Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Vibe.com@RNC :: Day 1: Music And Teargas

Yesterday, as Atmosphere stepped onstage at Harriet Island to rock a crowd of 10,000–Slug sporting a fashionable “Obama ’08″ shirt–riot police just across the Mississippi were firing tear-gas cannisters and preventing hundreds more from crossing the bridge to get to the show.

Earlier that day, 20,000 had marched through the concrete canyons of St. Paul, carrying signs like “To Work Hard and Overtime, It Is Not A Crime: Immigration Reform First 100 Days”, “School Is For Learning, Not For Recruiting”, and “Heck Of A Job, Bushy”. Encompassing anti-war, pro-immigrant, and anti-Bush groups, the march was larger than anything seen in Denver, more diverse and celebratory.

A marching band played near a giant inflated globe. In front of the St. Paul Children’s Museum, little girls stared at the horses the riot cops sat on.

By 2pm, the main demonstration dissipated. The family marchers left across the bridge to Harriet Island for the SEIU concert and rally, and the day-long skirmishes between the anarchists and police intensified. A few hours later, unsuspecting stragglers to the concert found themselves caught in a militarized zone.

Black-bandanna’d anarchists hurled rocks, bricks, and trash at the black-suited riot police. Riot police fired rubber bullets back. Some who wanted an afternoon of music in the park were left bloodied and angry.

Hundreds of arrests later, the concert on the Minneapolis side of the river ended. As the show attendees walked back into St. Paul across the Robert Street bridge, at the request of Hennepin County police, squadrons of riot police arrived to block them. It was as if, unleashed and having drawn blood, they couldn’t wait to get more.

This was the news on a day the Republican Convention suspended most of its business and focused on Hurricane Gustav.

Cindy McCain and Laura Bush urged the delegates gathered in the otherwise strikingly empty Xcel Center to donate to the victims of Gustav. Hoping not to be outpositioned, Obama–perhaps the first candidate in recent memory not to receive a convention poll bounce, even after delivering a keynote that clocked Super Bowl ratings–cell-spammed supporters with a text message asking them to give $5 to the Red Cross, and to “Please fwd.”

At the demonstration, one marcher had held a sign on which he drew the southern part of the U.S., added a big hurricane symbol, and inscribed “Republicans: There When It Benefits Them.” By the end of this unusual day, though, the irony had become meta: Republicans seemed to be stacking benefits like chips.

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