Two marches diverged in Saint Paul and I...
Took the one less traveled by
and that reminded me
how much I hate pepper spray...
At first glance Monday's protest March on the RNC appeared to be a wash... With less than two hours before the event was to begin it was more than clear that organizers were not going to meet their target of 50,000 protesters. In deed, it looked like they'd be lucky to hit 2,000.
But first glance proved not to be a good indicator, and in hindsight Saint Paul may have lucked out that a mere fifth of the promised participants were all that showed.
While news programs talked about the march in St. Paul there were actually two marches - the official organized and routed one and an earlier one - an extemporaneous one begun by the anarchists in the crowd along with the group Funk the War.
When the anarchists took off towards the street en masse, many people - myself included - figured that the march had started and that we had merely lost track of time. So, seeing the group starting to leave, we hurriedly followed. I can only assume that we began by taking the actual parade route but were quickly diverted first by police who were trying to herd the marchers and later by the marchers themselves as they attempted to outwit and avoid police.
The group leaders near the head of the line would march to an intersection then randomly choose a direction. This led the parade down streets sometimes packed with moving cars suddenly halted by hundreds of chanting, mostly black clad young people.
At one or more points, marchers eluded police. A number of members in the march began upending newspaper machines and tossing trash cans into the street. Some took to destroying windows at businesses on their impromptu route. A parking garage lost a window - the downtown Macy's lost two display windows, and more than that were broken.
One marcher attacked a parked Volvo. He slammed it hard with an unknown object at least three times - but the window refused to break and the car's body deflected the blows. This brief incident was a veritable advertisement for the luxury car.
At points in the march, anarchists and police met. It's from those meetings that the television footage altercations came. A tone point police tried blocking protesters, attempting to route them west from their southbound trek. The officers used their bikes as a fence. When marchers tried breaching this wall the cops fought back and held, wielding canisters of pepper spray the size of home fire extinguishers.
Being hit by the spray - even being downwind of it - stung the eyes and brought a foul taste to the mouth. March organizers had trained and equipped "medic" teams to help marchers hit by spray.
After taking the hour and a half anarchists' tour of downtown Saint Paul I opted to stop in a local market and cool off. Grabbing a quick couple quarts of cold drinks I sat and enjoyed the A.C. After recouping for 15 minutes I hit the bricks again trying to figure out where the marchers had gone.
Turning a corner I caught the sounds of the rolling music system being drawn on a wagon by Funk the War. Following the sounds for two blocks brought me to the march, but at a strange juncture - it seemed that the anarchists joined up with the authorized march. This march, I believe was led by the Iraq Veterans Against the War.
And while there were still photo ops aplenty this was a calmer more disciplined group. And that meant that all the real excitement was now past.