St. Paul Remains on Guard After Violent Protests

By Lindsey Ellerson

Sep 2, 2008 12:44pm

ABC News’ Lindsey Ellerson reports: The St. Paul Police Department held a press briefing, Tuesday to discuss the destructive protests that disrupted the streets of St. Paul, Monday and resulted in nearly 300 arrests.

"There were groups yesterday that had an intention to stop the convention and they failed," said Asst. St. Paul Police Chief Matt Bostrom. "The St. Paul Police Department stands with those folks who are here to lawfully follow due process, to follow the law, to follow protests and to have their voices heard. … We will continue to protect them, protect their rights, fully and effectively."

Due to the violent clashes near the Xcel Energy Center, where the Republican National Convention is being held this week, a total of 283 people were arrested, in addition to approximately 100 misdemeanor charges, 130 felonies and 51 gross misdemeanors, according to the RNC’s Joint Information Center.

"We had good info that the tactics of the criminals who were coming to town to blockade and damage property were, in fact, going to follow a certain script. … They followed that fairly accurately," said Bostrom, regarding the buses and police cars that were damaged.

Bostrom also acknowledged that the search warrants the department obtained ahead of time, "probably prevented the span of criminal activity from being larger."

He did note that a couple of the delegations, including members of either the Alabama or Connecticut delegation, were caught up in the skirmishes when rocks and feces were thrown at their bus.  Bostrom said, "It slowed them down, but did not stop them.

"Thus far, a large number of people who were arrested yesterday have refused to give their names. … We are struggling to use fingerprints and use any other form of ID."

Bostrom added he is aware of four journalists who were taken into custody during yesterday’s riots. One of the reporters, who was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, attended the briefing and claimed that she and her two producers were taken into custody, despite communicating to law enforcement they were members of the press. The Secret Service told her to put her "face to the ground," and "came over and pulled off our credentials," the journalist told the assistant police chief.

Bostrom would not speak to the reporter’s specific situation, but explained, "If we announce we are in the middle of a riot … We’ll announce we need people to step out of the area. … The fact that a person is a reporter or has a credential, doesn’t give them additional rights to report a crime.

"To my knowledge, no one who was simply sitting passively was arrested that was in the general protest group," said Bostrom. He added that investigations are ongoing.

When asked if the police department anticipates ongoing criminal activity, he said, "less criminal activity today because there are less of them out there," but that they will still remain on guard. The department expects two major protests today, one of which it has some concerns about, because allegedly, some of the individuals participating have collaborated with yesterday’s protesters. There is also a street dance today that is expected to be peaceful.

The department is able to hold "several thousand" in custody, and are not currently at capacity.

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