Protest at the capital. Labor day mace party!

See video from the scene here.

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An estimated 9,000 people showed up at the capital this morning, though it could have been more. The day started off like traditional protests, bearded men in tye-dyed shirts walked around with college kids rocking Che Guevara signs. All the while a folk singer strummed her tunes at a makeshift stage. Meanwhile, the anarchists swarmed into downtown from other points.

Toward the back of the capital grounds, a St. Paul police officer stood with around 15 other officers on bikes. He looked over the capital lawn in Reno 911 shorts. “We’ve got plenty of police,” he says. “National cops from across the nation are here this week.”

Ahead of him and his fellow officers was a jokester. He walked around, shirtless, with a big sign that read, “Obama is a Moran.” Another protester pointed out his spelling. The jokester looked at it and then couldn’t think up of a comeback. (Dude, please say you know it's an internet meme.) He shrugged his shoulders and then walked back through the group of peace activists, followed by an insane Obama supporter (Hope Fiend) screaming about tyranny and more of the same and whatever other talking point David Plouffe sent to his email box.

The anatomy of this protest march was strange. Below a melting ice sculpture that read “DEMOCRACY,” was a makeshift dance party led by a guy who mounted a boombox to a wagon. Folks in tight black denim and red and black bandannas started a dance party. It had the feel of Thriller goes Hamas.

Then the dude with the wagon decided it was time to protest. This was an hour before the scheduled protest. Several hundred people followed him, along with several hundred more photojournalists. The group walked directly against the one way streets of St. Paul. Cars trapped in the mess kept calm. A few drivers, the smart ones, flashed peace signs. And a few protesters slammed their palms against an official RNC van.

Then things started to amp up. Talib Kweli blasted out the wagon and bandanna faced protesters slid goggles over their eyes. Ahead of the group a large wall of riot cops dressed in black formed a wall, diverting the group to 7th street. Then a group of mounted police rode in atop galloping horses. This freaked out plenty of the group, who paused before going ahead. But when several dancers got a little too close to the police, they got faces full of pepper spray.

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The “Red Cross” ran in to help, dousing vinegar into the eyes of those hit. Many shook with pain and fell to their knees. “My fucking skin is burning off,” said one. Over at the Central Presbyterian Church, members stood outside with garden hoses and buckets of water, gladly washing down pepper spray victims.

Meanwhile, other groups of masked protestors are descending into St. Paul. Already there are reports of broken cop car windows, slashed SUV tires and attacks on downtown businesses. We just got word that the police have cordoned off a downtown section of the city and will not let anybody out, including a fellow Citypages freelancer.

Chances are good that things will get uglier. One masked protester wearing black camper shoes stood at the back of the pack and looked around. “Yeah," he says. "I’m not sure where the rest of my friends are. These folks we’re walking with right now are just here to have fun... that’s not really what we’re here to do.”

With that he adjusted his black kerchief and disappeared into the fray.



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