- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. | Another day brought another series of protests during the Republican National Convention, as law enforcement officials remained on guard in a week filled with violent activity.

National Guardsmen in full riot gear took up posts around the Xcel Energy Center following two days of protests that saw hundreds arrested, traffic disrupted and tear gas in the streets.

Officials said 315 people had been arrested as of Wednesday evening, up from 280 on Monday. Secret Service spokesman Darrin Blackford said more arrests could come later, particularly with the band Rage Against the Machine playing a concert Wednesday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

“I think it’s just earlier in the day,” Mr. Blackford said. “We anticipate more activity this evening.”

Some protesters still took to the streets Wednesday, as the convention passed its halfway point. The antiwar group Code Pink demonstrated at a breakfast for Texas delegates to protest what it said is the Republican Party’s relationship with the oil industry.

Later in the day, Code Pink members also staged a peace march to protest Sen. John McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Group spokeswoman Jean Stevens said four members were arrested by law enforcement authorities and charged with trespassing during the march.

“There are several members who are surrounded by police,” Ms. Stevens said from the scene in St. Paul. “Within a span of 40 minutes, police really descended.”

On busy Wabasha Avenue in downtown St. Paul, activists were dressed as Abu Ghraib prisoners and protesting U.S. soldiers’ purported mistreatment of terrorism suspects. Trucks drove past bearing anti-abortion signs and a “keep religion out of politics” mobile billboard.

Most of the arrests this week stemmed from a group that splintered off from a massive antiwar march held Monday. Police said many of those protesters were part of an anarchist group and that they slashed police tires, broke the windows of buildings and harassed convention delegates.

According to a search warrant application and supporting affidavit, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies started investigating anarchist organizing body the RNC Welcoming Committee more than a year ago.

The document said investigators determined that the group’s membership had fluctuated between 30 to 35 members who had met more than 100 times in the past year. Police documents said the group discussed tactics to disrupt the convention, including stretching metal chains across freeways and kidnapping delegates.

Eight people, described as leaders of the committee, had been charged with felony riot, which carries up to a five-year prison sentence.

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said her office had charged 16 adults and five juveniles with felonies ranging from destruction of property to obstruction of legal process.

Felony charges were dismissed against 27 of those who had been arrested. Forty-seven others were charged with lesser gross misdemeanor crimes, St. Paul City Attorney John Choi said.

Roughly 20 of those arrested had refused to give their real names, Mr. Choi said.

“We have watched as a few lawless people tried to overshadow the peaceful protests and the exercise of free-speech rights by thousands of law-abiding citizens,” Miss Gaertner said.

Groups planning to cause chaos at the convention also held an “action camp” in Minnesota this summer to teach “direct-action techniques” using mock Molotov cocktails and a simulated RNC delegate vehicle that was targeted for rocks and tire-slashing, the documents say, citing information gathered by undercover investigators.

In a statement posted on the Welcoming Committee’s Web site Wednesday, members said they planned to continue their activities.

“We are still strong, in spite of all their efforts to stop us, and we still plan to remain in the streets, claiming public space for dissent and for our vision of a different world,” the group said.

Meanwhile, at least three arrests made Tuesday came during a march against poverty.

Police estimated about 2,000 people took part in the anti-poverty march, which lasted about three hours. It ended near the convention arena, with police using tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse protesters they said were trying to get past security fences, said Tom Walsh, a St. Paul police spokesman.

Authorities also said a 23-year-old Michigan man was charged last week in federal court for possessing Molotov cocktails he intended to use at the convention. Matthew Bradley DePalma, of Flint, Mich., was arrested Aug. 30 and is scheduled to appear in court Friday.

cJennifer Haberkorn contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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