Plot to kidnap GOP delegates uncovered

Almost a year to the day before the Republican National Convention began, members of a self-described anarchist group gathered to talk about ways to disrupt it, including kidnapping delegates, sabotaging air vents at the Xcel Energy Center, blocking bridges and "capturing federal buildings" in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Unbeknownst to what the activists dubbed the "RNC Welcoming Committee," two police informants and an undercover investigator had infiltrated their ranks, according to an affidavit and search warrant application filed Tuesday. The informants and investigator accessed group e-mails, attended meetings, talked strategies with members, and participated in camps and workshops.

The 17-page document, signed by Ramsey County District Judge Joanne Smith, laid out the evidence that led the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department to raid a St. Paul business and three Minneapolis homes last Friday night and Saturday morning.

The affidavit paints a picture of a group that recruited participants from 67 cities and was intent on creating havoc.

According to the document:

The RNC Welcoming Committee held two "pReNC" gatherings, one from Aug. 31 through Sept. 1, 2007, and another on May 3. At the first, 150 to 200 people — including one of the informants — talked about tactics to "shut down the RNC."

At the second, St. Paul was divided into seven sectors for various anarchist groups to claim.

The affidavit also talked about an "action camp" held July 31 to Aug. 3 at Lake Geneva, Minn.

"An individual by the name of ‘Henry’ told the action camp group that he was throwing a liquid-filled balloon and that members of the group should stay away from the area … because it would be very dangerous," the document said. "Henry stated the balloon was filled with a chemical that would be very dangerous and if caught, he would go to jail for a long time."

Another person talked about using large puppets to conceal and transport Molotov cocktails, bricks, caltrops (devices used to stop buses and other vehicles), shields and lockboxes, the affidavit said. They also planned to throw marbles under the horses of mounted police to trip the horses.

Participants did role-playing and attended demonstrations on how to use a large barrel filled with concrete and steel pipes to help protesters block streets.

The affidavit also said that group e-mails from the Welcoming Committee talked about leaving abandoned or overturned vehicles at intersections, pulling a single officer from a police line and beating them, using liquid sprayers filled with urine or chemicals, "unarresting" techniques to free people arrested by police, obtaining fake credentials and dozens of other tactics.

The sheriff’s investigation culminated in raids of the RNC Welcoming Committee’s "Convergence Center" and several homes.

Seven people were arrested in connection with the raids. Six are being held in the Ramsey County jail; a seventh has been released pending further investigation.

On Tuesday, District Judge Kathleen Gearin denied an emergency motion brought by eight plaintiffs — including at least one of those arrested — to have some of the items seized by police returned to them.

"Who should we return the urine to?" Gearin asked.

In addition to buckets of urine, investigators seized homemade devices used to disable buses and other vehicles, weapons, gas masks, flammable liquids and rags that could be used to make Molotov cocktails, computer storage devices, documents, pamphlets and banners. Some materials, such as banners and signs, were returned Monday for demonstrators to use during the protest marches. Albert Goins Sr., attorney for the plaintiffs, said they are likely to file an emergency appeal to get the rest of it back.

Goins argued that the seizure of the materials violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. But Gearin said the search warrants were signed by judges with a good grasp of constitutional as well as criminal law who found probable cause exists to authorize the searches.

At Goins’ request, Gearin sealed affidavits detailing the "probable cause to detain." Authorities said that document is nearly identical to the application for search warrant and supporting affidavit, which was filed late Tuesday.

Protesters have held marches and demonstrations during the Republican convention, but most have been peaceful.