Protesters in standoff with riot police, gas attack may be imminent
-by Jeff Shaw via phone
Protesters are in a standoff with riot police at Rice Street and John Ireland Boulevard in St. Paul.
When marchers tried to reach the Xcel Center, they were blocked by police. Hundreds of protesters re-routed to John Ireland Boulevard, but police on bikes and horses rode to intercept and created a line to block the way. At roughly 5:30 pm, police in full riot gear and gas masks moved in front of the horse line.
The cops are armed with nightsticks and zip ties, and what appear to be rubber bullet guns. The withdrawal of the mounted officers, who were not wearing gas masks, indicates a gas attack may be imminent; police also told members of the media to get down lest they risk getting hit with the cannisters.
Protesters have been completely non-violent so far; when the way was blocked they sat down in non-cooperation and chanted. The mood is festive thus far; interaction with cops has been lighthearted.
A protester from St. Louis Park named Nick Bez said It was sad to be confronted by the police, many of whom were his age. Bez said he was sure the march would remain peaceful if protesters were allowed to simply reach the Xcel. "I'm sure there are people with negative intentions out here, but the majority of us are just looking for a better future," he says.
Whether the light mood will last for minutes or hours or indefinitely remains to be seen.