the ground, they say get your face to the ground and I'm trying to tell them that I'm press and hold up my pass and hold on to my
camera so they won't take it from me. But at that point they take my arms, put them behind my back and an officer puts his foot on my back. I see officers all around me and someone else is holding my face to the ground while I'm trying to tell them that I'm press.
[Thom Hartmann]: You
paused as you said they told you to put your face to the ground. Were they using obscenity? I realize this is a very, very small point but it's really a point to the whole tone of the thing.
[Nicole Salazar]: Oh, no. I don't remember them using obscenities. I just remember them repeating it.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah.
[Nicole Salazar]: And no matter how much I would insist that I'm press, they wouldn't respond to what I was saying, they just seemed to have, you know, one thing on their mind, which was getting everybody there to the ground and I could see around me other people.
[Thom Hartmann]: I'm curious about...
[Amy Goodman]: One officer had his boot on her back.
And another was pulling her leg, as they were telling her to keep her head down. Which would have meant that her head would have been dragged on the gravel. Already it was bloody.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right. Right. I'm curious about the response of the people around. We were sitting at the restaurant, an outdoor cafe, and right across the street is another outdoor cafe that was filled with folks from the convention, mostly Republicans. And when this kid was having his head smashed to the ground, and there was a woman videotaping this at the time, they all stood up and applauded the cops beating this kid up. I'm wondering, I'm guessing you didn't have the same kind of audience and wonder what happened.
[Nicole Salazar]: At that moment I didn't really have the presence of mind to look at anything other than what was happening right in front of me. I was very overwhelmed and I was scared and I was shouting and I was just thinking I need to hold on to my camera.
[Amy Goodman]: And the videotape at democracynow.org is pretty scary as the police moved in on her and Sharif was right there and then they moved in on him.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right, this was Nicole Salazar we heard from just a moment ago. we're talking of course with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and here's Sharif
Sharif, I'm sorry, your last name?
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: Abdel Kouddous.
[Thom Hartmann]: Abdel Kouddous. thank you.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: Yeah.
Well, I was with Nicole the entire time. We left our office and as she described, she was filming most of what was happening in the streets, this police crackdown. They were firing at point blank range rubber bullets, pepper spray as well as smoke bombs and concussion grenades on these protesters. Everyone ended up in that parking lot and I was more on the outskirts, and Nicole very bravely was inside filming what was happening. I saw her get manhandled and tackled down by three very large police officers upon which I ran inside, held up my mic above my head and I held out my press pass with my other hand. I kept saying, 'I'm with the press, she's my colleague, you have to release her', upon which I was very violently tackled into the wall then thrown to the ground, kicked in the chest twice and then very roughly handcuffed behind my back. I kept yelling the entire time, 'I'm with the media, I have credentials around my neck, I have a press pass, I have an RNC pass'. That didn't seem to matter at all. They were just focussed on arresting me.
I looked over and I saw Nicole about 20 feet away or so on her stomach with her hands behind her back. I called to her and she looked over. Her face was bloodied from her nose down, all over her chest. She said she was OK, but it was quite a frightening sight.
[Amy Goodman]: At that point I got a call from another producer who had witnessed this, from Mike Burke. I was on the floor of the convention, and they said, 'Hurry, Sharif and Nicole have been arrested'. I ran from the convention center down to 7th and Jackson. There was a row of riot police. I went right up to the riot police and I said, 'can I speak to your commanding officer? My producers are in there, they need to be released' and they grabbed me immediately, pulled me through the line, pulled my arms forcefully behind my back and they immediately handcuffed me with my arms behind my back with these very rigid plastic handcuffs that we are all still suffering from, trying to feel our fingers right now; we were held like that for a couple of hours.
[Thom Hartmann]: I saw the video of it, it looked pretty grim.
[Amy Goodman]: I,
They pulled me to the back, they forced me to the ground. I saw Sharif, I demanded to stand with Sharif, I saw that his arm was bloodied
and that he had dirt over his T shirt. I demanded to see Nicole, I couldn't find her, they said she was probably in the wagon already, they, I said, 'this is outrageous. You know, we're all fully credentialed and we're wearing our credentials'. I had just come from the convention floor so I also had my security pass to be on the convention floor and I said, 'Look at this, here's my convention pass'. Secret service comes over, they rip away the convention pass. So that was the end of that.
