Downtown Militarized Zone

Photos by India Bell

Hard to believe that as recently as Sunday, downtown Saint
Paul was a bucolic paradise ringed in chain link, the peace kept by strapping
young men with plastic handcuffs. Sadly, the photos below didn’t jibe with the
reality of yesterday’s protests.

While Minnesota’s, and the nation’s, eyes should’ve been
turned to the potential for yet another
biblical disaster visited upon New Orleans
, and somewhere between 8,000 and
10,000 people marched in peaceful protest against the war in Iraq, various
social injustices, and the lack of proper bagels in the Midwest, a small group
of asshats were doing all they could to ensure all eyes were on them. And
sadly, they didn’t feel they could accomplish this by word or crappy bohemian
performance art, so instead they reportedly lobbed homemade explosives, smashed windows, overturned dumpsters, attacked delegates,
and generally demonstrated their complete lack of understanding of what free speech

Ignoring, for a moment, the larger issue of how this group
of irredeemable twats makes it virtually impossible for any of the protestors
to be taken seriously, they’ve created a significant public safety issue for
the rest of the convention. The police, having seen what lengths immature
Marxist wanna-be’s will go to "get their message across to the Capitalist
pigs," are far more willing to deploy the more unpleasant countermeasures
available to them. This has already been in ample
, with pepper spray used like so much Binaca
and canisters of caustic gasses that some claim contain tear gas, but are more
likely to have released Axe body spray into the air – a sure way to disperse a
crowd. Law enforcement is already being accused of being overzealous, and it’s
sad that so many well-intentioned and peaceful activists are being caught up in
the mess that the demonstrations have become – but it’s hard to blame the
police when they’re forced to deal with hordes of protesters, any one of whom
may want to cause harm in a variety of ways.

But on a larger scale, while no one could’ve possibly
expected protests at the RNC to remain completely peaceful, there seems to be
precious little thought actually devoted to these demonstrations. Perhaps if
they were facing down tanks in Tiananmen Square, violence could be understood.
But marching the virtually deserted streets of St. Paul, it does nothing to
advance their cause, obscuring it with sensational headlines and stories rather
than providing an opportunity for public conversation, debate and discourse.
It’s telling that the protesters engaged in the vandalism and violence wouldn’t
show their faces or grant an interview. Frankly, it’s profoundly disgusting
that anyone could consider this an effective, or even acceptable, form of
political activism.

The only consolation I can find in this is how
unlikely it is any of the asshats in question are fellow Minneapolitans, since
precious few of us can actually find our way to downtown St. Paul.