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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As clashes between police and protesters subsided outside the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, county prosecutors charged eight people with conspiring to cause a riot as part of a terrorist act.
The eight suspects were arrested in connection with raids of homes in the Twin Cities that were conducted by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department before the convention began.
The charges are highly unusual because of the terrorism aspect. Ramsey County Atty. Susan Gaertner said she could recall no such case 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, the suspects could each 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 the suspects, 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 arrested are being held at 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; Robert Joseph Czernik, 32; and Garrett Scott Fitzgerald, 25. Fitzgerald is from Kasota, Minn.; the others are from Minneapolis.
Monica Rachel Bicking, 23, also of Minneapolis, was released earlier in the week, pending further investigation. A warrant was issued Wednesday for her arrest.
According to the complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court, the eight suspects are leading members of the RNC Welcoming Committee, a self-described anarchist coalition. For at least two years, the group mapped out 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 allegedly had considered barricading bridges, spraying delegates with urine and possibly kidnapping delegates.
The arrests follow a nearly yearlong 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 inquiry found that the group had connected with sympathetic factions in dozens of cities to recruit volunteers and raise funds, according to the documents.