ST. PAUL , Minn. – A mob of 200 anarchists marched through the streets of downtown St. Paul shouting, “Whose streets? Our streets.”
By the time they were through with their impromptu protest Monday afternoon, they were right.
A Minneapolis police car sat gutted after protesters smashed its windows as a horde of police finally caught up with them nearly two hours after the melee began.
Police were broadsided by the protest and opted to contain rather than conclude the unsanctioned demonstration turned riot.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said police arrested about 100 protesters throughout the afternoon.
Deciding the route block-by- block based on which paths were least populated by police, the black-clad anarchist group stormed the streets of St. Paul, with media members in tow, knocking over newspaper boxes and street-side garbage cans to block roadways.
Roadway blockers became the least of concerns when the group dug bricks out of landscaped areas and threw them at windows.
At one point, smoke bombs billowed and the smell and sting of pepper spray filled the air as protesters smashed windows in nearby buildings, including the First National Bank Building and Macy’s.
About a dozen police cars rolled up 6th Street, and the anarchists ran to an intersection with a barricade to block advancing authorities. One jumped on the hood and roof of a squad car before rejoining the mob.
One squad car swerved to the side, and protesters smashed all its windows before scurrying into a full parking lot. They dodged cars and slinked through an alley without police pursuit bringing the riot to an abrupt end.
After that, the more violent protest seemed to dissipate. Police beefed up security around the scheduled, peaceful parade following the earlier fracas; riot police lined streets and pushed security barriers back a half-block.
Protesters and police clash again
A group of protesters calling themselves the Anti-Capitalist Block clashed briefly with riot police before many were detained at Shepard Road under the St. Paul bluffs.
Police fired rubber bullets and teargas at the group at the intersection of Jackson Street, after demonstrators sought entry onto the street.
The crowd then retreated in the other direction for about 15 minutes followed closely by the advancing riot police firing smoke bombs and teargas with some demonstrators banging on passing cars.
A volunteer medic calling himself Garth, an EMT from Oregon, said he treated “tens and tens” of injuries from teargas and rubber bullets during the confrontation.
Demonstrator and University senior Jess Wenstrom said the violent police reaction was unprovoked.
“We were all walking on the sidewalk legally,” she said. “We were just yelling, ‘we’re peaceful, stop tear gassing us,’ and we’d run, and the teargas would be on both sides.”
At the intersection of Ontario Street, lines of riot and mounted police refused the demonstrators passage, trapping them between two lines of law enforcement.
About an hour after the initial confrontation, police made an announcement that everyone between police lines was under arrest.
Instead, police handcuffed some detainees for arrest while releasing others in groups of about 50 every 15 minutes.
Wenstrom, who was one of those detained and was later released, said police tactics were heavy-handed.
“We should be allowed to be downtown protesting if we want,” she said. “We pay taxes on these streets, these are our streets.”