In my last post I described the city destruction caused by a band of hooded anarchists I followed around St. Paul before the delegate buses began to arrive at the Accel Energy Center for the truncated opening day of the GOP Convention.
From piecing together other media reports, it is likely that this group during the time I spent with them caused the majority of the vandalism in St. Paul.
It seems that was their motivation.
As I reported, most, if not all, of the vandals were able to avoid arrest during the hour I spent with them.
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The anarchists disbanded at 1:30 p.m., as the delegate buses began to arrive.
At this point, police in full riot gear, riding horses and mountain bikes had lined the streets where the legal march was taking place, preventing me and a slug of other reporters from returning to the peaceful march.
As I worked my way around the streets, trying to find an angle back to the peaceful march, I came across a group of college-aged activists (not wearing hoods) blocking an intersection at Seventh and Sibley to prevent delegate buses from arriving.
Their arms were hooked like chain links, and they were singing, “We all live in a racist police state,” to the tune of “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles.
Across the intersection, nearly 10 large St. Paul police officers blocked the intersection with their mountain bikes.
What followed was an hour-long back-and-forth between police and activists. The police would move in with their mountain bikes and forcefully coral the kids on to the sidewalk, pick one or two off with pepper spray and arrest them, while the rest of the activist group would flee down Sibley.
“Who is the enemy here? Is it us?” one activist with curly brown hair yelled as the officers approached.
As they fled, the police would pursue them on their bikes. The activists would reset a roadblock, the police would bash them down and they would run again.
“You're fucking fascists,” screeched one red-haired girl just after police sprayed her with pepper spray (pictured below).
This continued until the activists reached the Mississippi River and had no were else to run. After I left, this is where the police fired canisters of tear gas.
Along with the throng of reporters, activists, and cops, we were followed by a group of good samaritan health care workers with vinegar-filled water bottles for folks who had been sprayed with pepper spray.
The police were being indiscriminate with their spray. I saw one cameraman sprayed directly in the face, and all of us reporting close to the action were at least partially hit with the spray.
I was pushed repeatedly with an officer's mountain bikes and threatened with arrest as I took pictures.
The amount of force used by the police on the young activists was unnecessary. However, it is clear, having been witness to the day's earlier vandalism, that the police response was in part a reaction to the anarchists who shattered windows, destroyed a police car, and fought with the cops.
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