RNC protests turn violent; hundreds arrested

An anarchist protester smashes in the window of a department store in downtown St. Paul on Monday afternoon. The anarchist’s left a trail of destruction in their wake including a smashed police car.

Steve Maturen

An anarchist protester smashes in the window of a department store in downtown St. Paul on Monday afternoon. The anarchist’s left a trail of destruction in their wake including a smashed police car.

A mob of 200 anarchists marched through the streets of downtown St. Paul shouting, âÄúWhose streets? Our streets.âÄù By the time they were through with their impromptu protest Monday afternoon, they were right. A Minneapolis police car sat gutted after protesters smashed its windows as a horde of police finally caught up with them nearly two hours after the melee began. Police were broadsided by the protest and opted to contain, rather than conclude, the unsanctioned demonstration-turned-riot. Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said police arrested around 100 protesters throughout Monday afternoon, and media outlets reported more than 283 people had been arrested, including 129 on felonies, as of press of time. Deciding the route block-by-block based on which paths were least populated by police, the black-clad anarchist group stormed the streets of St. Paul with media members in tow, knocking over newspaper boxes and street-side garbage cans to block roadways. Roadway blockers became the least of concerns when the group dug bricks out of landscaped areas and threw them at windows. At one point, smoke bombs billowed and the smell and sting of pepper spray filled the air as protesters smashed windows in nearby buildings, including the First National Bank Building and MacyâÄôs. About a dozen police cars rolled up Sixth Street, and the anarchists ran to an intersection with a barricade to block advancing authorities. One jumped on the hood and roof of a squad car before rejoining the mob. One squad car swerved to the side, and protesters smashed all its windows before scurrying into a full parking lot. They dodged cars and slinked through an alley without police pursuit, bringing the riot to an abrupt end. After that, the more violent protest seemed to dissipate. Police beefed up security around the scheduled, peaceful parade following the earlier fracas; riot police lined streets and pushed security barriers back a half-block. Protesters and police clash again A group of protesters calling themselves the Anti-Capitalist Block clashed briefly with riot police before many were detained at Shepard Road under the St. Paul bluffs. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the group at the intersection at Jackson St reet and Shepard, after demonstrators sought entry onto the street. The crowd then retreated in the other direction for about 15 minutes, followed closely by the advancing riot police firing smoke bombs and tear gas with some demonstrators banging on passing cars. A volunteer medic calling himself Garth, an EMT from Oregon, said he treated âÄútens and tensâÄù of injuries from tear gas and rubber bullets during the confrontation. Demonstrator and University senior Jess Wenstrom said the violent police reaction was unprovoked. âÄúWe were all walking on the sidewalk legally,âÄù she said. âÄúWe were just yelling, âÄòWeâÄôre peaceful, stop tear gassing us,âÄô and weâÄôd run and the tear gas would be on both sides.âÄù At the intersection at Ontario Street , lines of riot and mounted police refused the demonstrators passage, trapping them between two lines of law enforcement. About an hour after the initial confrontation, police made an announcement that everyone between police lines was under arrest. Instead, police handcuffed some detainees for arrest while releasing others in groups of about 50 about every 15 minutes. Wenstrom, who was one of those detained and was later released, said police tactics were heavy-handed. âÄúWe should be allowed to be downtown protesting if we want,âÄù she said. âÄúWe pay taxes on these streets; these are our streets.âÄù âÄîJon Collins, Alex Ebert, Jake Grovum and Karlee Weinmann contributed to this report.