Appeals court rules against GOP convention lawsuit

Published 7:14 am Sunday, January 15, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal appeals court Friday said police acted reasonably as it upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by 32 people who say their constitutional rights were violated when they were arrested during a protest outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Their lawsuit named the city of St. Paul and six police officers. The plaintiffs alleged that police violated their rights to free speech and to be free from unreasonable seizure. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson dismissed the case in 2010.

On Friday, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled against the plaintiffs. A three-judge panel concluded that police acted reasonably in response to unlawful conduct when they detained around 400 people in a park off Shepard Road near downtown St. Paul during a protest on the opening day of the convention, releasing most of them shortly afterward but booking about 160.

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Some of the 32 defendants were protesters. Others said they were legal observers, medics, media and innocent bystanders who got caught up in the sweep when police herded protesters into the park. Seven were among those who were soon released, while 25 were taken into custody. All were released within 72 hours and all charges against them were eventually dismissed, the appeals court noted.

The panel said the outnumbered officers faced a “precarious situation” when they were confronted by dozens of protesters at Shepard Road and Jackson Street the afternoon of Sept. 1, 2008.