Last week marked the one year anniversary of the Republican National Convention held in St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center. My wife and I spent that Labor Day Monday watching the biggest protest rally wind its way from the State Capital, around the arena, and through the streets of downtown. Growing up in the capital city, I can say the sights and sounds of the spectacle that day are etched in my mind. From sirens, to armies of police, to protesters protesting just for the sake of protesting, it seems so long ago.
Monetarily, I guess the city came out ok. They raised $51 million dollars to put the convention on, with reports saying half of the money coming from outside the State of Minnesota. Final costs of putting the event on were about $46 million dollars, leaving a net profit of $5 million dollars.
There were 818 arrests made that week, with 22 of them being FELONY charges, and 255 being misdemeanor charges. Of the 22 felony, 8 of them resulted in convictions. Of the 255 misdemeanor charges, 144 resulted in convictions. A majority of the cases were never prosecuted. 8 people are currently still on trial including a 79 year old Catholic Nun being charged for trespassing. Some people are still threatening lawsuits against the City of St. Paul, and the police. 26 people who were arrested on Shepard Rd near the Xcel that Monday have filed a Federal lawsuit over the mass arrest of 200 protesters. They will argue that the police made arrest “without individualized probable cause”, according to their attorney. They are requesting “class action status” on this case, bringing the entire 200 arrested into the trial. Another Federal lawsuit has been filed involving a search of a house on Igleheart St. The St. Paul City Attorney, John Choi said the RNC purchased a $10 million dollar insurance policy for $1.1 million dollars to protect the city from lawsuits, and that the city would use the policy if needed. So the fun continues in court.
Some review meetings have been held on the police response. Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher stated he thought there possibly were too many “quick response, riot gear equipped” officers used and not enough “soft uniformed” regular officers. Public perception of large groups of officers in riot gear many believe added to the tense situations, especially that opening Labor Day Monday. Police have over 6000 hours of video tape taken by officers the week of the convention. (notice the picture below officer on right is holding a video recorder)
I can tell you from being there on a hot 85 degree Labor Day with hundreds of thousands of marchers protesting everything from the war to global warming, and police wearing heavy and hot riot gear, the situation on both sides could have exploded at any given time. 98% of the marchers were peaceful and considerate. I remember hundreds of orange capped “observers” from several law groups watching the police actions closely. As with most rallies, only a small group of “anarchist” (which to me is too generous a term) were pushing the envelope at every level, from breaking windows to starting fires. They came from all over the U.S. and in many cases were not really protesting any one cause…just coming for the sake of causing trouble. They even had their own first aid people who helped them if pepper spray was used. (see picture below)
So here we are one year later. A new President is in office. The economy has sunk. One has to wonder if a party convention was held tomorrow…what different craziness would it shed. Health care protests, shouts of socialism and communism would be added to the regular mix of no more war, clean air, and immigration policies. My guess would be the Republican convention might be a bit quieter, with the Democratic convention and President Obama taking some heat from an entire new group of conservative protestors. What a difference a year makes!
Below are links to some raw home video I shot at last years rally. I hope you can sense the tenseness with the heat, the noise, the music, the helicopters, the people.