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Mpls, MN, United States

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Incidents & Accidents

Monday, September 08, 2008


So David and Erin both asked about the RNC and protesting. I wish I had more to say about that. Blame it on trying to write my prospectus, not wanting to get arrested, or general laziness, though, but all I did was try to spot Republicans downtown Saturday night (they were wearing blazers and lapel pins!); attend the Liberty Parade and concert on Sunday; and participate in Take Back Labor Day on Monday. I'll go ahead and tell you about my limited experience, anyway.

Take Back Labor Day was the only time I was in St. Paul during the convention. We biked over, and traffic wasn't bad at all, until we got close to the Xcel Center. Then it was just weird; they had installed these black cyclone fences around the convention center, and between the sidewalks and the streets. There were cops everywhere, many of them from out of town; I heard people complaining that streets had been inexplicably blocked, and that none of the cops could even give directions of how to get around.

Take Back Labor Day was on Harriet Island, and because they had closed the bridge we wanted to take, we ended up taking the High Bridge over. It was a serious climb (Wikipedia says it's 160' tall), but had plenty of room for bikes, which was nice. On the other side, we took a breather and looked at the city. A mom and about six kids unloaded from a van and shared the view with us; the kids were most excited by the "boats with machine guns on the front"--in fact, the Coast Guard was patrolling the Mississippi.

The event was in a big park right across from the Xcel Center. Security there felt much calmer than on the other side of the bridge; there were a few patrols of people in T-shirts from some security company, but not the hordes of officers we'd just left. There were lots of tents set up with food and different events, but the big attraction was the main stage, where we heard, among others, Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Atmosphere, and Mos Def. The event was primarily about workers' rights, which was a fitting protest to the RNC. We made a lot of noise, and I'm sure Republicans outside the Xcel Center could hear us, although I'm sure it was plenty quiet inside.

My friend and I were taking a look at the tents on our way out when we saw crowds gathered along the riverbank. As we looked, we saw a yacht with a banner that said "Stop Torture," being pursued by probably five Coast Guard boats and two or three smaller sheriff's boats. It was making quick movements and seemed to be outfoxing its pursuers, which we all cheered. Across the bank, I could see a wall of people in black, apparently officers. It looked like there were 50 or 60 of them, and I couldn't figure out what they were doing; protecting the bank in case the yacht's occupants wanted to protest torture on land?

A guy beside me nudged me and said, "Did you see the snipers?" Sure enough; as I looked, I saw two unmistakable figures standing on a building beside the Xcel Center. You can see them in this picture my friend took. It was only later, looking at this guy's photo set on Flickr, that I realized that what we'd been seeing on the other bank was the police surrounding detainees. Creepy.

We left shortly thereafter to head home. As we got back to the High Bridge, however, we were dismayed to see police cars blocking the entrance. An old man watching from the sidewalk told us we'd have to detour to the I-35 bridge, miles away. Thankfully, however, as we watched, we saw that the cops were letting pedestrians and cyclists through. We had the bridge entirely to ourselves! Although I later realized that the closure appeared to be another heavy-handed gesture to control protesters (read: freedom), gliding down that silent bridge, I felt like I was in a dream. I snapped a camera phone picture of what felt like The Future.

Later, as we crossed another bridge into Minneapolis, passing a patrol car and officer on the Saint Paul side, I felt, more than I ever had before, how really separate the two cities are--and it was a relief to be home.

As much as I heart Jon Stewart, I have to respectfully disagree with his characterization of St. Paul as "so much better than Minneapolis. Minneapolis is Danny DeVito to St. Paul's Schwarzenegger." I don't know where he was in each city to come up with that comparison... but I'm glad to live on the right side of the river (the left one).


Anonymous said...


Ern said...

Thanks for the insight. I never know what to believe with conflicting reports from both sides.

CëRïSë said...

Thanks, DB!

And Erin, I feel ya: even though I do actually live here, I still don't think I got the complete picture.

I did forget to mention, too, that two of a friend's friends were arrested as they were simply standing by, and treated rather abominably; I'm still not sure whether their purses/keys/phones have been returned. I guess the city did finally decide to launch an investigation into police behavior.