The single biggest demonstration next week -- the antiwar march on the Xcel Energy Center on Monday -- has some folks wondering whether it will be a peaceful, legal affair; a protest to which you can bring your toddler or aging mother.
"I am bringing my 7-year-old son," said Cam Gordon, a Minneapolis Second Ward councilman and member of the Green Party. "I am hopeful it will be safe, and I am personally confident we are going to be safe."
The question of safety has partly arisen because the Welcoming Committee, an anarchist group, says in published documents that on Monday it plans to engage in blockades of streets around the Xcel where the Republican National Convention will be held.
Jess Sundin, a leader of the large coalition that is organizing the march that calls for immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, said the demonstration has a permit and that it will be conducted legally with no civil disobedience along the march route.
"Our expectation is that people will be law-abiding," said Tom Walsh, St. Paul police spokesman.
Sundin said there was an agreement with the Welcoming Committee that their activities will not take place along the march route.
"If someone is planning a legally permitted demonstration, it won't happen at the same time or place as any civil disobedience," she said. "My understanding is that everyone who is participating in the blockade strategy published on the Internet has been made well aware of the commitment to solidarity between protesters next week."
March organizers have projected attendance as high as 50,000, although there has been private speculation it could be considerably smaller because the Iraq war is no longer a top concern in polls.
Assuming a 50,000 turnout and a 1 p.m. start time for the march, protest leaders and their attorneys have argued that they won't be able to march from the Capitol to the Xcel and have all marchers clear of the area near the Xcel by 4 p.m. That is the time that St. Paul police said they want demonstrators out of an intersection nearest the Xcel.
Sundin said that if people are still marching, it can be worked out with authorities.
Two members of the Welcoming Committee, both young men, attended a news conference Thursday at the Sabathani Center on another subject. The men, who wouldn't confirm their identities, declined to discuss their plans or tactics but referred a reporter to the committee's "St. Paul principles" on its website, nornc.org. The Welcoming Committee agreed with groups planning legal actions that "the actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain a separation of time and space."
Randy Furst • 612-673-7382