Anarchists took control of Downtown St. Paul, police admit

2008, 3 min


Police lost control of the anarchists during the RNC, and for the first time, police are offering a look at what went wrong, and how they may learn from their mistakes. Police dispatch on the first day of the RNC reveal a communication breakdown for two crucial hours on Sept. 1. Dispatch tapes show that between noon and 2:00 p.m., downtown belonged to the anarchists. Tape: “Squads in my group, back off now, they’re smashing out of every squad car window around here.” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher says of the miscommunication, “We had 15 officers responsible for the conduct of 500 anarchists. They were outnumbered 40 to one.” And those officers, many fighting back without protective gear, had one question: Where was the backup? The 11 mobile field force units, each with 75 officers in riot gear, were stationed along the parade route, where 10,000 protesters were marching peacefully. At that time, about 500 anarchists split off in three directions, the town up for grabs. The cops were outmatched until the order was given to pull out. St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington admits to a communication breakdown. Commanders were watching the parade for trouble, when it was happening everywhere else. Eventually the mobile field force moved into downtown, arresting 270 protesters the first day of the RNC. “I think everyone agrees unlawful behavior should have been confronted, but it wasn’t for two and half hours,” said Fletcher. Fletcher believes the error was strategic — not enough plain-clothes cops along the parade route, and not keeping the mobile SWAT units moving. But Chief Harrington believes they had enough cops from different cities, although maybe not enough time to train together on St. Paul’s unique street pattern. A task force is currently evaluating police actions during the RNC. It’s report is due in December.

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