September 1st, 2008 | by Kevin Stark News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, CLEAN UP, Cops and Courts

STREETS OF ST. PAUL: Minnesota Mayhem, pt. 1

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Some new numbers are in. According to local media, 10,000 people were at the Capitol in St. Paul to protest against the War in Iraq during the Republican National Convention (lower than the 50,000 expected).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the vast majority of those 10,000 were nonviolent and civil.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting on the “bands of protesters” who splintered off onto side streets shattering windows and blocking delegate buses.

Police are saying over 280 arrests were made, a handful of which I saw as I followed two separate groups of activists.

I'm going to make a post dedicated to each group I followed.

The first group of 75, I met at 12:30, when I saw them marching camouflaged in with hundreds of other civil activists following designated marching routes enforced by the St. Paul Police.

I was with them until 1:30, when they disbanded after breaking car and bank windows and tussling with cops.

After meeting up with the march and moving south away from the Capitol, I quickly realized a small minority of people were set to rumble as the police presence began to thin. I watched a group of folks slip on black hoods and knot masks around their faces.

They were not carrying protest signs, and a couple of them tried to tip over garbage cans.

One girl sang “Fuck the police,” as we passed a group of officers.

And then things began to get hectic. The group of 75 split from the organized march. I was standing next to a parked silver Volkswagen Passat when a hooded man dressed in all black hit the driver's-side window repeatedly with a hammer.

The group of hooded folks stayed centered in the street, while a handful of people would disengage, turn over a garbage can or throw a rock through a window, before returning to the nucleus.

The police were hesitant to engage the group as a whole.

At around 1:30, we turned onto 4th street and passed the First Trust Company building (a bank), which had an American flag in one window. The group used hammers and rocks to shatter five windows of the building.

One police officer tried to intervene and sprayed one man with pepper spray before attempting to arrest him. Five masked individuals pulled the dissenter away from the officer by the hem of his pants. (See a great photo taken of this here.)

The tension began to rise as police sirens wailed in distance and people began to run.

Sprinting, the group turned onto 6th and looked down at 12 police cars creeping slowly up the street.

One hooded activist threw his old bike in front of police cars as others tossed newspaper kiosks and garbage cans into the street.

Another ran onto the hood of the lead police car before disappearing behind some of his friends.

The police were trying to sandwich everyone (including myself) in between the oncoming cop cars and a line of riot cops.

The kiosks stalled the police long enough for the activists to climb a fence in a parking lot and disappear into a crowded 7th Street.

As I came around the corner, a group of shirtless, sweaty men with torn black pants were laughing with each other, smiling deceptively, and singing, “Give peace a chance.”

Most, if not all, of the first band I followed slipped away from police. But they did seem to up the ante in the situation as delegate buses began to arrive.

Later in the day, I connected with a second band (a group of young twentysomethings without masks who were set on stalling the delegate buses). The police were much more aggressive with these kids, using pepper spray, corralling the kids with bikes, and making arrests.

Check back later for details and pictures of that story.

Editor's note: As Xeni Jardin notes on Boing Boing, not all journalists covering the protests were able to avoid being drawn into the police response. Here's a video of Democracy Now radio host Amy Goodman (who's broadcast locally on KBOO) being arrested roughly while trying to free two of her producers who were being detained:
[youtube oYjyvkR0bGQ]
Democracy Now's website has a press release about the radio journalists' arrests.
 
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