With the leading lights of the GOP hanging back to see what aid they can render to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast, protesters from about 180 diverse groups gathered in St. Paul on Monday to express their dissatisfaction with the Republican party, global capitalism, meat eaters, big oil, washing regularly, neocons, corporate coffee, the military industrial complex, Jews, immunization, working for a living and of course "the man" in all his forms. The protesters included a lot of the usual hippies and peaceniks plus a surprisingly large contingent of several hundred black-uniformed hardcore anarchists who had brought their own gas masks and riot gear. Unlike the bulk of the protesters and in a way contrary to their ideology, the black-shirts were organized and far from peaceful.
The protest march had been billed by the organizers (Coalition to March on the RNC and End the War) as likely to attract 50,000 participants. Estimates from observers suggest the actual turnout was more like 5,000 to 10,000. A good thing, considering the unpleasant turn which the gathering took very quickly. The mainstream media has largely downplayed the level of violence which took place on Monday, hesitant to admit that it was a full-blown riot. But reports from bloggers and other sources paint a very ugly picture.
Everything started out as planned, with participants marching and waving signs in the 90 degree heat through downtown St. Paul. As the march began to wind down the violence began, with one group setting up a human chain in the middle of the highway off-ramp servicing the downtown area around the convention center. As buses bearing delegates were brought to a standstill, protesters threw bricks, rocks, bottles and bags of concrete on them from an overpass, breaking windows and terrorizing the passengers, including prominent blogger Gateway Pundit. A video interview with some of the victims is available.
Some protesters set up roadblocks to keep the police from interfering, while about 200 black-clad and masked anarchists smashed windows in local stores and a bank, tipped over newspaper boxes, lit a dumpster on fire and pushed it into a police car and flipped heavy concrete garbage bins onto the sidewalk, and scattered bent nails and other makeshift caltrops to puncture the tires of cars entering the area. Some of these actions were attributed to Funk the War, a militant offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society.