Four blocks of Kellogg Blvd in St. Paul broke into chaos late this afternoon as riot police fired canisters of chemical agents directly into the crowd. MnIndy’s Jeff Severens Guntzel was there and relayed his account of what happened.
Following an alert about an RNC Welcoming Committee “convergence,” he walked to Kellogg to find four blocks starting at Jackson filled with protesters who were dancing to the Dead Kennedy’s
“California über Alles” playing on a stereo. Some were making “soft barricades,” items like newspaper boxes dragged into the street to block traffic. At 3:28, annoyed drivers eventually got out of their cars to move the debris.
The protesters moved up the block, near the Crowne Plaza Hotel, five minutes later and were soon met by Minneapolis police officers on bikes and St. Paul Police Department officers in full riot gear. They started putting on gas masks. An officer addressed the protesters through a bullhorn, alerting that “This is your final chance” and stating that chemical agents would be used. Behind these black-clad riot cops were around 100 officers wearing camouflage and holding riot shields.
After a second warning announcement, mounted police came through the line of riot cops and moved toward protesters. Soon after, lines of riot police advanced steadily toward the protesters, who were at this point backing up. Red cannisters — Guntzel can’t say whether they contained mace or teargas — were fired in two directions, one landing at Guntzel’s feet and exploding, causing burning on his arms and forehead.
More officers began pulling out cannisters. One officer, Guntzel says, came within three feet of a member of the National Lawyers Guild, and despite the individual’s clearly marked lime-green NLG hat was doused with a chemical agent.
Next came teargas: Cannisters were rolled into the cloud and exploded, shooting flames and spinning. One landed at Guntzel’s feet and exploded, hitting his arms and forehead with chemicals.
“They were firing directly at people,” he says. “Protesters were engaging police, but they were not really being provoked, although I saw one bottle thrown (it landed short of officer). The crowd was backing off.”
The melee has moved down Jackson by 4:50 pm.
Guntzel will file a report on the incident this evening.