MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — There was a marked contrast in the protests outside the two national conventions.
While thousands of peaceful pro-life protesters gathered in Denver, there were violent anti-war protesters at the Republican Convention.
In St. Paul, aside from one peaceful anti-war march on Sept. 1, the demonstrations were neither pro-life nor peaceful. Many were out-of-state anarchists without a cause other than to create chaos and thwart the convention.
A group calling itself the Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee traveled to or communicated with groups in 67 cities to recruit members. Among the plans outlined by a Ramsey County sheriff’s warrant application and affidavit were efforts to kidnap delegates, block bridges, use liquid sprayers and throw marbles.
While he wasn’t kidnapped, wheelchair-bound Connecticut delegate Frederick Biebel was attacked by protestors Sept. 1, along with dozens of others, including Tony Guglielmo, senator for Connecticut’s 35th District.
“We were walking toward the convention center when we were pushed aside by four ragamuffins, and about 60 others jumped from nearby vans and began pushing us up against a building,” said Biebel, of Stratford, Conn. “One of them stole my delegate credentials off my neck, and we were sprayed with some liquid. It was a scary moment.”
“They were saying things like, ‘You’re killers. How do you sleep at night killing people like you do?’ laced with extreme profanity,” said Mike Garrett, the delegate from Bridgeport, Conn.
“Fred has a heart problem and was short of breath,” said Garrett. “The paramedics checked his vitals and a Hazmat team flushed people’s eyes. They later said that the liquid was water mixed with an oxidizer like bleach. They were trying to ruin our clothes and sting our eyes.”
The U.S. Secret Service later obtained and returned Biebel’s credentials.
Self-proclaimed anarchists also smashed store and police car windows, slashed delegate bus and police car tires, attacked police and knocked over park benches and garbage cans.
One of those arrested, Matthew DePalma of Flint, Mich., was charged with illegal possession of Molotov cocktails that he hoped to use on police and at the Xcel Energy Center. The affidavit quotes DePalma as wanting to use a bomb at the center so that the convention would “end with a bang.”
More than 800 persons were arrested during the week in St. Paul.
The irony of anti-war protestors using violence to highlight their cause wasn’t lost on observers.
“They don’t believe in using violence to help the people of Iraq, but they do believe in using it to get rid of the ‘fascist dictator’ here,” said Marty Andrade, a blogger for True North, a conservative, Minnesota-based political blog.
“They were using the foulest language and yelling about getting out of Iraq,” said Biebel. “We from Connecticut are for peace, but not for bleach,” said Biebel. “We also believe in freedom of speech, but not bleach.”