Police Use Tear Gas and ‘Flash Bangs’ to Disperse Protesters at RNC

By Lindsey Ellerson

Sep 2, 2008 10:03pm

ABC News’ Katie Hinman, Lindsey Ellerson and Jennifer Parker report: Several loud booms were heard outside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. at approximately 9:30pm ET, where the Republican National Convention is currently underway.

Commander Doug Holtz with the Joint Information Center in St. Paul, a coalition of secret service and law enforcement officials, told ABC News officers used "chemical munitions" — a term he says includes tear gas — and "distraction devices" — also known as "flashbangs" to disperse a crowd outside the Republican convention site, that he estimated at a couple hundred.

ABC News’ cameras also saw police in full riot gear deploy canisters of green smoke at the crowd, although Holtz could not confirm what those were. He says it was hard to tell how many were in the crowd because they broke up and moved into smaller groups, popping up in locations from 7th and St. Peter to 11th and Roberts.

Law enforcement officials were fully armed, wearing bullet proof vests, shields, helmets and carried batons.

Holtz refused to call the crowd protesters, saying they were "not protesting anything" but causing a disturbance, blocking streets, and some of them were trying to climb the perimeter fence. He said the police methods were effective and as of now, the crowd has dispersed.

On the scene — Sgt. Andrew Kubista, a National guardsman, told ABC News that law enforcement used "flashbangs" — bright lights and loud noises, to break up protesters.

"They tried to scale the wall," Kubista said of demonstrators causing commotion near the large steel barricades setup around the convention site. 

The entry to the Xcel center has currently been shutdown.  No one is being allowed in and the gates are secured all around.

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