9:12 p.m. Marion Street Bridge.
One of our own has been arrested.
I have asked several different sources to release our KARE 11 photographer caught up in the mass arrest on the Marion Street Bridge.
They tell me there are about seven or eight photographers inside the arrest zone, each with several thousand dollar cameras.
Just as I've allude to in previous blogs, it's a very easy thing to happen. In covering these things, there is no third party place to be. Police corral you and you have no option but to follow the crowd.
Our photographer was credentialed. He's just doing his job. But, the police have a plan, they want to stop chasing these people from bridge to bridge to bridge. When the protesters started to gather in the Sears parking lot, the police decide it's the best time to corral them.
KARE 11's Boyd Huppert says he saw customers walking out of Sears tonight and into the middle of the protest. They tell police they're not involved and they just want to get out of it. At this time, officers tell customers the only way to get out is over the Marion Street Bridge.
So, random citizens, like the delegates I helped out last night, and a dozen or so photographers are forced onto the Marion Street Bridge where they are essentially arrested.
They likely will not be booked, but they will go to jail and after a few hours will be released.
Of course, our photographer who was arrested has a whole evening worth of work that's not going to make air. It's frustrating, but it's life.
Is there an easier way to do this? I don't know.
There are 200 people stopping traffic and hanging over interstate bridges. So, are authorities overboard in their approach? I don't know the answer, I don't know a better way.
I guess one good measure is no one has died. As far as I know, people are dealing with the after affects of being maced, but there are no serious injuries.
I don't know at the end of the day if there is a clean way to do this, but the objective of law enforcement is clear, they are trying to protect the public and keep order.
If you trace back, the problem began when those who wanted to protest, decided to extended their time to protest. The police said you can't, so the people marched. It's unlawful assembly and that's what has led to all the arrests.
Clearly we know as a matter of fact, people who were not protesting are part of the mass arrested, we know because one of our own is in there.
How many innocent people are under arrest? We don't know. We do know our photographer is one of the best we have and we want him back.
8:42 p.m. Marion Street Bridge
Law enforcement sources on the scene say the main investigators of all the attempts to get into the city and onto the bridges tonight, including the John Ireland bridge, eventually moved to Rice Street and University Avenue near the Sears parking lot.
At this point, police using flash-bang grenades, drove them onto the Marion Street Bridge.
I imagine on some level, the protesters thought it was an opportunity to cross the bridge, but when they got onto the bridge, police blocked off both ends.
Some 200 people were arrested.
We don't know if they all will be booked or not. I'm told they are peaceful. Once they realized they were cornered, they sat down and put their hands on their heads.
A big group of cops in riot gear are moving in formation along the bridge. The objective is to place the people under arrest. What I'm told is that this is essentially the core of the group that has been trying to get over the bridges all night long.
So, that's what's happening here. I'm going to check in with my photographer.
8:22 p.m. Marion and I-94
I have found myself in the middle of a team of riot police. There have been several rounds of what could be tear gas canisters go off.
This is the staging area for police since day one, so all of the officers cars are here and they report here in the morning.
We just saw what looked like fireworks, or large explosions go off near the south west corder of the sears lot directly across the interstate from the Cathedral, St. Paul.
Now, it's like everyone is running to an area near the sears lot, and we're being ordered to go back.
The interstate is flowing freely, not a sense there is anything going wrong.
The smell in the air is not of tear gas, but of fireworks on the 4th of July. I think the last explosion was some type of firework near the edge of St. Anthony Avenue, which serves as a frontage road on the north side of I-94.
We've been asked to back up once again by the police holding tear gas canisters.
What is significant here is that the Marion Bridge has been shut down on both ends by police.
On the bridge are scores of people in plastic handcuffs on seated on both sides of the bridge. A police officer said there was a 'massive arrest.'
What's also interesting is that there are four cops with flash lights on the frontage road just east of the Marion Bridge looking along side the road and under cars, obviously for something.
Many of the squad cars, nearly 12 total, are all Cedar Rapids police squads. There are a couple police SUVs and there are also a variety of police vehicles including a parking lot of emergency vehicles and rental vans used to carry cops in riot gear.
Interesting thing just happened: The crowd was really thinning down from several hundred to just a few dozen. Then, the cops got on the intercom and told everyone to disperse to the west or they will start to use non-lethal weapons.
There were literally a few dozen people left and they were already leaving, including some police officers. I don't really get that part, unless they were just trying to totally clear the area. Maybe we'll find out later.
Right now, we're doing what everyone else is doing, moving west, apparently to University Avenue and Rice Street.
So, we're headed there to see what's going on.
7:56 p.m. 12th and Cedar
In the past hour, things have been a bit of a rollercoster. The high point being when the crowd dispersed in a panic from where the police were.
I was on the outskirts on a conference call with KARE, but the photographer told me someone started to throw feces at the front of the police line and that's why people were running.
What's been interesting about this crowd, is that despite several arrest, the crowd itself has not been super aggressive.
At the moment, it feels like the protest is loosing a little bit of energy. There are still a lot of people here, but it looks more like the crowd at the end of a concert.
Similar to Tuesday, the crowd consists of people from across the metro area who are against the war and upset they cannot get closer to the 'X.' They want to be heard, they want John McCain to hear them.
At the same time, you have these people running around in masks, trying to incite the crowd and telling everyone to stay close.
On a side note: I ran into a some people who read my story yesterday and were unhappy we were showing some degree of bias by helping the Michigan senator elect and four delegates out of the protest.
At this moment, the energy is definitely deflated a bit, mounted police are gone. There is still a sizable crowd at 12th and Cedar, but it's thinning.
