On February 7, 2011, a small group of peace activists organized by the "Tackling Torture at the Top" Committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) tried to meet with the British Honorary Consul at his office on the 26th floor of the US Bancorp Center, 800 Nicollet Mall, in downtown Minneapolis. The purpose of the meeting was to deliver a letter with more than 750 signatures asking the British government to observe their own laws prohibiting political extradition in the case of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Various news sources (also here and here) have claimed that the proposed extradition is being pushed by the United States so that, once Assange is in Sweden, the U.S. can grab him for political rendition to stand trial in the U.S. with a possible death penalty.
The time of our anti-torture group's intended letter delivery had been conveyed to office staff of the Honorary Consul (Attorney William McGrann) at least three times (twice by phone and once by e-mail) in the days before and on the morning of Monday, Feb 7. When the first members of our group arrived at the building early, at about 4 p.m., they were met by security guards backed by Minneapolis police officers in uniform as well as several plainclothes officers (or perhaps federal agents) who barred our entry into the building. A security fence had been set up on the sidewalk. The group was told that the entire 26th floor had been evacuated at 4 p.m., making it impossible to deliver our letter.
Apparently when Attorney McGrann learned we were drafting a letter, he panicked and overreacted, not only closing his 26th floor office early and sending his staff home, but also calling the police (and maybe the FBI?) as well as building security guards to seal off all entrances to the building. What was the Honorary British Consul so fearful of that he had to call a squadron of both uniformed and plainclothes police as well as security guards? (We found out later that there were another dozen or more law enforcement officers posted at all the skyway entrances around the building.) Where's some good WikiLeaks when the taxpayers need them?! If only someone could expose how Minneapolis' scarce tax dollars are being spent (wasted)! As the nice building manager volunteers in the video below, it (and the panic and waste of tax dollars) might have been due to the Consul's fear of what he saw on Facebook.
But wouldn't the Minneapolis Police Chief, Mayor and Minneapolis City Council be a bit more grounded and therefore hard-pressed to explain what information on that FB page about our letter and efforts to get signatures it was exactly that justified the dispatching of so many police officers?! It's certainly not a crime to write or deliver a letter (especially one insisting that the law be followed) so someone must have been watching too much TV or something to get their imaginations running so wild. What justified their photographing our small letter-bearing group, from three different angles, as if we were terrorists or something? Privacy and civil liberties aside, what an insane waste of taxpayers' money in a city that is debt-ridden and forced to raise taxes!
Some further research turned up this interesting ironic history to the story of Monday's attempted letter delivery to this Honorary UK Consul:
It turns out that the local UK Consul is William McGrann of McGrann, Shea, Carnival, Straughn & Lamb. On Nov. 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were killed in El Salvador. At that time, the local firm of O'Connor & Hannan represented the government of El Salvador. One month after the killings, four partners and one associate of that firm, out of political principle, resigned and went off to start their own firm (scroll down to 20th Anniversary item). Four of those people are named partners in the McGrann firm, including McGrann himself. In 2009, a Spanish judge began an investigation of the involvement of 14 Salvadoran military officers in those killings. And to bring it all back to Assange, the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables release confirms that the Obama Administration has pressured the government of Spain to halt a similar investigation by another Spanish judge into six Bush Administration officials for torture.
Monday's final irony is that just a couple hours before we were barred, after repeated prior contacts, from delivering our letter in "Minnesota Nice" Minneapolis, a copy of the same letter was delivered directly, without problem or advance notice, to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.