On Labor Day, the first official day of the Republican National Convention, Republicans were nowhere to be found in St. Paul — at least, not the ones in blue blazers or pearls we can easily pick out of a crowd. Locals were scrambling to make it to the closing day of the Minnesota State Fair, which features myriad types of food on a stick and cows and pigs giving birth. University of Minnesota frat boys moving into the houses on the avenue they dominate carried couches across four lanes of traffic. While TVs were tuned to news of that pesky category-2 hurricane that had thrown the entire convention into shambles, it seemed that the only people who bothered to show up at the convention were protesters — and SWAT teams.
In a parking lot, we watched Democracy NOW! journalist Amy Goodman get hauled off for yelling at cops to release other journalists. Along the way, we’d passed two people lying in the middle of the road, surrounded by uniforms. “They’re blocking the delegates from coming down that street!” an excited videographer told us. Later, we found out that the people on the ground had been tasered and were unable to move. The mob eventually gave up. A departing anarchist who would only identify herself as Jessie Sparkle wearily told us that “One of the bicycle cops threw his bicycle and it hit me in the stomach.” Other protesters were so exhausted, they’d plopped down at a bar across from a driveway full of handcuffed compatriots and were pounding back beers. “Earlier in the day, everyone was so nice and calm,” said Abra Coleman, a Minneapolis Realtor. “We were joking with the cops. I took a picture with my Code Pink umbrella and a SWAT cop. I said, ‘Honey, put your arm around me,’ and he said, ‘I want to, but I can’t.’”