The scene outside MSNBC's outdoor RNC studio at St. Paul's Rice Park, just outside Xcel Center.


The 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle were like the Big Bang in the evolution of modern police tactics and policies toward protesters. When the political base elements and the energy of media hyperbole combined cities militarized their police forces; and from the tear gas sludge of the Pacific Northwest evolved a new genus of officers clad in black ballistic fabric exoskeletons. Now they've invaded St. Paul, Minnesota with no natural enemy. Unless of course you count Amy Goodman, the soft-spoken radio host from Pacifica Radio (arrested along with two of her producers) or Donna Brazile, the level-headed Democratic strategist and CNN analyst (pepper sprayed).

But that was Tuesday. As of Wednesday most of the larger anti-war, anti-Republican, anti-Bush protests had moved or split into smaller chanting bunches along the perimeter of the Xcel Center. Even the usually front-and-center group Code Pink held one of its events off the streets in the Lowry Theater with performance artists, a lady playing the washboard and a film crew from IFC.

The “9-11 Truth” screamers, however, never budged. Just as in Denver they haunted MSNBC's outdoor stage adjacent to Xcel all week chanting “9-11 was an inside job!” The bug-like riot police? They were three blocks over making sure the dozen or so men dressed in orange jumpsuits recreating the famous Abu Ghraib torture photographs didn't cast down their wires and hoods and take to the streets. If they did, each cop was outfitted in the latest in taser technology.

Come to think of it, what would complete the Abu Ghraib tableau better than 50,000 volts of actual electricity? Now that's honesty in protesting.

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