And they just wouldn't respond. We said, 'where's the receipt?' If the police take anything from you they have to give a receipt that shows they have taken it from you.
They would not do that. That was the end of that.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: They took mine as well.
[Thom Hartmann]: Did they give them back to you?
[Amy Goodman]: No.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: No, and I asked.
[Thom Hartmann]: So you had to get a whole new set of credentials.
[Amy Goodman]: We, well, we didn't have yesterday's credentials, right, and then moved into the, we were moved into the police wagon. Nicole and I, they separate men and women, brought to the jail, because we were being given, we were being charged differently, they moved me into, well where they're keeping the protesters who were charged with misdemeanor is in a police garage with pens set up inside. That's where they put me. I was continuing to say this is absolutely unacceptable, I am a journalist, you know it clearly, you've seen my credentials given by the national security event.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right
[Amy Goodman]: You know, this is a national security event, the RNC. These are given by the RNC, the St. Paul police officer behind the correction officers just kept shouting, "You shut up, you shut up, you shut up". I was totally taken aback. The corrections officers then processed me, I was there for a couple of hours. I was charged with misdemeanor. I was told that my colleagues were charged with a felony, which is why they were going to jail. They were held longer than I was and ultimately released, and they face felony riot charges.
[Thom Hartmann]: So
Sharif and Nicole, you're facing felony riot charges?
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: That is correct, yes.
[Thom Hartmann]: And the charges you're facing, Amy Goodman?
[Amy Goodman]: I have been charged. They are, they were arrested on those charges, we will see if they will be fully charged. I went to the news conference this morning, by the way, interestingly by the St. Paul police chief Harrington and I asked him about this, confronted him: how are they dealing with journalists? I mean, I saw it in a little way right there.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right.
[Amy Goodman]: The police would only allow in a few journalists to this press briefing to the press, they said because it was very crowded. We went inside, it was empty. But there were dozens of police officers along the side. In fact, one of the officers who had processed me was right there.
[Thom Hartmann]: Oh my.
[Amy Goodman]: And I demanded to know, what is their policy with the press? That they are arresting them, are they going to drop the charges against us? He said there will be an investigation. I asked what happened with the AP photographer, another reporter who was taken that night, we don't know what happened to him.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: He was with me in my cell.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah.
[Amy Goodman]: But he didn't go when Sharif did.
[Thom Hartmann]: But this is, of course, we are talking with Amy Goodman,
Democracy Now! democracynow.org, and her producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. This is also micro to the macro. There's a larger issue of the giant crackdown that's going on here that you all have been reporting on. Can you stick around through the break, we're going to take a break right now, and we'll come back and we'll talk about what else you've actually seen in addition to the experience that you've just had that you so eloquently described. Than you very much. Amy Goodman with us, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, democracynow of course the web site
for the Democracy Now! program.
[Thom Hartmann]: Thom Hartmann here with you on Air America Radio broadcasting live coast to coast with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, one of my favorite people, one of my favorite programs, democracynow.org, you can check it out.
[Amy Goodman]: Back at you, Thom.
Thank you, Amy, thank you. And we're also here with Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, two of his producers, and the three of you all got busted yesterday, we just heard that whole story. What else did you see going on? What's going on out there? I haven't frankly had an opportunity to get out in the middle of it. I had to go speak at the SEIU gig yesterday afternoon and, which is on the island the other side, and I missed it. What's going on?
[Amy Goodman]: We're talking pepper spray, we're talking rubber bullets.
[Thom Hartmann]: Rubber bullets, by the way, are not
[cross talk] serious injury
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: No, and they are being fired at point blank range from very close by on these protesters. Concussion grenades, smoke bombs, and I'd just like to add on a side note, I mean, while it's very important this issue of the media being harassed, we got, the treatment was on the very light side compared to what happened to these protesters. These are scrawny kids who are being tackled down very violently, much worse than we were, getting tear gas directly into their faces. And I think most people are missing that as well, is that this is an excessive, excess
ive use of force.
