Even though most of the first day of the RNC was cancelled due to Hurricane Gustav, the protest march on the convention was still on, so I started the day by heading to the State Capitol grounds, where the march began. Organizers had estimated 50,000 people would show up. That was a wildly optimistic forecast; later news reports estimated the crowds at around 10,000, which seems about right from what I saw. That's still quite a few people.
Like I've said before, I don't want to get too deep into politics or hard news here, but it's hard to avoid. If you're following the news, you might have read that there were police raids on several houses this weekend in advance of the convention; the cops say they were putting a stop to troublemakers before they had a chance to cause trouble; others say they were trying to squash dissent and the right to free speech. You've probably already heard that more than 250 people were arrested on the day of the march. The arrestees are being described in news reports as "rogue groups of protesters" and a "small band of anarchists" who were not part of the main protest, but broke off on their own to do things like break the shop windows at Macy's, throw park benches in the street, and set a Dumpster on fire and push it into a police car. That bears out with my own experience: The march itself was peaceful. I stayed with it the whole time, and I saw no violence or mayhem during the march. I was near the front of the line, and so I got a good look at everyone behind us as the route doubled back on itself on the second leg from the Xcel back to the Capitol. Nobody that I saw during the march looked interested in starting any nonsense; they just wanted to wave their signs and make their voices heard. People who didn't smash things often looked like this:
The anarchists were a tiny minority of the people downtown on Monday. And they were about as effective at creating genuine social change or fomenting a real revolution against capitalist oligarchy as a crowd of drunken basketball fans overturning cars in the wake of an NBA championship would be. There are stories about the arrests and the rioters all over blogs and news websites elsewhere, so if you're interested you can check them out there. I'd rather show you what everyone else looked like.
The closest I came to seeing any of the mayhem was while I was walking with my wife toward the Capitol, on our way to the march, when, ahead of us, the back window of a state trooper's car was broken. I heard the glass break, but didn't see who did it. "My squad car has been … compromised," I heard the trooper say into his radio as I walked past.
After I got home from the march, grabbed something to eat, and headed out to the next event on my agenda, the Take Back Labor Day concert, it was almost over and the only band that hadn't played yet was The Pharcyde. Ambling over to the riverside, I saw a flotilla of police boats stopping and boarding a civilian boat displaying a banner saying "Stop Torture Now." I didn't have my camera with me, so I went back to watch the music. I stuck around a little while, but it was hot, I was tired, and The Pharcyde just wasn't doing it for me. I went home, turned on the DVD player and watched a couple of episodes of NewsRadio.