Convention Beat: August 21, 2008 Archive

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No coneys at Coney Island ?!?

Posted at 9:45 AM on August 21, 2008 by Tim Nelson (1 Comments)

coney.jpgMaybe now we know why the owners of the Original Coney Island Tavern didn't want to elaborate yesterday on the reopening of the landmark downtown St. Paul restaurant.

The coneys have been kicked off the island.

They confirmed in person that they were reopening yesterday, from the door of their restaurant, but wouldn't say any more. Mary Arvanitis subsequently told the Pioneer Press's Nancy Ngo that there aren't going to be hot dogs on the menu at the eponymous eatery.

It's apparently going to be the "Original Beer, Liquor and Snacks Island Tavern" for the run of the Republican National Convention.

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The Inner Sanctum

Posted at 11:47 AM on August 21, 2008 by Tim Nelson (1 Comments)

The Republican National Convention just released their digital rendering of what the interior of the Xcel Energy Center will look like when the doors open for the Republican gathering September 1.

Behold.

podium.jpg

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Party on!

Posted at 2:03 PM on August 21, 2008 by Tim Nelson (0 Comments)

We just got word from City Hall that mayor Chris Coleman and the city council have reached a compromise on the 4 a.m. bar closing. The deal calls for the fee to be reduced from $2,500 to $500, presumably making the idea economically viable.

It isn't clear whether any bars will go for the extra two hours during the Republican National Convention. But we're running down details now.

Check back here and listen for more on 91.1 FM.

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A choice of weapons

Posted at 6:30 PM on August 21, 2008 by Tim Nelson (27 Comments)

DSCN1073.JPGDoes this look like a threat to public safety to you?

It's starting to feel a little like that on St. Paul streets these days, photographers are finding as the Republican National Convention is approaching.

At least three times in recent weeks, photographers say they've been stopped on public streets or sidewalks, told to stop taking pictures or produce identification or leave the area.

It happened to me yesterday, as I was walking down West 7th Street, past the St. Paul headquarters of the Travelers insurance company, carrying a Nikon SLR. A Wackenhut Corp. security guard approached me on the sidewalk, held up his hand to break my stride, then told me that I needed to show identification. He was wearing the same uniform as the guys you can see walking around inside the Travelers atrium.

I declined to give him anything, told him it was a public street, and proceeded to an appointment I had nearby.

It's eerily similar to the experience of a Washington, D.C., area photographer who was in the city on business earlier this month. He asked not to be identified so that he wouldn't draw attention to his Minnesota clients.

He's known on the Flickr photo website as Guy Flâneur, the alias under which he publishes his photos. He kicked of an extensive discussion of public photography on the site here.

He was taking these pictures on the street outside Travelers, he said, when a security guard came out and told him to stop pointing a camera at the building. The photographer declined, but a few minutes later two St. Paul police officers arrived, approached him and one of them asked for identification.

"He didn't say anything. He just asked questions," Flâneur said."He said, 'You don't look like a terrorist, but we need to check things out."

Travelers spokesman Gail Liebl said today that she wasn't aware of either incident, although she did note that there's a "heightened sense of security in the next few weeks," since the Republican National Convention was right next door.

But did add that it is not company security policy to stop members of the public in the street and make them identify themselves.

A third incident happened at Lambert's Landing, on the Mississippi River, on Aug. 8.

Retired airline mechanic Jerry Houk, of Maplewood, said he was going down to take some pictures of the Motor Vessel Mississippi, the Corps of Engineers' massive tow boat. It's the biggest tow on the river, and so he brought an 11-meter pole, known to photographers as a "catfish pole" to take aerial pictures of the boat.

You can see some of them here.

Houk says he started taking pictures when a St. Paul police officer disembarked from the M.V. Mississippi and told him he could not photograph "a federal boat." Houk says that when he begged to differ, the police officer took his camera and pole, separated them and proceeded to try and break the fiberglass pole with his shoe. Houk says he retrieved his camera and the officer left.

"I was shaking, literally," Houk says.

He says he stood on the shore beside the boat and tried to get the attention of several tourists on the boat who might have seen the incident.

Instead, he says, two St. Paul officers disembarked together and approached him. Houk said he took pictures of them, but that they took his camera, citing the authority of the Department of Homeland Security and the preparations for the Republican National Convention. Houk says the officers erased his pictures, put him in a squad car, cited him for disorderly conduct and told him he was banned from the area.

The St. Paul police, of course, beg to differ. The report on the incident says he was "yelling and screaming at tourists" on the boat, and doesn't mention any contact he had with police prior to that. The public version of the report doesn't mention photography at all.

"We don't take people's cameras," police spokesman Peter Panos told me, when asked about Houk's version of events. Panos said there are no restrictions on photography in St. Paul and that people are free to take pictures of whatever they like.

Or not.

"I've been taking photos for 45 years and this is the first time this has ever happened to me," Flâneur says of his experience near Hamm Plaza "I have taken pictures of demonstrations in front of the White House and this hasn't happened to me. I have taken pictures in Communist East Germany and this hasn't happened to me. Only in St. Paul."

Maybe one-time St. Paulite and famed photographer Gordon Parks was righter than he knew when he said he chose a camera, albeit for very different reasons, as his "weapon of choice."

Have you been stopped or asked for ID while taking pictures in downtown St. Paul as the Republican National Convention approaches? Post your story in the comments below and, if you're willing, send your contact information to me here.

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More activity over at the X

Posted at 3:45 PM on August 21, 2008 by Tim Nelson (0 Comments)

There's a lot more going on around the Xcel Energy Center these days. Fox News has moved in a mobile kitchen (its under the blue tarps in the foreground).

The Republican National Convention folks have now put a giant American flag on the front of the building, and you can see more and more equipment gathering in the parking lot across from the X.

Panorama of RNC St. Paul 2008 on CleVR.com

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