Minneapolis, MN — Late Wednesday, September 3, while working to keep people out of harm’s way outside a concert at the Republican National Convention, Rev. Peter Dougherty of Michigan Peace Team and three members of the Minnesota Peace Team were arrested, handcuffed, detained for almost five hours, and presented with citations along with approximately 150 concert goers and other nonviolent bystanders. The charge is “unlawful assembly.”
The arrests occurred at approximately 11 pm (CST) near the Target Center Basketball Arena in Minneapolis, where Rage Against the Machine was performing. Rev. Dougherty and the other peace team members were at that location to help ensure that people would be not be injured, and that the civil rights of RNC protestors would be respected as concert goers departed from the Center. The Peace Team members arrested included Dougherty (74 years old, co-founder of Michigan Peace Team), and Debbie Taylor (age 50), Jim Lannon (age 75), and Jason Hix (age 34), all from the newly-formed Minnesota Peace Team.
As attendees were streaming out of the concert, Rev. Dougherty and other Peace Team members stationed themselves within the crowd to prevent anyone from getting hurt while fully supporting everyone’s right to free speech. Wearing brightly-colored peace team hats and vests to identify themselves, team members encouraged the sense of community, collaboration and nonviolence throughout the crowd. Once the initial assembly had peacefully dispersed, team members moved to the next street over. There, police in riot gear were pushing the crowd back, and then encircled the entire gathering. Everyone, including the peace team members and folks who were mere bystanders, was swept up and arrested. Among the bystanders arrested, Dougherty met a veteran who had served two tours in Iraq as part of the U.S.’s self-proclaimed effort to “bring democracy to Iraq.”
During the arrest and processing, fellow arrestees referred to Rev Dougherty as “Peaceful Pete.” Later Dougherty was quoted as saying, “The peace team was doing the good work of encouraging peace — and we were arrested!”
Thursday morning, Dougherty and the other peace team members stood outside the jail to call for the release of approximately 300 other protesters who were arrested and detained earlier.
At a follow-up debriefing for members of the peace teams, William Covert (MI) said, “The peace team work outside the Republican National Convention during these past days was awesome, and I believe lives were saved.” Team members reported that they have experienced tear gas and pepper spray as well as percussion/concussion grenades and a general overwhelming police presence. Dougherty reported “It is truly a police state, but despite all the craziness of feeling like this is a war zone, we have been able to have some very positive impacts and we are mostly well-received by the folks in the streets.” Dougherty concluded by saying, “May this experience deepen our conviction in the power of nonviolence.”
In the months before the Republican National Convention, Dougherty and Michigan Peace Team’s Sheri Wander had conducted extensive nonviolent peace team trainings for local people in Minnesota who were interested in creating and serving on a Minnesota Peace Team. Last week, five experienced members of MPT traveled to Minnesota to be part of the convention Team placements.
Michigan Peace Team was founded in 1993. It provides trainings in active nonviolence designed for the specific needs of the participants, and deploys peace teams into places of conflict (both domestically and internationally) to reduce violence. MPT convenes, supports, and participates with local peace action groups and gatherings, and mentors individuals seeking experience with international tams in places of conflict. It also educates the public to the vision and practice of active nonviolence. MPT has deployed peace teams into areas of potential violence around the world.