St. Paul, Minnesota
Above: From the Star Tribune’s photo series from last night (Sept.4, 2008). That’s me on the left with my old black messenger bag. (Thanks to K for finding this.)
As it happens, a friend and I were caught between two opposing sides last night and were arrested while we were trying to return to Minneapolis, near a bridge in St. Paul.
Well before this was taken, we witnessed the aftermath of a largely peaceful protest (we saw one charge from the full-kit police that seemed to target specific people in the march and then retreat). How peaceful? Some of the chants went like this, “You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off the riot suit.” (See link to another Strib article on the event by
Ryan Foley and Martiga Lohn).
The march later continued on elsewhere, and we started to look for a way home.
We came across the trailing edge of it’s path at various intersections trying to figure out a way back to Minneapolis. We found that was blocked by a total cordon around the area. We saw no rioting or incidents similar to Monday, but instead witnessed a massive police effort that included massive explosive detonations and huge clouds of various gases. They seemed to intentionally split the marchers a good distance from us, and then somehow arranged these mouse traps in various key points. Extremely efficient.
When we saw the whole thing suddenly collapsing around us, quite literally, we tried repeatedly to ask officers how to leave the area. We were pointed in opposite directions and as it turns out, the maneuver encircled us suddenly, with about 25 other bystanders (including all ages, reporters with credentials, neutral legal overseer teams, peace teams with elderly citizens, even a whole family). We heard later over 400 people were arrested in separately controlled actions.
We were ordered to sit like this for about 1.5 hours, surrounded by well armed men and women from a variety of police forces from all over the country. Pepper spray was still in the air and we felt mild burning for some time. We were later handcuffed with plastic restraints, and arrested for “Presence in an Unlawful Assembly.”
I was seated with two reporters for another two hours, one from the local City Pages (Matt Snyders) and another student journalist from Iowa. The clean-cut student had been pepper sprayed directly in the face and was clearly in shock. Finally in complete control, and less irritable than when wearing gas masks and shouting to GET FUCKING DOWN, the Police seemed to relax. They were out in huge numbers, I estimated some 500 of them easily on that corner alone.
Overall, from what I saw, the Police at that point became firm yet fair, they sensed the futility of arresting our group, in my opinion. My bag, helmet, and camera were confiscated. We were then driven away in buses and I was processed in the local county jail over a period of about 10 hours last night. We were never advised of any rights though we were offered water, apples, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My arresting officer described the operation in our corner as, “Fucking bullshit.”
Si, esto es nuestro Estados Unidos. Oh, and I missed McCain’s speech.
UPDATES: Bridge Blockade story from earlier that day. See the latest in The Uptake and some more recent images from earlier in the day on A Tiny City. Another excellent article from Democracy Now, Amy Goodman. Another excellent account from City Pages, Matt Snyders.
UPDATE: Sept. 27, 2008. See above YouTube video of that evening. The very end shows the arbitrary nature of those who were cut off, and those, like this videographer, who weren’t. Incredible footage.