RNC Enters My Backyard, Protesters Storm St. Paul

By Guest Columnist Sep 02, 2008

Special report by Rebecca McDonald Raids of suspected terrorists swept the Twin Cities before the Republican National Convention doors even opened. I was driving down I-94 on Saturday and saw a green school bus pulled over. Monday Morning My backyard in St. Paul is overrun with protesters, anarchists, police, secret service agents, mostly Republicans- but a few Democrats in their Obama Ts and Greens are spotted here and there, legal observers, the media and innocent onlookers with strollers and cameras. I walked out of my front door this morning at 9am, near the Cathedral on John Ireland Blvd. and Kellogg Blvd. Protesters greeted me on their way to the state Capitol nearby, heading to the March on the RNC, gripping signs saying "No Peace for the Warmakers," "No More War" and "WWJB: Who Would Jesus Bomb" with water in hand, expecting a heat wave- a humid 90 degrees. Compared to the DNC, things were feeling pretty empty here in St. Paul. I got through the security perimeter for the Xcel Energy Center with my credentials, and no problems. The only thing that really bothered me was that it looked like a deserted town on judgment day- empty tents flapping in the wind, and dust blowing through the air. And, no merchants enthusiastically selling McCain T shirts. Just the security checkpoint. I connected with Davey D of Hard Knock Radio at "Radio Row" and we plotted our plans for the day. Because of Hurricane Gustav rolling into the Gulf Coast, much of the day’s business for the Republican National Convention Day 1 were disrupted. Bush and Cheney- no show. Interview with an Iraq war veteran, check. March on the RNC. On our way, microphone and cameras in hand As we proceed down John Ireland Blvd toward the Capitol, I am again greeted by more protesters at Kellogg Blvd. This time, angry anarchists planned to disrupt the convention’s flow by barricading the street to block delegate busses and police cars and throwing trash cans. Linked arm and arm, the self-proclaimed anarchists planted firmly in front of the gigantic bus. Police on horseback led, batons ready. As they met each other in the middle of the street, things got ugly. Tear gas sprayed. Protesters on hands and knees holding their faces. Handcuffs and batons. Medics rushing to aid, legal observers meticulously taking note and pictures. A few media teams stood on the sidelines, documenting the drama. Over 200 arrests have been made thus far today, in pockets of drama across the city, many detained, most likey more as I write. As I write, I got a text that Democracy Now! producers and the one and only Amy Goodman have been arrested. THE MARCH ON THE RNC brought together thousands of peaceful and dedicated activists, and young people hungry for change from across the country. The Poor People’s March. Signs saying "Money for Human Needs Not War" waving, with talk about Hurricane Gustav. Discussions are taking place around town, and the country about how the Republicans have been using Hurricane Gustav for political gain. All GOP parties canceled because if they were partying while the Gulf Coast is devastated, what would that make them look like? Will the Twin Cities’ extended bar hours be for nothing? Anti-war protesters were screaming, "What do we want? Peace. When do we want it? NOW!" exchanging quick glances with police, batons still ready to bust heads. Immigrant Rights supporters. A Student and Youth contingent. Anti-capitalists, labor organizations, solidarity with the people of Palestine, MN North Country representatives, Unitarian Universalists, and local neighbors working diligently to keep the peace and a large group of Somali protesters holding signs proclaiming "Muslims Are Not Terrorists!" I saw a lot of friends and familiar faces, and young people speaking their mind. Broken windows, arrests from the left and right. I tried to escape the madness in downtown to go kick it with my friends at the SEIU: Take Back Labor Day concert across the river at Harriet Island, featuring my favorite local hometown talent Atmosphere, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, and The Pharcyde. I took the elevator of the Science Museum down to the riverfront street, Shepherd Road, along the train tracks, and below the windows of the Ramsey County jail. A little nervous about what might pop off with the black hooded and masked individuals walking alongside, I continued to the Wabasha Street bridge (which I must note now displays dozens and dozen of American flags that weren’t there last week). I heard a roar ahead. The anarchists allegedly were throwing feces, urine and bricks at police officers. I see the crowd turn in my direction and start running. Tear gas and missiles coming or way. With my three bags of equipment, I ran fairly quickly back to the Science Museum. I tried to catch the cab nearby, but they sped off in the opposite direction. Non-violent and violent direct action took place today at the Republican National Convention. While 10,000 mostly peaceful protesters were marching through downtown St. Paul, the spotlight was on the anarchists causing a ruckus. I covered it all.