From Joel Sipress, former NAWC steering committee member:
So here is my report from St. Paul, based in part on personal observations and experiences and in part on reports I’ve read and seen since I returned home.
The big anti-war march was great. It started with a rally at the State Capital. We then marched through downtown St. Paul (Ceder and Wabasha Streets to 7th St, then down 7th St. to the Excel Center, and back to the State Capital). The crowd was big and diverse (my honest estimate is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000), and there was a really positive vibe. There were ‘lots of people lining the streets, most of whom were sympathetic supporters. There were a few counterdemonstrators, most of whom were pretty mellow.
Because I was asked to speak on behalf of the Northland Anti-War Coalition at the pre-war rally, I got to march at the very front and help carry the big banner, which was very cool. The coolest part, though, was that the veterans contingent was right behind us, and they were very, very impressive.
There were no incidents that I am aware of directly connected with the big march itself. The “direct action” people had agreed to refrain from doing anything to interfere with the march, and they seem to have stuck to that agreement. Downtown St. Paul was crawling with cops, many in riot gear, but their main job during the march seemed to be to prevent groups from breaking away from the march and entering the heart of downtown. I didn’t pick up any tension at all between the cops and the main march. In fact, we got a few smiles and positive head nods from some of the cops. I must admit, though, that it was a big unnerving when we had to march through the cattle pens in front of the Excel Center.
From Carl Sack:
Yesterday, September 1, was the March on the RNC to End the War in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The crowds were very large—smaller than the "up to 50,000" expected by the protest's organizers, the Coalition to March on the RNC, but larger than I had anticipated. Final size estimates ranged from 10,000 (cops) to 40,000 (organizers). The reality was probably somewhere in the middle. The atmosphere was very energetic, with a fairly high proportion of young people. Many of the youth, but not all, seemed to be affiliated with various radical tendencies, the largest being anarchist in nature. All in all, it was a fairly diverse crowd. Predictably, there was a lot of Obama paraphernalia, but supporters of Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Ron Paul, Roger Calero, Gloria LaRiva, and many with no visible election materials were also present.
The march stepped off around 1 PM, led by a sizeable (50-100) contingent of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a similar number of Veterans for Peace. The march was energetic and under very heavy police presence. Several different law enforcement jurisdictions from around this "progressive" metropolitan area were represented, including Minneapolis cops on bicycles, St. Paul Police and Ramsey County deputies. There was nothing "Minnesota nice" about the cops' heavy black body armor, helmets, gas masks, pepper spray canisters and large wooden clubs they held menacingly feet from protesters—toys no doubt purchased with a special $50 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. Fortunately, there were no major incidents during the legal march, with the possible exception of an early anarchist-led breakaway that I heard rumor of but did not witness.
As the march approached the Excel Energy Center, where the convention was to be held, a line of a hundred or so counter-protesters was lined up along the street median. The march ran westbound along 7th Street the length of the convention center, then doubled back and ran eastbound. I witnessed what seemed to be a brief confrontation with the front of the march encountering a line of cops blocking the route, but the cops soon yielded to marchers. On the eastbound side, closest to the convention, marchers were forced to walk through a high, heavy portable fence about two blocks long with open gates at either end. This was the freakiest part of the march; if the cops had decided to charge protesters from either end, we would have been sitting ducks.From Deb Taylor, member of the Minnesota Peace Team: