Sheriff's officer links Arise! Bookstore to violent anti-government groups; Arise! members say they've been unfairly labeled as terrorists
Arise! Resource Center & Bookstore, 2441 Lyndale Ave. S., has books, bumper-stickers and meeting space for a constellation of vegetarian, anti-globalization, pro-pot, anti-war, pro-Irish and environmental causes.
It has also been in the middle of a flap with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office about whether it is aligned with extremist groups and is somehow a threat to the community.
Sheriff's Capt. Bill Chandler mentioned Arise! during a speech he made to emergency management personnel on "Understanding Terrorism in Minnesota," during the 38th Governor's Emergency Management Conference. A March 5 Star Tribune article reported on the talk.
According to the article, "Chandler listed a number of antiracism action groups that he said are violent, anti-government and protest the Ku Klux Klan. He said they had connections with Arise, a Minneapolis group that has affiliations with anarchist organizations."
Chandler did not call such groups "terrorists," but "domestic identified groups," the article said.
That distinction is lost on Arise!
"No matter how they want to candy-coat it, they lumped us in with known terrorist organizations and are implying we are terrorists or a potential threat," said Don Kingsbury, a spokesman for Arise! "It is utterly ridiculous."
Chandler did not return a phone call. A spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office said Chandler's comments were misconstrued, but declined to provide information about what Chandler said or how his words were taken out of context.
Rooted in liberation struggles
In the spring of 1993, members of the Arise! Collective who had been meeting in people's living rooms decided to start a bookstore and meeting space -- "a hub for the activist community," according to its Web site, (www.arisebookstore.org). Kingsbury, a political science student at the University of Minnesota, said it grew out of the anti-apartheid and Irish struggles.
Walk into the cramped little bookstore today and get the full spectrum of progressive and radical causes.
A flyer on the wall promotes a citywide student walkout after the United States starts bombing Iraq.
Bumperstickers range from "Vegetarians do it with relish (but wear a condiment)" to "Stop 55! Go Oaks!" One t-shirt reads, "Every time a Republican dies, a queer angel gets their wings."
Jay from Powderhorn Park browses for books on globalization. (He and several others interviewed declined to give their last names.)
Collective member M.T. does the book ordering and said anti-globalization works sell well, such as "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." Other popular works include "A People's History" by Howard Zinn, "Fortunate Son," an unauthorized biography of George W. Bush, and books on the Zapatista movement in Mexico.
Kingsbury said the collective has a core group of 15 people who volunteer and another 20 to 30 at any given time who help out then move on. The store has roughly $50,000 in sales in a good year.
Women's Prison Book Project, a group that mails books to female prisoners, leases space at Arise!, as does the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, M.T. said. Other groups use it for meeting space, such as the 5th District Green Party and Minnesotans for a United Ireland.
One woman said she was a member of Revolutionary Activist Mothers and Babies League, a group trying to make the activist community more kid-friendly, particularly for marginalized parents, she said.
Arise! has a dry erase board to post meetings. A group called "Baby seals for nuclear war" has a Thursday time slot.
"That's a joke," M.T. said.
A wide range of protest tactics
Arise!'s connections to such groups as Anti Racist Action (ARA) apparently concerned Chandler.
Roseann Campagnoli, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, would not clarify what Chandler said, but said his PowerPoint presentation had one slide stating Arise!'s website had a link to ARA's website.
"My suggestion would be to go to their website," Campagnoli said. "I think that would be a good assignment."
The ARA Minneapolis website, (www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/2853/) shows a strong distrust of police.
"We oppose and fight things like the racist institution of the police as well as organized racist groups like the Klan and Nazi skinheads," it said. "We believe the only way racism is gonna get smashed is by doing it ourselves!! So we not about relying on the courts or the cops."
ARA also has a program called "Cop Watch," which it said tries to expose and confront police brutality.
Efforts to contact the local chapter of ARA were unsuccessful. Kingsbury said ARA used to meet at Arise!, though it has now moved to a location with more space.
"The most high-profile things they do, which catches all the attention, is to go to Klan rallies," he said. "They are very in-your-face and extreme, but nothing on par with what neo-Nazi groups do."
Mark Potok of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks extremist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, said ARA's violent tactics hurts the anti-racism cause.
"These are guys [ARA] who, by and large, look to sock a Nazi in the nose," Potok said. "It is an extremely poor way to battle hate groups and neo-fascist impulses. In virtually every demonstration by a white supremacist group in which there is violence, the violence comes from counter-protesters. And the counter-protesters are, as often as not, ARA."
Kingsbury said protesters organizing against the July 2000 International Society of Animal Genetics conference in downtown Minneapolis met a few times at Arise!.
Those protests resulted in arrests. Protesters said police overreacted by using tear gas and caused a panic that led to problems.
Arise! does not encourage illegal activity as an organizational position, Kingsbury said. Nor does it engage in "good protester-bad protester" debates. The left is already divided enough, he said.
"We have people in the collective who are hard-line pacifists, in the tradition of Gandhi or the McDonald sisters in the Twin Cities, who believe only in non-violent protests," he said. "Whereas there are people who say 'No, we will defend ourselves and defend our rights by any means necessary.'"
A flyer on an Arise! bookshelf told readers to "Beware" of police.
Several Arise! volunteers said cops had hassled them for no apparent reason because their bike didn't have a reflector or because they were walking down an alley. Several interviewed during a one-hour conversation at the bookstore said they did not think all cops were bad.
The bad ones need better discipline, one said. And Police Chief Robert Olson needed to agree to federal mediation over police abuse charges.
No watch list
What is the public to make of Chandler's apparent comments about Arise!? The conversation with Campagnoli, in part, went like this.
Campagnoli: "The Sheriff's Office is not going to comment any further. We feel that much more has been made of this than was reality. And each time we talk about it, we are fueling the story even more."
Q: How does the Sheriff's Office view Arise!?
Campagnoli: "I don't know that we view them any particular way. They were simply noted in a presentation that they were a domestic political group. I think it is a fair depiction."
Q: Why was Arise! picked for this particular presentation?
Campagnoli: "I can't speak for Capt. Chandler. He obviously had a good reason for including them with the groups that were mentioned."
Randall Morris, an attorney for Arise! and other groups, said he would file an request to get audio or video tapes of Chandler's presentation, the criteria the Sheriff's Office uses to identify "domestically identified groups," and any list of such groups.
Campagnoli said there is no "watch list."
"It is in the best interest of law enforcement to have information about groups that may participate in civil unrest in law enforcement's duty to protect buildings and persons," she said.
However, if it is important to have information on them, how does the Sheriff's Office compile it if there is no watch list?
"Partially in the same way you would," Campagnoli said. "Go to the Internet. They all have websites."
Arise! would try to capitalize on the attention, Kingsbury said.
"We hope to use the splash in the media to do some outreach and networking," he said. "We can take this opportunity to let people know there is a resource if they want to change the world for the better."