ST. PAUL, Minn. - About 10,000 protesters waved peace sign flags and rallied at the state Capitol on Monday ahead of an antiwar march to the site of the Republican National Convention. Hundreds of police wearing bulletproof vests and carrying batons stood by.
The crowd was far short of the 50,000 that organizers had hoped to attract, but officers in riot gear were stationed along the route of the march to Xcel Energy Center.
An anarchist group known as the RNC Welcoming Committee had worked for months on strategies to disrupt the convention. Despite preemptive police searches over the weekend that resulted in six arrests, the group issued a statement Monday saying it was "moving forward with a national call to crash the convention."
The group was not formally involved in Monday's march, which was organized by a coalition of antiwar groups.
Police said they were prepared for anything.
"We will not tolerate lawlessness in the city of St. Paul," St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington said. "If you come here to throw rocks, if you come here to throw Molotov cocktails ... we will stop you."
At the rally, speaker after speaker called for an immediate end to the war and more spending on domestic needs, such as providing health care and fixing crumbling bridges.
"Real change doesn't come from a vote. Real change will come from building a militant movement in the streets that will demand change!" Mike Prysner, a 25-year-old anti-war activist from Delray Beach, Fla., shouted into a microphone on a stage.
A group of 200 or so college-age people holding a banner that read "Students for a Democratic Society" began walking the route before the set time of the march. Many wore bandanas around their faces, bracing for the possibility that police would use tear gas.
They soon stopped in front of a couple dozen counter-protesters who were holding signs that read "Victory over terrorism." The students played the song "Like a Virgin" and performed the "Electric Slide" dance in front of the counter-protesters.
Immigrants, labor groups, veterans, student groups and others gathered for the rally, which was to walk about a mile and a half from the Capitol to the site of the convention and back.
At the rally, a 25-foot-long ice sculpture rose 3 feet in the air and spelled "Democracy." Some protesters flew kites, waved American and peace-sign flags and carried homemade anti-war signs.
Peace activist Steve Clemens, 47, from Minneapolis said he was disturbed by the number of police.
"But we can't control that," said Clemens, who had already been arrested once - for crossing into a restricted area during a march Sunday.
Alan Rybak, a real estate agent from Lakeville, Minn., stood along the protest route carrying a sign that read "Support Our Troops."
"I'm here to support our troops and to tell (protesters) to get a job and go home," said Rybak, a Republican Party activist.
Monday's larger rally went ahead even as the GOP curtailed the day's official activities because of Hurricane Gustav.
Police executed a series of raids in the days leading up to the march. One of the six arrested over the weekend on probable cause of conspiracy to commit a riot was released Sunday, according to attorney Bruce Nestor. No charges were filed against the woman, 23-year-old Monica Bicking. The other five remained jailed, possibly until Wednesday, Nestor said.
In the raids, police seized materials including knives, axes, bomb-making materials, maps and anti-war literature.
One man was briefly detained by police Monday morning after a smaller march by about 100 veterans opposed to the Iraq war. Wes Davey, 59, a retired first sergeant from St. Paul, said he was willing to be arrested for his cause. Police first said Davey had been arrested, but spokesman Pete Crum later said he wasn't.
In: Iraq, News
Tags: RNC, Protests, Police, Anarchists, Moonbats, Tinfoil Hats
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved, featured
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