Also see: Provocative Protesters and Whom They Work For
"Group promises further disruptions" by Bryan Bender, Globe Staff | September 3, 2008
ST. PAUL - Riot police for a second day used tear gas and flash grenades to disperse protesters trying to disrupt the Republican National Convention and made several more arrests on top of the more than 250 people jailed Monday on charges of damaging property and conspiracy to riot.
While yesterday was far less tense than the first day of the convention, the main anarchist group blamed for smashing windows, blocking traffic, and harassing delegates vowed more resistance throughout the week.
Police, backed by 150 members of the Minnesota National Guard, used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse protesters they said tried to breach the security perimeter before last night's broadcast speech from Washington by President Bush. At least three arrests were made.
The confrontation occurred a day after a largely peaceful protest of nearly 10,000 people calling for an end to the Iraq war turned violent when small groups of people wearing black and covering their faces with bandanas and gas masks threw bricks, slashed tires, overturned trash cans, and otherwise sought to disrupt traffic.
In one incident, some members of the Connecticut delegation were attacked and their entry passes ripped off.
The clashes were in contrast to the peaceful demonstrations that occurred at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last week.
The main group, calling itself the RNC Welcoming Committee, is a self-described "anarchist, antiauthoritarian organizing body." According to a search warrant used to raid several homes and an office over the weekend, the Ramsey County Sheriff said it had infiltrated the group starting a year ago and found that protesters discussed kidnapping delegates, blocking bridges, and using urine and chemicals to disrupt the activities, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
The group signaled that it will continue its efforts to shut down the convention, reporting that by yesterday afternoon at least 61 of the 284 people arrested Monday had been released.
"We are excited about what the next few days may bring now that the illusion of business as usual has been shattered," the committee said in a statement.
Overall, security forces appeared to use restraint in confronting the hundreds of anarchists. Some demonstrators who were involved in a clash at the corner of St. Peter and Exchange streets on Monday said rubber bullets were fired directly at them. But there was no evidence or apparent injuries to support their claims. A reporter on the scene witnessed only a concussion grenade being set off to disperse the crowd.
Still, the tactics used by police were criticized by some as overly aggressive, including the arrest of several journalists covering the clashes.
The arrest of several journalists - including Amy Goodman, the host of the syndicated television and radio program "Democracy Now!" - also drew criticism from Reporters Without Borders, a group that advocates for press freedom.
"The violence used by the police when arresting these three journalists, who identified themselves as such, was an unacceptable abuse of authority, a violation of the First Amendment, and a clear demonstration of a desire to intimidate them and their news organization," the group said in a statement yesterday.
The charges were quickly dropped yesterday against Goodman, her crew, and an Associated Press photographer who were jailed and released Monday night.The processing of the more than 200 demonstrators still facing criminal charges - including 130 facing felonies - moved slowly yesterday, as some refused to give their names, risking additional charges of contempt of court. "