Republican National Convention protest - take oneby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio,
Brian Bakst, Associated Press
A few dozen anti-war protesters marched Wednesday from the state Capitol to the Xcel Energy Center, hoping it will guarantee them a chance to hold a demonstration along the same route during the Republican National Convention in September.
St. Paul, Minn. — Members of a group called the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War are organizing a large demonstration for the opening day of the Republican National Convention on Sept. 1.
They've been trying for months to get a city permit, but a St. Paul city ordinance prevents such approval until six months before an event.
Spokeswoman Sarah Martin says the coalition is now trying to take advantage of a provision in city statute that allows for a recurring permit. Martin says the coalition wants fair treatment.
"The Republicans, of course, are getting all sorts of preferential treatment from the city," said Martin. "And we feel, of course, that the right to dissent and protest is every bit as important as the economic reality of the Republican National Convention."
Applications for convention-timed protests won't be accepted until March 1 and it's unclear how long after that permits will be granted.
"The protest of the Republican National Convention requires the same type of planning the Republican National Convention requires," said Bruce Nestor, a Minneapolis attorney working with protesters as part of the National Lawyers Guild.
Nestor said groups intending to stage demonstrations need to secure buses, sound systems and bathrooms but some are reluctant to move ahead until they are certain their permit will come through.
Jess Sundin, a coalition leader, said St. Paul's parade and public assembly ordinance waives the need to apply for individual permits for events held on a regular basis and at the same location. Groups can get permits for a calendar year as long as they served two months' notice prior to the first event.
In November, the group submitted its plan for demonstrations along the route on Wednesday, on March 1, on May 1, on July 1 and Sept. 1. The application lists a wide attendance range for each event, from only three people to a crowd of 100,000.
St. Paul police authorized the January event, but only conditionally approved the marches through July.
Assistant Police Chief Matt Bostrom said he anticipates all of the group's marches ultimately will get approval. But he said it's too soon to sign off on specific routes, especially during the Republican convention.
Bostrom said police need to consider convention logistics, public safety concerns and the full slate of planned protests before locking down particular routes.
"In time they'll find out we're not up to anything subversive." Bostrom said. "We're there to facilitate. We're going to get this done. We understand there is a right to free speech and a right to parade."