- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) | Protesters attacked delegates, smashed windows, punctured car tires and threw bottles Monday, a violent counterpoint to an otherwise peaceful antiwar march at the Republican National Convention. Police wielding pepper spray arrested at least 56 people.

The trouble happened not far from the Xcel Energy Center convention site, and many of those involved in the more violent protest were clad in black and identified themselves to reporters as anarchists.

They wrought havoc by damaging property and setting at least one fire. Most of the trouble was in pockets of a neighborhood near downtown, several blocks from where the convention was taking place.

Police estimates of the crowd shifted several times during the event, ranging from 2,000 to 10,000. The crowd was clearly in the thousands.

Late Monday afternoon, long after the antiwar marchers had dispersed, police requested and got 150 Minnesota National Guard soldiers to help control splinter groups near downtown.



Members of the Connecticut delegation said they were attacked by protesters when they got off their bus near the Xcel Center, KMSP-TV reported.

Delegate Rob Simmons told the station that a group of protesters came toward his delegation and tried to rip the credentials off their necks and sprayed them with a toxic substance that burned their eyes and stained their clothes.

One 80-year-old member of the delegation had to be treated for injuries, and several other delegates had to rinse their eyes and clothing, the station reported.

Five people were arrested for setting a trash bin on fire and pushing it into a police car, St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh said. Authorities didn’t have immediate details on the other arrests.

The antiwar march was organized by a group called the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, whose leaders said they hoped for a peaceful, family-friendly event. But police were on high alert after months of preparations by a self-described anarchist group called the RNC Welcoming Committee, which wasn’t among the organizers of the march.

About 20 people dressed in black tried to block a key intersection. Police quickly dispersed the group, then shot two tear gas canisters at them as the fled.

Pictures taken by Associated Press photographers showed officers using pepper spray on protesters who appeared to be trying to block streets.

“There are people who are committing violations of law, and they’re being arrested,” Mr. Walsh said.

About 200 people from a group called Funk the War noisily staged its own march. Wearing black clothes, bandannas and gas masks, some of their members smashed windows of cars and stores. They tipped over newspaper boxes, pulled a big trash bin into the street, bent the rear view mirrors on a bus and flipped heavy stone garbage bins on the sidewalks.

One man who seemed to be the leader of the group carried a yellow flag with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” The group chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Meanwhile, a group of about 100 anarchists pushed a Dumpster filled with trash and threw garbage in the streets and at cars. They also took down orange detour road signs. In hot pursuit were teams of riot officers carrying batons, rifles and guns that could be used to shoot tear gas.

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