Is it just organized violence they protest?
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Protesters smashed windows, punctured car tires and threw bottles Monday during an anti-war march to the site of the Republican National Convention. Police used pepper spray in confrontations with demonstrators and arrested five.
Instead of the single coherent march that organizers had hoped for, fringe groups of anarchists and others wrought havoc along the streets between the state Capitol and the Xcel Energy Center where the convention was taking place.
Police estimates of the crowd shifted during the event before settling on 8,000 to 10,000. The crowd was clearly in the thousands, many of them marching peacefully.
The arrests occurred in confrontations several blocks from the convention arena. Five people were arrested for lighting a trash bin on fire and pushing it into a police car, St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh said.
About 20 anarchists who had started the trash bin fire later tried to block the intersection of St. Peter and Exchange streets. Police quickly dispersed the group, then shot two tear gas canisters at the fleeing anarchists.
Pictures taken by Associated Press photographers showed officers using pepper spray on protesters who appeared to be trying to block streets.
"There are people who are committing violations of law and they're being arrested," Walsh said.
About 200 people from a group called Funk the War noisily staged its own separate march. Wearing black clothes, bandanas and gas masks, some of their members smashed windows of cars and stores. They tipped over newspaper boxes, pulled a big trash bin into the street, bent the rear view mirrors on a bus and flipped heavy stone garbage bins on the sidewalks.
One man who seemed to be the leader of the group carried a yellow flag with the motto "Don't Tread on Me." The group chanted: "Whose streets? Our streets!"
Meanwhile, a group of about 100 anarchists pushed a trash bin filled with trash and threw garbage in the streets and at cars. They also took down orange detour road signs. One of them used a screwdriver to puncture the back tire of a limousine waiting at an intersection and threw a wooden board at the vehicle, denting its side. Another hurled a glass bottle at a charter bus that had stopped at an intersection. The bottle smashed into pieces but didn't appear to damage the bus.
Closely following the anarchists were teams of riot officers carrying batons, rifles and guns that could be used to shoot tear gas.
The day's march was organized by a group called the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, whose leaders said they hoped for a peaceful, family-friendly march. But police were on high alert after months of preparations by a self-described anarchist group called the RNC Welcoming Committee, which wasn't among the organizers of the march.