Nine protesters were arrested in an act of civil disobedience this afternoon during an antiwar march to the Xcel Energy Center where the Republican National Convention was gearing up.
About 500 activists led by Veterans for Peace marched from a rally at the State Capitol into downtown, walking behind a flag-draped coffin. As they reached St. Peter Street , organizers told those interested in an act of civil disobedience they could turn left.
Nine turned left. With retired surgeon David Harris of Red Wing in the lead, they crawled under a security tape and started nudging a loose piece of security fencing.
More than a dozen Ramsey County deputies in riot gear approached and detained them. Nine were taken into custody, seven were booked and two were released.
Earlier today St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman defended aggressive police action that has included a series of raids and arrests on the eve of the Republican National Convention. He said he hopes to protect the safety of "legitimate" protesters.
"We are making sure that people here to legitimately protest have the right to do that, but people engaging in criminal activity are not going to be able to do that," Coleman said in a Sunday morning interview.
He pointed to items seized in raids, including Molotov cocktails, a book called "Recipe for Disaster" and tools aimed at disabling buses.
"I think we have done absolutely everything we can to accommodate First Amendment rights," he said. "But the weapons recovered as a result of these operations make it very clear that there are people here planning to engage in criminal behavior."
The target for the sweeps so far has been a group call the RNC Welcoming Committee, which says on its website: "Together we can derail this purely ceremonial show of this repressive system and remake it with our own hands..."
Dozens of people have been handcuffed and released after their identifications have been checked. At least five have been jailed. The raids have been condemned by protesters and civil liberties advocates.
Authorities expect the largest march Monday when dozens of anti-war groups plans to March from the Capitol to the Xcel Energy Center around noon. They have permits and have pledged to be lawful.
"When people come down to protest in the peace march, we don't need the people who are there having their public and person safety threatened," Coleman said. "That's what these criminals want to do. My mother-in-law wants to march and it's just absolutely imperative that all the peaceful protesters have a chance to do that."
Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center , 325 E. 25th St. , Baltimore , MD 21218 . Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]verizon.net
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs