Ramsey County's Contempt For Justice: Tell Them To Stop The Torture And Restore The Rule Of Law

St. Paul, Wednesday September 3, 2008 — Here's the news from the streets of St. Paul and the cells of the Ramsey County Jail:

"Jason was tased seven times on the street, while completely unresisting. We just heard from him — he's still pulling copper out of his hip from the taser gun, has a long, deep laceration in his leg that is still untreated, was beaten up badly and has a black eye, a hurt mouth and many lacerations, but says he's doing great. Elliot Hughes, a sweet nineteen year old who came to our day camp, was badly beaten when the cops knocked him off his bicycle. They stepped on his chest, and he was coughing blood all night but received no medical treatment. The guards were calling him 'Princess' and making homophobic remarks. We heard from Jason that last night, Elliot was making noises to protest not receiving any food for more than twelve hours. Twelve officers entered his cell. Screams were heard for over five minutes. He was tasered three times, maced, and beaten, then removed and the men were told he was being taken to a restraint chair." — Starhawk

To put it bluntly, uniformed "law" enforcement in St. Paul and Ramsey County:

  • torture with electroshock weapons (Tasers)
  • torture with chemical weapons
  • stomp on a young man's chest
  • cruelly (perhaps fatally) deny medical care to a victim spitting up blood (the fancy medical name is hemoptysis) from thoracic trauma
  • respond to calls for food with torture by beating, Taser, and chemical weapons: the same chemical weapons known to cause respiratory arrest and death in victims with pulmonary disease. "Spitting up blood" is a symptom of pulmonary disease so severe as to require emergency medical evaluation.
  • then tie up the victim in "restraint chairs" known to exacerbate pre-existing breathing difficulties in some victims of thoracic trauma.

The Ramsey County Jail officials did this in plain earshot of other detainees: that's a pretty strong sign they don't see anything to hide. Which — when one's been doing the same thing over and over for years — is a common assumption.

Fire in the eyes

Does the torture inflicted on Elliot Hughes sound strange and alien to you? Not me. In the mid-90's the Humboldt County Sheriff planned and carried out torture of three groups non-violent forest activists by painting their eyes with the chemical weapon known as pepper spray. The law enforcement officers who did this thought it was such a good idea they made training videos. Those training videos, when they hit national news, provoked immediate revulsion, and helped turn public opinion against the brutal policing then the norm in California's "Deep North". Ultimately, the forest protectors won their Federal civil suit against their torturers.

After I wrote articles about that use of chemical weapons for torture of restrained detainees (the forest defenders were locked to one another, to huge machines, or to one another around a large stump), I was deluged by requests from attorneys in the forested counties along the coast of northern California and central/southern Oregon. They all described clients who — while already restrained — were repeatedly sprayed with chemical weapons ("mace" or pepper spray or tear gas). Over and over, the attorneys reported the victims were tortured in this manner to punish speech: their clients had said something the law enforcement officers didn't like.

…The first attorney to call me represented a client with permanent brain damage. He'd suffered lack of oxygen to the brain due to respiratory arrest. He suffered the respiratory arrest when the notoriously brutal Josephine County Sheriffs bravely strapped him into a restraint chair and repeatedly attacked him with chemical weapons.

Just as Ramsey County Jail law enforcement officials did to Elliot Hughes last night.

You can help

I couldn't help the attorneys: they needed forensic pulmonologists and neurologists, not a psychiatrist.

Together, we can help the people currently locked up with the torturers who run the Ramsey County Jail — and help those still out on the street with the law enforcement officials who punish non-violent speech and public assembly with snatch squads, brutal beatings, chemical weapons, explosive devices, and the electroshock torture device marketed as "Taser".

…Here's the Northstar Health Collective's statement from this morning on how we can help:

Ask politely that RNC protesters & community members in Jail be allowed visitors as is standard at other times. Families deserve to know their loved ones are healthy & OK.

Susan Gaertner is Ramsey County Attorney prosecutes all felonies. She is Democrat & interested in running for Governor. Call her to talk about your concerns (612) 978-8625 or (651) 266-3222 su.nm.yesmar.oc|ACR#su.nm.yesmar.oc|ACR

  • Ramsey County Jail Phone: (651) 292-3698
  • St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (651) 266-8510
  • Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher (651) 266-9333
  • County Chief Judge Gearin (651) 266-8266

When you call the jail number above please be polite and courteous. The person answering the phone doesn't run the place, can't stop the torture, didn't arrest the detainees, and can't order their release. That jail number is the only portal we have to make sympathetic requests to honor the humanity of the detainees, and we can only do that by respecting the humanity of the person who picks up the phone.

We need to save the rest for the person in command of the jail.

Capt. Ryan O'Neill is the Head of Ramsey County Jail (where the torture is happening): his number is 651-266-9350, ext 1.



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