Protestor at GOP Convention to File Brutality Lawsuit

September 29, 2008

An anti-war protester who claims he was shot with a police projectile at close range during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul announced on September 26 that he is planning to sue the city of St. Paul and surrounding areas.

Attorneys for Mick Kelly were serving notice Friday of an intent to sue the cities of St. Paul, Bloomington and Minneapolis, as well as Ramsey County. The lawsuit, to be filed at a later date, will seek $250,000 in damages, said Ted Dooley, a member of the National Lawyers Guild.

St. Paul City Attorney John Choi said that as of Friday afternoon, the city hadn’t received any lawsuits dealing with allegations of police misconduct during the convention.

“I don’t know the specifics of Mick Kelly’s claims, but we’ll review it and act accordingly once we get notice of it,” he said. “We are confident that all the facts will support our belief that the police acted appropriately in this case.”

A news release from the Anti-War Committee said Kelly was shot with a “high velocity marking projectile” at a demonstration Sept. 4, the last day of the convention. Police used different forms of nonlethal projectiles during the convention, and it wasn’t immediately clear what hit Kelly.

The group planned to march from the state Capitol to the Xcel Energy Center, but police stopped the march shortly after it began, saying the protesters’ permit to march expired at 5 p.m. and that demonstrators were assembled illegally.

Kelly, 51, of Minneapolis, was carrying a lead banner and went with a group to Cedar and 12th Streets.

“Police on horseback began tearing the banner from the poles. A mounted officer yanked one of the banner poles from my hand. And within a matter of seconds, I was shot,” Kelly said. “I went down immediately.”

Kelly was hit on the left side of his stomach, and developed a bruise that was about 12 or 14 inches in diameter at its largest, Kelly said. He went to the hospital two days later and learned he suffered no internal bleeding.

“It was incredibly painful,” he said.

No matter the outcome, taxpayers won’t have to bear the cost of Kelly’s lawsuit or any others relating to police conduct during the RNC.

Before the four-day convention began, St. Paul officials made a deal requiring the Republican Party’s host committee to buy insurance covering up to $10 million in damages and unlimited legal costs for law enforcement officials accused of brutality, violating civil rights and other misconduct.

Other cities who hosted conventions in recent years, including Denver, Boston, New York and Philadelphia, either covered those costs from their general budgets or used tax money to buy insurance policies.

St. Paul had some leverage because the party had named the city as the convention site before striking the city services agreement in January 2007.

“Any clams that relate to police conduct during the RNC will be tendered to the insurance company,” Choi said.

Meanwhile, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has appointed former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Luger to lead an independent review of law enforcement planning and tactics. Heffelfinger has said that the team wouldn’t investigate allegations of police misconduct.

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