We went to the anti-war rally in St. Paul on Monday (you know, the one where violence later broke out and people were roughed up and arrested). We arrived at the capitol at 11 a.m. and the march didn't start until 1 p.m. so we hung out on the lawn and watched people. The kids were most fascinated with the Democracy ice sculpture and, when the C and Y collapsed, they broke pieces off and ate them. This made for funny conversations like, "Mama, can I please go get some more democracy?" and "I'm not hot. Democracy is keeping me cool". Thousands of people lined up to march towards the Excel Energy Center where the Republican National Convention is being held. We were there with friends who also had kids and we positioned ourselves in front of and behind the kids to keep track of them and to act as a buffer. As we began walking and chanting, though, we were able to relax because it felt very manageable and peaceful. Then, we came around a corner and saw the police in riot gear.
Zeca screamed, "MAMA! Look! ASTRONAUTS! Lots and LOTS of astronauts!" Miguel knew they were not astronauts, however, and had many questions about why the police would be wearing dark masks and standing there with big sticks. That is not something that is easy to explain. I was completely unprepared for the fear I felt in seeing the riot police. It was surreal to be marching with our peace signs while being watched by storm troopers. We marched on but started to feel a bit uneasy. A block later, it became clear that something was happening separate from the march. A few people crossed through the police line and the police made no effort to stop them. Then, the march organizers stepped in and linked arms in front of the police to keep more people from breaking off and going through the line. We marched for a couple more blocks before deciding to return to the capitol to go home (Zeca was falling asleep on Luisa's shoulders). As we were walking back, we heard noise behind us and turned around to see all of these media people running towards us. They passed by us and then it was very clear that something was going on. We grabbed the kids and turned down a different street to get away from the crowds and, much to our surprise, found ourselves in front of a group from the National Guard. They were crouching in the street with pellet guns or something pointed towards the main street where the march was taking place. We just kept walking...past the National Guard...past more riot police...past unmarked cars blocking off the streets and back to the capitol. No one stopped us or questioned us. I guess we didn't look like anarchists.
So, that's my report from the field. Wake me up when the RNC is gone.
The Star Tribune has pictures from protests that took place yesterday. (I get chills every time I look at the photo of the officer in riot gear sitting on top of Mickey's Diner).