One of the popular chants: this is what a police state looks like.
It appears someone sprayed mace. That's what caused people to run.
There's a lot of noise including a helicopter overhead, but have not heard any warnings from police.
A Star Tribune reporter tells me the cops have told protesters to disperse and head west. If anything, I see people moving north.
Apparently there have been arrests going on at the front of the line.
Chants: let them go, let them go, let them go.
There's a lot of running going on. I'm not sure exactly what's happening.
There was just a major effort to get everyone out of the intersection.
They've taken the horses and circled the people at the intersection.
There are people screaming not to panic and to walk.
Right now, the police are completely surrounding the protesters. There is no longer an exit option to the north.
So, the protesters are now walking down Cedar.
Note to self: Mickey's Diner hamburger not the best meal to have before following protesters.
Cops wearing riot gear have reclaimed the bridge.
People have spilled out onto Columbus. There have been several buses and cars stopped at the intersection of 12th and Cedar due to the protesters.
Photojouralist Craig Norkus is climbing a tree to get a better vantage point.
Protesters are now standing nose to nose with horses/mounted police. All of the cops are still wearing gas masks.
Chants: Who's war, their war, who's streets, our streets.
This is the same route the protesters have used over the past four days to get to the 'X'.
This time there is no way to cross 12th Street to continue down Cedar into the business district.
Cops are now driving down 12th Street with more officers in riot gear, and they are putting tear gas masks on.
That's the scene here. Basically, the new troops will be reinforcing the line of riot gear clad cops already backing up mounted police.
At least 2,000 people are here, 12th Street is completely blocked, long line of cars jammed up, intersection completely over run with cops, protesters, traffic.
Intersection extends onto the Capitol lawn. Streets full of protesters and they funnel to a point where Cedar crosses I-94 and 35E ramp.
Just helped Norkus out of the street. By the way, there's no real room for the press here. You're either where the cops are or you're not. That's how we get pushed back into the protesters. We'd prefer to be a 3rd party observer, but not really a choice.
If I wanted to leave right now, there's only one way out. To my east I see protesters standing nose to nose with mounted police.
To the west I see two dozen cops with riot gear and a couple dump trucks blocking the intersection.
When I look south I see the bridge that is blocked by more.
When I look to the north I see the Capitol and the only way out. These people can retreat back toward the Capitol, but they are not. I'm not sure how much longer that will be an option.
For unknown reasons, the protesters just quickly organized and walked off the John Ireland bridge. They were not ordered or forced off by police.
As soon as they exited off the bridge, police blocked anyone from getting back onto the bridge.
There is now a mass of people moving towards the center of the Capitol lawn where they originally started the protest.
For the most part, they're all pretty much just standing by.
Again, police have reclaimed the bridge. A lot of mounted police, bike police and police in riot gear.
Protesters & riot-gear-clad cops virtually nose to nose on the John Ireland Bridge.
I'd put protest number at minimum 2,000.
KARE 11 photographer Craig Norkus tells me there's a strong scent of feces eminating from backpack of guy standing next to him.
That guy is face to face with cop.
Cops all masked.
Crowd shouting: What do we want? Troops Out
When do we want it? Now.
Over & over again.
This group has effectively shut down the John Ireland bridge.
Wabasha and 12th
The rally at the Capitol has spilled out onto the street. Protesters are attempting to walk down Wabasha.
Pretty strong force of cops in riot gear, warning people to turn around and not to go down Wabasha.
All of the cops have been ordered to put on gas masks. There are several cops on bikes with gas masks. At least two dozen mounted patrols are approaching onto the grounds of the Capitol.
Basically, the protesters are attempting to walk down Cedar, Wabasha and various other bridges.
Cops have blocked all bridges leading into downtown. It's clear they don't want people to cross over the bridges. Large dump trucks are now moving into place in front of the bridges.
Everything is stopped on the John Ireland Bridge.
Karla Hult tells me things are pretty calm @ the Capitol. Rally to start there soon.
We're near the end point of what will be the march - @ Mickey's Diner.
They've been stuck here for decades, since 1939.
And this week - they've also been stuck in the middle of just about every major rally & protest against the RNC.
I came here to get a little sound from the wait staff re: what it's been like surrounded by anarchists & clouds of teargas for the last few nights.
But the waitress - a real charmer - really - is playing very-hard-to-get.
We may settle for a hamburger @ the moment & see how things play out. As we wait for the next rally to head this way.
Final day of the convention.
I've been walking around the area from the Childrens Museum through to Rice Park. Very typical day. Like a town in the middle of a festival. Except for all the cops in riot gear just kinda hangin out in alleys & at some street corners.
It's a relaxed approach for them at the moment.
At a little triangular area near Market & 6th there are about a dozen "CodePink" protesters singing songs about healthcare for everyone - to the beat of a single bongo drum.
There's a woman dressed all in pink - with a long flowing dress - on stilts - waving a pink flag nearby.
At Rice Park itself, there is the MSNBC stage - amazing how much TV-money is poured into this event. It's like a full-fledged theatrical stage that will be up & down over the course of a week.
The Fox tent over by the X takes up like a city block.
Here @ Rice, it's like NY street vendors all over the place. No ones selling fake Gucci watches or Louis Vuiton bags, but there are lots of guys w/ suitcases on wheels jammed-full with McCain-Palin t-shirts @ 5-bucks a piece.
There are stacks of t-shirts on the ground everywhere.
Big rally/march from the Capitol to the X starting in about 15 minutes. Will keep ya posted.
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