Final RNC protest ends with arrests

An anti-war demonstrator holds a sign Thursday during a protest at the State Capitol building in Saint Paul.

Tara Sloane

An anti-war demonstrator holds a sign Thursday during a protest at the State Capitol building in Saint Paul.

On the final night of the Republican National Convention more than 300 people were arrested, bringing the total arrests during the convention to around 580, according to police sources. About 1,000 protesters gathered at 4 p.m. for an outdoor concert and to hear anti-war speakers at the Capitol Thursday. The permit for the event allowed protesters to be present until 5 p.m., after which the group planned to march to the Xcel Energy Center, although the Anti-war Committee repeatedly lost legal challenges to the time in court. During the first hour of the event, St. Paul police on bicycles rode into the middle of the Capitol mall and detained two protesters who police said were suspected of smashing the MacyâÄôs window in downtown St. Paul Monday. Protesters surrounded the arrestees chanting, âÄúLet them go,âÄù as around 75 riot and mounted police split the crowd in two. After the anti-war rally ended at 5 p.m., the crowd headed towards the Xcel despite a police warning that the permit had expired. The march was halted by lines of police, barricades of dumpster trucks and snow plows at the John Ireland Boulevard bridge over Interstate 94. Following a tense, near hour-long standoff between police and protesters, the crowd drifted back toward the Capitol where they were stopped by lines of riot police at Cedar Street. A confrontation occurred when riot and bicycle police again split the crowd in two, separating about 60 demonstrators, who were sitting on the ground, from the rest of the crowd. All of the sitting protesters, most of whom had planned to commit an act of civil disobedience, were arrested. A standoff occurred for the next two hours as demonstrators slowly dispersed and regrouped back at the Capitol and at the John Ireland Boulevard bridge. Around 8 p.m., riot police moved in from the north, driving the protesters onto Rice Street and into the nearby Sears parking lot. Police shot tear gas, concussion grenades and pepper spray at the 250 remaining protesters, who were trapped between lines of riot police, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension officers and mounted police behind the building. University student Ben Hebbe, who was not participating in the protest, said he was waiting for a bus on University Avenue when he saw the crowd and heard between 20 and 25 explosions of tear gas and concussion grenades. In the hours between 8 and 10 p.m., police arrested nearly 250 people, including Daily photographer Stephen Maturen, who was released a few hours later. Protester and Perpich Center student Ashley Monk said the police gave no warning before they started to shoot tear gas. âÄúThey just kept firing it and firing it and people ran wherever they could, jumping on fences jumping over fences, running on sidewalks,âÄù she said. âÄúThey were shooting tear gas from every direction.âÄù Students Participate in Anti-War March On a bus destined for the Capitol grounds, students shared their optimism for a safe, positive protest. âÄúWe are allowed as citizens to stay and protest until 11 p.m.,âÄù Stephanie Taylor, anti-war rally speaker and University senior, said. âÄúWhile there is a chance, because it is an unpermitted march, that we will experience some sort of police repression, we have really good peace marshals and tactical teams that will be helping us,âÄù she said. âÄúAnd we also have to remember that these are our streets,âÄù she said. âÄúThey are not anyone elseâÄôs.âÄù Erika Wurst, a pre-law senior, worried about a possible arrest ruining her chances for law school. âÄúIâÄôm going to try not to get arrested, but I donâÄôt mind getting teargassed,âÄù Wurst said. âÄúIn all reality weâÄôre just going from the Capitol to the Xcel Center,âÄù she said. âÄúWeâÄôre just going to be walking down the street,âÄù she said. âÄú[If] they ask us to go away peacefully, I probably will.âÄù âÄîJon Collins, Alex Ebert, Jake Grovum and Karlee Weinmann contributed to this report.