RNC Protesters & the Stormtroopers

RNC Protesters & the Stormtroopers

Just like Denver last week, my hometown is now on the armed camp of the national stage. It seems that nobody here is from here. I went downtown after the big protest march just to look around. It was in the high 80s and that’s pretty warm for us northerners. I wasn’t there for the big march, but I did get to watch a fun little low-key interplay last night. As I was walking around, I noticed this group of about 75 officers march out of the convention zone and over to the corner of Kellog and St. Peter.

 

I love the flourish-like zip-tie handcuffs on these dudes (and dudettes, there were quite a few female troops in the ranks as well). Here’s the set up, the officers marched out to this corner and just stood there for at least fifteen minutes. As far as I can tell, they were there to guard the Crown Plaza Hotel — as the evening wore on, several large motorcades came and went from the hotel. Boy, did these guys draw attention to themselves!

 

Sure as shoot, the code pink protesters that were on the St. Peter bridge hanging their banners for the benefit of the coast guard gunboats patrolling the Mississippi found out about it and came up the corner with their megaphone and banners. It was pretty entertaining, over a hundred police officers and several dozen photographers watched about ten loud protesters dance in the street.

 

Did I say a lot of police? I guess after the afternoon teargassing event, they weren’t taking chances. Now with only ten protesters, this seems ridiculous, but a lot of things didn’t happen. The 50,000 protest march of less than 10,000 went through town and then over the St. Peter bridge to Harriet Island (a festival ground across the Mississippi). President Bush was going to be speaking, but didn’t come to town because of the Hurricane. But the cops were still playing by the old schedule. I would imagine that Bush was going to be at the Crown Plaza (the Texas delegation was staying there) and security was expecting 50,000 protesters across the bridge (which the city had barricaded with four old dump trucks). In addition to the re-enforcements, the cops in the front row now have tear-gas launchers — note the green canisters on their chests.

 

OK, so back to the pictures. This guy had the oddest little sign he kept standing and holding at the police. I never figured out what it said. Hand-hold shooting by street-light requires a fuzzy-high ISO. Note to the protesters, I know it’s too much to ask for you to take a bath, but please don’t sing. I commented on the off-key singing to another photographer and he said that he offered a cop $20 to shoot the singer :).  The cops were actually pleasant. I stepped behind them to take this picture and one of them looked over his shoulder at me. I said “I’m just taking pictures, I don’t want to surprise you”, to which he replied, “No, you don’t” and smiled.

 

After an hour of dancing and (ugh) singing, the protesters got bored and the one with a megaphone declared “let’s go this way” and they danced off. Remember the guy with the little sign? He stuck around for his 15 minutes. I’m glad he did, this was my favorite picture of the night.

Thanks to the protesters for an evening’s entertainment, but thanks especially to the cops for remaining calm and not minding us damn photographers walking all around them. It was still near 80 degrees out and I was warm wearing a t-shirt, I can’t imagine wearing riot gear.

  • http://phxdp.blogspot.com Sharon (Phoenix Daily Photo)

    Wow, that is quite a police presence.

  • http://bluemoonstudios.com bluemoonpaul

    Yeah, you missed the earlier disturbances, which got a little hairy. There was no big problem with most of the 10,000 peaceful protesters, but it was another story with the 200-300 masked anarchists who threw rocks, broke windows, attacked people and overturned things. Yikes. I’m glad you weren’t down there for all that, actually. Nice job capturing the aftermath, Mitch.

    Here are a couple links on the story:

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/09/01/rnc_day1/

    http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/09/01/anti-war-protest-at-gop-convention-turns-violent/

  • http://www.northmetro.blogspot.com/ Rob

    Great pics, Mitch! Dang this cold and fever. I really wanted to get over there and get some photos of the feral youths.

  • Jared

    Solid photos all around Mitch. It was a pleasure shooting with you last night. I was surprised to not see Mr. Mustache and his pink friend. Take care, and keep up the good work.

  • http://www.mitchster.com Mitchster

    Jared -
    Thanks, I had fun as well, how did your photos come out? If you post them on flickr or somewhere, let me know, I’d like to see them!
    Mr. Mustache will probably end up on the blog tomorrow, he didn’t fit in with today’s story. I normally don’t do more than one photo, six was really pushing it.
    - Mitch

  • http://www.twincitiesdailyphoto.com/ slinger

    6 photos for an event like this and the story behind it, I’m sure you could have added quite a few more. It was well worth it.

    I too didn’t get to the area until after the capital protest and the march had completed. It was quite a site to see, the transformation of the area from what I am used to seeing.

    I can tell though, I was on the wrong side of the Xcel for photo taking. I could hear things going on, but for the life of me couldn’t figure out how to get to 7th and Kellogg on foot. I was tired, hot, sweaty and was done for the day around 6:00. Hopefully I can get back down there Thursday evening after work. Tuesday and Wednesday evening are booked solid already.

    I was talking with another photographer down there, he said the worst of the protests should be Thursday, Monday’s was just the warm up. He was calling Monday’s events the Kiddie protest.

    Looking forward to more photos.

  • http://www.mitchster.com Mitchster

    Slinger -
    If you want to go on Thursday, let me know, we can meet there. I have a great place to park.

    Everyone: here’s some survival tips for photographers:
    Always know your exit strategy, whether chasing a protest march or a tornado.

    It’s a dangerous game, but I’m pretty good at not getting into trouble. I’ve been a lot of places I shouldn’t be and if I get caught, the worst I get is a nice conversation as I am walked out.

    Remember, the cop/security guard/watchman is just doing his job. He doesn’t want to arrest you or hurt you; he just wants you to not do anything that will get him in trouble. Always be polite, don’t mock or condescend. Ask if you are in the wrong. Ask where the line is and go back to it or just apologize and leave. If you can strike up a conversation and have a laugh together, he might let you stay or at least tell you where the good/safe places are to look from.

    It’s the Golden rule, stupid. Be nice.
    - Mitch

  • http://manila-photos.blogspot.com Hilda

    Images like these make my stomach churn badly. I’m glad your riot policemen seem so calm and even the protesters don’t sound violent. Take care please.

  • http://thiswillhurtme.blogspot.com/ Kris

    Man, it looks crazy out there. Very brave to get in amongst it!

  • http://photoblog.twincityphotos.com Snapshutter

    Great series of photos. I’m glad one can get down over there and actually take photos like this. There were reports of photographers getting harassed and even arrested, maybe those were overblown. I work just across the river from that spot, maybe I’ll stay late on Thursday and walk across the bridge with my camera.

  • Peter

    Great shots Mitch! I was down there with you that night. But last night was crazy near Mickeys Dinner.