Commenters are peppering me with demands to cover the arrests of protesters in Minneapolis. Frankly, I don't know what to think.
Glenn Greenwald, predictibly, views these as fascist attempts to stifle dissent. But the Strib, a very liberal paper, presents a slightly different picture:
Bolstered by emergency help from the Minnesota National Guard, police in St. Paul arrested 284 people Monday after outbreaks of violence and road obstructions linked to rogue bands of demonstrators among an otherwise peaceful throng estimated at 10,000 people.
The demonstrations, on a steamy first day of the Republican National Convention, began with block after block of marchers -- far fewer than the 50,000 some had predicted -- chanting and peacefully waving signs on downtown St. Paul's narrow streets. As the day wore on, the carnival atmosphere turned ugly.
Before most of the demonstrators had finished their march, a few hundred protesters splintered off and became confrontational and sometimes violent. Some smashed windows at Macy's and a downtown bank building. Others challenged police by blocking roads.
Police are arresting journalists, which is generally an indication that they're in full-on flip-out mode. And in my own experience as a protest kid, the police are generally way too willing to use force on protesters, particularly ones they find politically distasteful. This is a small minority, but once they start something, the other officers generally have to follow them in or stand silent witness to a riot. So my natural assumption with these kinds of arrests is that the police were somehow at fault.
On the other hand, Minneapolis is not a very Republican kind of town. And the offenses cited by the Strib are the kinds of things people should be arrested for. You don't protest Republican policies by smashing windows and blocking roads. If you want the road to yourself, get a parade permit just like the VFW. Also in my experience as a protest kid, there's an obnoxious element that's looking for a fight and thinks they're entitled to smash things to show they're VEEEEWWWWWY MAAAAAAD!!!!! This number is also always numerically very small, but a few people can do a lot of damage. They can also get the police adrenaline running, at which point the pepper spray and the night sticks start flying.