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The Star Tribune (Minneapolis/St. Paul)

St. Paul and Cops Gear Up for Worst at GOP Convention

But protesters say the threat is being hyped to prevent them from exercising their free speech.

Randy Furst

Suicide bombers. Chemical or biological attacks. Lone gunmen. Terrorist attacks. Riots. Blockades that could shut down the Republican National Convention.

In its most explicit arguments to date, the St. Paul city attorney's office on Friday outlined the "calamitous" potential of granting a request by antiwar demonstrators to change the route and time of a Sept. 1 march outside the Xcel Energy Center.

Protest organizers accused the city of scare tactics designed to legitimize the denial of free speech.

The dire warnings by the city came in a legal brief it filed to support the permit restrictions it is placing on the antiwar group.

The city warned of "immeasurable risks to public safety and security" if protesters were allowed a march route that could total 100,000 and encircle the Xcel, site of the Sept. 1-4 convention.

At the Minneapolis offices of the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, Jessica Sundin, one of the group's leaders, accused authorities of exaggerating the threats.

"There are no experiences in recent history of conventions being targeted by the kind of violence they are describing in their brief," said Sundin, who has taken a leave from her clerical job at the University of Minnesota.

"They are raising a specter of terrorism that is absolutely unfounded, and they are using it to prevent us from speaking out against terrorism being inflicted on the Iraqi people every day by U.S. occupation forces," said Sundin, who took the leave to work on the protest.

Prolonged dispute

St. Paul officials and the protesters have been engaged in a prolonged dispute over when a permit for the march would be issued and, lately, over details of the permit.

In mid-May, police granted a permit that allows demonstrators to march to the Xcel from the State Capitol and back.

© 2008 Star Tribune

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