Saturday, September 06, 2008

American Antiwar March Ends In Tense Standoff, 396 Arrests

The final night of the convention led to confrontations between police and protesters. At least 396 people were arrested, an official said this morning.

by Curt Brown, Terry Collins, Randy Furst and Heron Marquez Estrada | St Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune, Sep 5, 2008

Police arrested scores more people Thursday night after another series of tense showdowns with protesters on the final night of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

[Police push people back after a person was arrested during a protest at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)]Police push people back after a person was arrested during a protest at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Sweeping into the State Capitol grounds in riot gear, police used snowplows, horses and dump trucks to seal off downtown from antiwar demonstrators attempting a march to the Xcel Energy Center.

“They chose not to leave when told to do so and now everyone’s paying the price,” said one officer on the scene.

This morning, the Joint Information Center said 396 people were arrested during Thursday’s demonstrations, and a total of 818 people were arrested during the four-day convention. The numbers are preliminary; an official count will be released later today, said a spokeswoman for the center, which has been providing information about arrests and security during the convention.

Most of those arrested were ticketed and released, the spokeswoman said.

Thursday night, as police blocked off bridges to stop demonstrators from getting downtown, a rolling series of sit-down protests started on the John Ireland Boulevard bridge over Interstate 94. The arrests ended with more than 200 demonstrators, squatting with their hands on their heads, taken into custody on the Marion Street bridge.

Police used tear gas and pepper spray to quell some of the unrest.

A group of more than 700 demonstrators had a permit to rally and march. But they were angry the permit expired at 5 p.m., before delegates began arriving at the Xcel Energy Center for GOP presidential nominee John McCain’s acceptance speech.

Among those arrested were two Associated Press reporters covering the event. They were issued a citation and detained, along with a KARE-11 TV photographer and more than a dozen other members of the media. All were released later in the evening.

“They’re trying to steal our protest — we have to ignore the police intimidation,” Katrina Plotz, an organizer with the Anti-War Committee, hollered from a stage in front of the Capitol steps.

But ignoring the police wasn’t easy during one of the largest shows of force on the fifth straight day of confrontations in St. Paul.

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