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Thousands gather for RNC protest
Associated Press
Published: Monday September 1, 2008

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- About 10,000 protesters waving peace sign flags rallied at the state Capitol on Monday before an anti-war march to the Republican National Convention site. Hundreds of police wearing bulletproof vests and carrying billy clubs stood by.

Preparing for disruptions from a self-described anarchist group, officers in riot gear were stationed along the march route.

The anarchist group, known as the RNC Welcoming Committee, was targeted in police searches over the weekend that resulted in six arrests. The group, which did not organize Monday's march, said in a written statement that it was "moving forward with a national call to crash the convention."

At the rally, a 25-foot-long ice sculpture rose 3 feet in the air and spelled "Democracy." Some protesters flew kites, waved American and peace-sign flags and carried homemade anti-war signs.

Police said they were prepared for anything during the march, which organizers hoped would attract 50,000 people.

"We will not tolerate lawlessness in the city of St. Paul," St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington said.

Peace activist Steve Clemens, 47, from Minneapolis said he was disturbed by the number of police.

"But we can't control that," said Clemens, who had already been arrested once - for crossing into a restricted area during a march Sunday.

For Monday's rally, he was planning to be part of the Minnesota Peace Team, a group that hoped to prevent confrontations between police and protesters.

Cheri Honkala, a national organizer for the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, said she expected violent confrontations between anarchists and police.

"I just hope it doesn't get bloody," she said at a news conference shortly before the march was to begin. Her group was planning a nonviolent march on Tuesday with acts of civil disobedience.

One of the six arrested over the weekend on probable cause of conspiracy to commit a riot was released Sunday, according to attorney Bruce Nestor. No charges were filed against the woman, 23-year-old Monica Bicking. The other five remained jailed, possibly until Wednesday, Nestor said.