Mordecai Specktor says his 19-year-old son Max â€œhas never been in a fightâ€ and is â€œnot a violent person.â€
â€œHe’s an anarchist,â€ said Specktor, the publisher and editor of Minnesota’s Jewish newspaper, the American Jewish World. He’s also â€œa University of Minnesota student, Jewishly educated.”
His piano-playing son, he said, is “a wonderful guy.â€
Max Specktor is also now been branded a terrorist after his arrest last week, along with seven others, on charges of planning to disrupt the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
He’s been charged with conspiring to riot â€œin furtherance of terrorismâ€ and could face up to five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine. He spent two days in jail and was released Sept. 3 after posting $10,000 bail.
More than 800 people were arrested during the convention for protesting, and media reports have said the police in Minneapolis and St. Paul are reviewing the law-enforcement tactics used last week.
The complaint from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department alleges that the â€œRNC Welcoming Committee,â€ which Max Specktor had been part of, discussed â€œkidnapping delegates, sabotaging the Xcel Center, blockading bridges into St. Paulâ€ and â€œrioting against businesses,â€ among other activities.
The department used an undercover investigator and â€œconfidential reliable informantsâ€ in an investigation that began last summer.
The RNC Welcoming Committee Web site does not offer specifics on what the group was planning to do, but does say it wanted to â€œderail the purely ceremonial show of this repressive system and remake it with our own hands and according to our own visions.â€
The complaint also alleges that when Max Specktor was arrested Sept. 1, Minneapolis police found in his backpack â€œ12 caltrops” — described in the complaint as a device with nails or other sharp objects protruding from it used to disable vehicles — “a plastic bottle with Mylanta (used for neutralizing chemical spray), black gloves [and] a paper titled ‘St. Paul and the RNC burn 9/1/08.’ â€
Allegedly found in his vehicle were â€œseven gas filter masks, 17 pieces of 2-foot-long metal pipe … two spring loaded punches (which are used to shatter windows), a bolt cutter, pry bar, two boxes of firecrackers.â€
According to the complaint, â€œninja foot spikes, a wrist/rocket slingshot [and] a macheteâ€ were found in his residence. In addition, it said that Max Specktor told an informant that he built homemade explosive devices and was interested in using them at the RNC.
Max Specktor’s attorney, Larry Leventhal, said nothing the police found was illegal and were â€œthe type of things commonly found in a home, garage or car.â€
Leventhal also said there is no evidence that Max Specktor undertook any “illegal act.”
Paul Gustafson, a spokesman for the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, said the statute under which Specktor was charged only requires for one member of the conspiracy to commit “an overt act” in order for the entire group to be charged.
Leventhal countered that “people should be held to account for what they do, not who they associate with.” The attorney believes that the timing of the arrests — on the eve of the convention — were politically motivated, designed so that the suspects would spend a portion of last week in jail and not be able to protest.
He added that the authorities’ reliance on confidential informants weakens the case.
â€œI don’t find those type of people to be reliable at all,â€ said Leventhal, a St. Paul attorney.
Mordecai Specktor said he doesn’t believe â€œwhat the police sayâ€ about the materials found in his son’s possession.
â€œThere are all kind of wild allegations in the complaint,â€ the editor said.
He defended Max having gas masks in his possession, noting that the police used tear gas on the protesters last week.
Specktor said his son “holds views opposed to the policies of the Bush administration” and was â€œlooking forward to protestingâ€ the convention.
As for his son being an anarchist, Specktor said that while some might have negative images of that philosophy and its adherents, they simply believe â€œthat people should cooperate on a voluntary basisâ€ and do not need a government as a facilitator. He said there is a long tradition of Jewish anarchists, notably feminist Emma Goldman.
Specktor took particular exception to his son being accused of terrorism.
“It’s a highly charged word in our post-9/11 world,” he said. “You call someone a terrorist, it shuts down any further thinking.”