ST. PAUL, Minn. — As police and protesters continued to clash outside the Republican National Convention, county prosecutors charged eight people on Wednesday with conspiring to cause a riot as part of a terrorist act.
The eight were arrested in connection with raids of private homes in the Twin Cities conducted before the convention began by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department.
The charges are highly unusual because of the addition of terrorism to the crimes. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said she could recall no such cases in her 24 years with the prosecutor's office.
"This was the most serious charge that we found that was supported by the evidence," she said. "The terrorism aspect is appropriate. This is not your average criminal charge, but this was not your average crime."
If convicted, each of the eight could face up to five years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.
Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing several of people, called the charges ridiculous.
The accusations are "an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism," Nestor said in a statement.
Seven of the eight are being held at the Ramsey County Jail on $75,000 bond: Max Jacob Specktor, 19, Erik Charles Oseland, 21, Eryn Chase Trimmer, 23, Luce Guillen-Givins, 24, Nathanael David Secor, 26, and Robert Joseph Czernik, 32, all of Minneapolis; and Garrett Scott Fitzgerald, 25, of Kasota, Minn.
Monica Rachel Bicking, 23, of Minneapolis was released earlier in the week, pending further investigation into the charges. A warrant was issued Wednesday for her arrest.
According to the complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court, the eight are leading members of the RNC Welcoming Committee, a self-described anarchist coalition.
For at least two years, the group mapped out ways to use violent methods to disrupt the convention and prevent delegates from entering the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, according to the filing.
The group had allegedly considered barricading bridges, spraying delegates with urine and possibly kidnapping delegates.
The arrests came out of a nearly year-long investigation by the Sheriff's office and federal law enforcement agencies. An undercover investigator and informants were used to monitor the group, according to court documents.
The investigation found the group had connected with sympathetic factions in dozens of cities to recruit volunteers and raise funds, according to the documents.