[Amy Goodman]: You know, when we were in the parking lot and we were all dealing with our own being handcuffed and pushed to the ground or thrown to the ground or booted to the ground as Nicole was, I think it is very important to point out, when we could pick up our heads, right around, when I looked over at Sharif, across the way, Sharif was bloodied at the arm, but right behind him was a man whose head was wrapped in gauze. And me, it was people who were in various, you know, where they're laying there, some were groaning, it, this is America, this is St. Paul, this is, by the way, the Democratic Convention, the Republican Convention, whatever the party is, it's supposed to be a celebration of democracy. And
Nicole, you were filming this.
[Nicole Salazar]: Absolutely, and when I, after they had taken the battery out of my camera and the camera was off, I was continuing to look around me as much as I could and I saw one girl who had her shirt ripped off, she was naked from the waste up, another kid who had blood all over his face, another kid who seemed to be, you know, they had mucus coming out of their noses. Kids were pretty badly beaten up and
lying on the floor not knowing what to do.
[Thom Hartmann]: And this, I mean, this is America, this is not supposed to happen here. And by the way, the local press, I have been listening, driving in and out, you hear the local press, and they're reporting it as, 'well, it's no big deal, there's not much going on, there's a few anarchists, you know, they broke a window at Macy's yesterday'.
[Amy Goodman]: This morning
Chief Harrington was talking about getting the criminals, and how successful they've been in their tracking where in the United States they have come from, getting the criminals. Let's go back a day to Saturday. You know, we're talking Monday what happened to us. On Saturday we come into the airport and we get a text message that a house is being raided. These are the preemptive raids, about a half a dozen of them that took place over the weekend. We raced to the site, it was the I-Witness Video collective. They've very well known in New York, especially by the police.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yes, oh yes. They chronicled 2004; I was there at the RNC.
[Amy Goodman]: And they are responsible probably for the police having to pay out tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars for what happened in 2004 at the Republican National Convention. Remember, 1800 people were arrested. They have video documentation that is winning one lawsuit after another. They will often have the same video the police have but the police video is edited.
[Thom Hartmann]: Sure.
[Amy Goodman]: And theirs is not and shows a kid going to get sushi or an older person going to get sushi at a restaurant, suddenly they're enveloped in a pincer move with the police and they end up in jail. So there was I-Witness Video, they're coming to document what is happening at the RNC here and they did at the DNC as well, and the house is raided by the police in a "preemptive raid". They are all handcuffed, Eileen Clancy ? are put out in the back yard. What are they looking for? Computers, cell
phones, hard drives.
[Thom Hartmann]: What happened to the 4th amendment? Well, we know what happened to the 4th amendment, George Bush and Dick Cheney. I mean, you know, but pardon my interrupting, continue the story.
[Amy Goodman]: This is what happened. They're in the back yard, they're held for hours, they're prevented from doing their work. Not to mention, very frightening. There is an AR15, and I had that confirmed by one of the police officers, I said, 'you use an AR15'? 'That's right, ma'am'. When they moved in on the group who were sitting huddled in the living room as they saw the police moving in, they had a pistol in their faces. Elizabeth Press, our producer, Democracy Now!, had her camera. She got terrified 'cause she thought they would say they thought it was a gun, so she put it on her head.
This is what happened in the lead up to this celebration of democracy.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: I think that what's very frightening about this is that it seems to be a political crackdown.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yes.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]:
[Thom Hartmann]: It's not, this is even separate from people protesting in the streets where, you know, there is some kind of crackdown on any kind of dissent. But this is a political crackdown.
[Thom Hartmann]: It's a violent political crackdown.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: Yeah.
And I mean, what, frankly the preemptive raids that we witnessed were more frightening in a way.
[Thom Hartmann]: Well that's the purpose, intimidation.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: Right.
And there was no, as Eileen Clancy was saying, you know, you kind of, you get detained, you get held for a few hours, you get photographed and documented, and then there's no real legal recourse. They tell you afterwards, oh, you were held for a few hours, so what, it's not a big deal, you weren't charged. And so it's kind of the,
you're left in a black hole.
[Amy Goodman]: You're going, I wish actually it was a black hole; it's actually a database.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah.
[Amy Goodman]: And it's very frightening what's happening with these databases. Did you guys get...
