I arrived at the Minnesota State Capitol on Monday shortly before 1 p.m., when the march on the Xcel Center was scheduled to begin. Things were already in full swing, with protesters assembling on the capitol lawn and making last-minute adjustments to their signs, costumes, and props.
The march began roughly on time, with a slow but determined mass moving down the capitol’s hill toward downtown Saint Paul. I began walking next to an anti-capitalist black bloc. An exuberant young man with a megaphone led protesters in chants of “No war but the class war!” and “A … Anti … Anti-Capitalista!”—after which last chant I heard a Bloc member behind me confide to his friend, “I don’t even know what that means.”
I really, really hoped he was kidding. After Megaphone Guy announced that protestors had smashed the windows of a bus full of delegates and the people around me cheered, claustrophobia began to set in and I decided to peel away from this group and observe other portions of the march.
The Revolution will be exhaustively photographed …
… and merchandized.
Police in riot gear appeared at several intersections to control the flow of the march. I overheard one policewoman in the front line say to a protestor, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
As the march neared the Xcel Center, it was herded through a metal fence.
After emerging from the fencing, the march appeared to be doubling back on itself. From the median in front of Mickey’s Dining Car, I was able to observe it headed both ways.
Code Pink and the Backbone Campaign along with some other very theatrical groups, lending the march a parade-like aspect.
What I saw next had a way of putting everything in perspective. On the other side of the median, marching past Mickey’s, I was suddenly confronted by a huge delegation from Iraq Veterans Against The War, joined by older veterans of other wars in a powerful and dignified procession.
Not to diminish the efforts of the many protest groups which turned out in powerful numbers, but this segment of the march seemed the most—well, real. And certainly the most moving.
I was not witness to the clashes between police and protesters that occurred; from where I was standing, things proceeded in an orderly fashion. There was, however, another Utne writer caught up in the commotion and tear gas, and her perspective is unfortunately very different from mine.
Images courtesy of the author.
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