With thousands of protesters expected on the streets facing thousands of police officers, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is predicting that 800 people will be arrested during the week of the Republican National Convention and will have 75 lawyers on call to defend them.

The St. Paul police forecast far fewer arrests, but Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher indicated this week that the ACLU's numbers may be in the ballpark.

"It is fair to conclude that the number of detainees is likely to be between the number who were arrested [during GOP conventions] in Philadelphia in 2000 and the number who were arrested in New York in 2004," Fletcher said.

"In Philadelphia, there were 600 arrested, in New York 1,800."

Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin said this week that she had heard those kinds of estimates. "I really don't believe that it is going to reach 1,800, with the information I have now," she said. "It could be closer to 800 and maybe less."

She said that during the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, the number of people arrested was in the teens.

One reason for New York's high arrest total was a decision by police to arrest a large number of people during one of the demonstrations. Most charges were later dropped. Gearin said she was hopeful that things will work differently here.

"The St. Paul police are telling us they will be doing things more thoughtfully than New York," she said. "They are being trained to avoid some of the arrest situations."

Next Tuesday, with support from the ACLU, about three dozen lawyers will attend a continuing legal education course at the offices of Fredrikson & Byron law firm in Minneapolis for training on how to represent people arrested in demonstrations, said Charles Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota ACLU.

Samuelson predicted that 80 percent of the arrested demonstrators will receive a ticket and not be jailed. Many may be arrested, he believes, for wandering off the approved route for the scheduled Sept. 1 antiwar march, which he and protest leaders believe is too narrow to accommodate the expected crowd.

Fletcher, whose deputies will be in charge of processing arrested demonstrators, agrees that most arrestees will be ticketed and released. Fletcher declined to provide details about the processing of demonstrators or how many spaces he is setting aside in his jail for protesters, saying it was part of an overall security plan.

He acknowledged only that an unspecified number of inmates who did not have immediate court dates around the Sept. 1 date were being transferred to other counties.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to board 25 Ramsey County inmates from Aug. 29-Sept. 5 at a cost to Ramsey County of $55 per day plus medical and dental expenses. The Anoka County sheriff's office has agreed to accept 10 Ramsey County inmates during those dates at $65 per day, plus reimbursement for medical emergencies, said Lt. Sheila Hendrickson.

The Ramsey County sheriff's department boarding costs will be reimbursed from the $50 million that St. Paul police have received from the federal government for security for the convention.

Gearin said that the Ramsey District Court's current plan is to hold a court session for arrested protesters on the morning of Sept. 2 with more sessions as needed, later in the day. They will be held at the law enforcement center, which is also where the jail and police headquarters is located. More judges will be on call if necessary, she said.

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said her office had developed a "tiered plan" to deal with arrested protesters. The first tier involves minimal felony arrests with only certain personnel assigned, she said.

"If the felony arrests go higher, we have a second tier approach, more volume and more attorneys," she said.

Gaertner said that there is also "a third tier, where all heck breaks loose, with more lawyers involved in the charging."

She added: "We are ready for everything."

Randy Furst • 612-673-7382