Minnesota Chapter Mobilizes Against Fusion Center Funding

Fusion Center Funding Victory

Our Minnesota chapter recently had a major victory, getting increased fusion center funding removed the Minnesota House Public Safety and Senate Judiciary omnibus budget bills. This blocked the Minnesota State Governor Tim Walz’s plan to appropriate more money to fusion centers in Minnesota in order to expand their operations.

Governor Walz attempted to justify this 2.27 million dollar budget increase as a way to combat “domestic terrorism” along the lines of what we saw January 6th at the Capitol. But this is a lie more than a decade old. Fusion centers are ineffective at preventing terrorism, often with terrorism reporting described as “outdated, duplicative, and uninformative” and “nothing of value.

Proponents of the increased fusion center funding claim that it would be used to combat white supremacist terrorism; but the continual focus of fusion centers across the nation is the drug war, protest surveillance, and targeting of Muslims, undocumented immigrants, and Black people. More surveillance does not make us safe, and we especially reject the notion that it will ensure the safety of our BIPOC neighbors.

Upon hearing of Governor Walz’s plan, activists in the Minnesota Restore the Fourth chapter mobilized “an email and petition campaign, testified at relevant committee hearings, hosted an event highlighting the issues with fusion centers, and began a public education campaign on social media.” This campaign was successful, and fusion center funding has been removed from local budget discussions for now.

As an organization dedicated to ending unconstitutional mass government surveillance, Restore the Fourth views fusion centers as a direct and dangerous threat to your fourth amendment rights. You can read more about the dangers of fusion centers here.

SCOTUS Reaffirms Common Law of Seizures in Torres v. Madrid

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Torres v. Madrid that when, in 2014, officers shot a woman repeatedly as she drove away from them, that act constituted a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment. Ms. Torres may now continue her suit for damages against those officers. Chief Justice Roberts asserted a bright-line, relatively broad rule, holding “that the application of physical force to the body of a person with intent to restrain is a seizure even if the person does not submit and is not subdued.”

Restore The Fourth previously reported on this case, and filed an amicus brief that argued that the common law at the time of the Founding permitted two kinds of arrest, physical (which do not require a show of submission) and constructive (which do). The arrest in Torres was a plain example of a physical arrest that would have unambiguously been considered a seizure, because a physical attempt was made to detain Torres, and “touching in the most indefinite manner is sufficient” – even if, as in fact happened, she was temporarily able to escape police custody after the seizure occurred.

It appears that Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion paid close attention to our brief, ably put together by RT4 Litigation Working Group Chair Mahesha Subbaraman. Notably, he adopted our reasoning on constructive and physical trespass, and used the 1738 case of Horner v. Battyn in a similar way to describe the evolution of the one from the other.

As a consequence of this decision, the default assumption of lower courts must be that, in this and other contexts where police “use force to apprehend” a person, whether or not that apprehension is successful, a seizure does occur. The Fourth Amendment is a little stronger today, thanks to this ruling, and to Restore The Fourth’s intervention in the case.

Even after seven years, Ms. Torres’s road to obtaining damages is still a long and hard one. Predictably, the local district attorney decided long ago to not file criminal charges against the officers, saying that they had had to make a “split-second decision.” To obtain civil damages, Ms. Torres will still, for example, need to prove that the seizure was “unreasonable”, and that it was so clearly so that the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity..

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