Police have worried all day that the young anarchists intent on disrupting the Republican National Convention might head west for tonight’s Rage Against the Machine concert at Target Center.
That’s because something similar happened eight years ago, when anarchist groups co-opted the same group’s free concert during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, leading to an almost riot-like confrontation with police.
Local law enforcement wants to prevent the same thing from happening here.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a little hospitality, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher-style.
Police, using informants, estimate the number of potential troublemakers at about 500, many of them from out of town. More than 300 have been arrested over the past three days, but some of those have already been released.
Many of the young anarchists can be easily spotted in their heavy pants, jackets and vests, or sporting bandannas or crosses made with red tape. Scattered groups of them walked freely today in downtown St. Paul, east of the Xcel Energy Center.
The biggest group, several dozen at least, had migrated to the county’s Law Enforcement Center on Lafayette, east of downtown, plopping down under trees on the median, apparently waiting for friends or leaders to be bailed out of the holding cells nearby.
About 5 p.m., Fletcher was cruising around town in his unmarked vehicle and pulled over to chat when he saw me walking along Cedar Street. He said he had told his officers at the jail to bring water and sandwiches for those waiting outside.
Just then, his phone rang. It was someone at the jail with a question: If they’re chaining themselves together outside, should we still feed them?
“Sure, feed ’em,” Fletcher said. “We’re all about hospitatlity here.” — Joe Kimball