[Thom Hartmann]: We have to take a break here, this is the tyranny of the clock at the bottom of the hour.
But Amy Goodman, Nicole Salazar, Sharif Abdel Kouddous.
[Thom Hartmann]: We're back here on the Thom Hartmann radio program on Air America Radio broadcasting live coast to coast, streaming all over the planet at airamerica.com
and Amy Goodman is with us along with two of her producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar who were all arrested yesterday at the protests, well not even at the protests, I mean, well,
let's just reset this for our listeners who might have just joined us, Amy.
[Amy Goodman]: And also we want to do a shout out to Youth Radio that is here recording Thom's show.
[Thom Hartmann]: Well, good on you.
[Amy Goodman]: And it's great to be here with Thom Hartmann and Air America.
[Thom Hartmann]: And Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, democracynow.org and their web site will be updated within the hour, hopefully.
[Amy Goodman]: That's right. well the press conference is there, the video is there right now.
[Thom Hartmann]: Great.
[Amy Goodman]: And then we'll put on what we did on our show today as well. We spoke with Congressman Keith Ellison who is in Minneapolis, Congressman deeply disturbed about what is happening here.
[Thom Hartmann]: Good guy.
[Amy Goodman]: And we spoke with the National lawyer's Guild that have their hands full along with the ACLU because there are so many people. So far there are around 300 arrests. The police chief here referred to the criminals, getting the criminals, but given that we're three of the people who were arrested, two of us charged with felony riot, one of us charged with misdemeanor, we are deeply concerned about who else is there
in the prison cells.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: Let me also say they are allowed to keep you here, which is I was initially told for I think 36 or ...
[Amy Goodman]: 36 hours.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: I was told I could be held for 48 hours without being charged. They are allowed to hold you, they have 48 hours to
[Amy Goodman]: But you know what, it's beyond that, 48 is small. If you get picked up it's 36 business hours, so if you get picked up last Friday night, you can be held until Wednesday because you go through the weekend, then it was Labor day, yesterday
and then you can be held for the next 2 days.
[Thom Hartmann]: What a nice coincidence.
[Amy Goodman]: So yes, so when we saw this, this is not unprecedented. In 2004 in New York where we are based, the Republican National Convention, 1800 arrests, people were held for 48 and 72, it just went on, hours. And afterwards they just figured, you know, we'll deal with it as it happens. Ok, we do the pay out, whatever, but at least, until president Bush had spoken, they had people on the pier in these big warehouses. Here I was held in the garage of the police station. They have these pens for the people arrested.
Nicole and Sharif went to jail and basically this is about yesterday afternoon they were covering a protest as they were all day. This was at 7th and Jackson in Saint Paul.
[Thom Hartmann]: Now this was the anti war protest, right?
[Amy Goodman]: Yes, this was the...
[Thom Hartmann]: A peaceful anti-war protest, organized in advance, told the whole world we're going to do this, something like 50,000 people down there?
[Amy Goodman]: There were tens of thousands, I'm not sure what the numbers were. Police moved in, Nicole was filming, Nicole is a Democracy Now! producer. They moved in on her and as she shouted 'Press, press', clearly she had that necklace with her, press ID on it.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right.
[Amy Goodman]: Showing it to them, filming. They pushed her to the ground, told her to get her face in the ground, Put a boot in her back, pulling her leg at the same time as telling her to keep her face in the ground, and take the battery out of her camera, if you're wondering what they didn't want to happen right there, which is about filming. Sharif gets arrested, thrown up against a wall, he's bloodied, she's bloodied, I get the word on the convention floor. I'm interviewing delegates. I race to have them freed, go to the riot police, say let me speak to your commander, they immediately pull me behind the lines, handcuff me like they handcuffed them, demand that I sit down, take my stuff when I say I've got the credentials, as they do. The Secret Service comes and rips the credentials off and we all go off to jail.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right.
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: It's interesting, I'm just watching on the screen here. It's MSNBC and I was just reading the close captioning, obviously I can't hear it, and it said, 'violent anarchists attack delegates at convention'.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, So here we are, on the Thom Hartmann program on Air America Radio sitting with three violent anarchists, Amy...
[Sharif Abdel Kouddous]: ?
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, ? Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!