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(en) US, St. Paul, Media, RNC, Protests Turn Violent Amid RNC's Openning

Date Tue, 02 Sep 2008 15:27:04 +0300

As Republicans began their http://www.wftv.com/politics/17323505/detail.html
shortened convention, thousands of protesters rallied outside on nearby streets.
Convention organizers scaled back their agenda, but 8,000 to 10,000 protesters
went ahead with their march, mostly peaceful. ---- However, some protesters
attacked delegates, smashed windows, punctured car tires and threw bottles
during an anti-war march to the site of the RNC. Police used pepper spray in
confrontations with demonstrators and arrested at least 56 people. (Watch:
Police-protesters clash http://www.wftv.com/video/17361681/index.html outside
RNC (Read: Reporter's notebook http://www.wftv.com/politics/17362087/detail.html
of protester chaos.)

Instead of the single coherent march that organizers had hoped for, fringe
groups of anarchists and others wrought havoc along the streets between the
state Capitol and the Xcel Energy Center where the convention was taking place.
Protesters attempted to block several main bridges and streets leading to the
center. Police were positioned to stop protesters and push them back. The
clashes brought parts of St. Paul's downtown to standstill for about two hours.
Five people were arrested on suspicion of lighting a trash bin on fire and
pushing it into a police car, St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh said.
About 20 anarchists who had allegedly started the trash bin on fire later tried
to block the intersection of St. Peter and Exchange streets. Police quickly
dispersed the group, then shot two tear gas canisters at the fleeing anarchists.
Pictures taken by Associated Press photographers showed officers using pepper
spray on protesters who appeared to be trying to block streets.
"There are people who are committing violations of law and they're being
arrested," Walsh said.
About 200 people from a group called Funk the War noisily staged their own
separate march. Wearing black clothes, bandanas and gas masks, some of their
members smashed windows of cars and stores. They tipped over newspaper boxes,
pulled a big trash bin into the street, bent the rearview mirrors on a bus and
flipped heavy stone garbage bins on the sidewalks.
One man who seemed to be the leader of the group carried a yellow flag with the
motto "Don't Tread on Me." The group chanted: "Whose streets? Our streets!"
Meanwhile, a group of about 100 anarchists pushed a trash bin filled with trash
and threw garbage in the streets and at cars. They also took down orange detour
road signs. One of them used a screwdriver to puncture the back tire of a
limousine waiting at an intersection and threw a wooden board at the vehicle,
denting its side. Another hurled a glass bottle at a charter bus that had
stopped at an intersection. The bottle smashed into pieces but didn't appear to
damage the bus.
Closely following the anarchists were teams of riot officers carrying batons,
rifles and guns that could be used to shoot tear gas.
Police estimates of the crowd shifted several times during the event, ranging
from 2,000 to 10,000. The crowd was clearly in the thousands. Late this
afternoon, long after the anti-war marchers had dispersed, police requested and
got 150 Minnesota National Guard soldiers to help control splinter groups near
The day's march was organized by a group called the Coalition to March on the
RNC and Stop the War, whose leaders said they hoped for a peaceful,
family-friendly march. But police were on high alert after months of
preparations by a self-described anarchist group called the RNC Welcoming
Committee, which wasn't among the organizers of the march.
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