There was at least sporadic violence in the Twin Cities today, as well as a very very heavy police presence including herding demonstrators, firing rubber bullets, and using tear gas. That much is clear.
From reading Campaign Silo and other sources, however, I'm unable to get much of a feel from what's going on.
In particular, it's very hard to sequence disparate reports of overlapping events. I'm pretty sure that by the end of the sequence at least a small number of the demonstrators were behaving very badly — blocking streets, attacking a vehicle. It's impossible to tell whether that was their plan from the start (although in the case of Black Flag, that's what I would suspect), or whether they lost it, as mobs sometimes do, after being pushed around. Reports of the heavy police tactics came in before reports of the violence, but I'm not confident that proves anything.
At least some of these marchers had a valid permit — although they had to go to federal court to get it, as the city fought them tooth and nail. That history certainly raises the question about the extent to how professionally the police would choose to deal with the march they didn't want, although it certainly doesn't answer the question.
Suspicions are not eased by reports of journalists, videographers, and other seemingly innocent parties being detained, gassed and/or arrested.
On the other hand, people barricading streets and smashing things is what police are supposed to arrest people for, and there seems to have some of that.
This NYT report, Broken Windows and Pepper Spray Mark Protests, seems as likely to be accurate as anything when its says,
A large march, which had a permit from local authorities, got underway around 1 p.m. at the Minnesota capitol. Many in the group marched peacefully along the designated route, but not everyone wanted to follow the rules.
Near the start of the march, two women and a young man secured themselves with chains to a car that obstructed traffic.
“I would like a world of direct democracy,” said one man, who gave his name only as Alex, as he was led away by officers.
A larger group of about 200 protesters dressed in black roamed through the streets of downtown St. Paul, shouting and chanting and throwing street signs and concrete planters into the roads. Many of them wore black bandanas across their faces and some wore black balaclavas.
At one point, a police officer grabbed one of the youths. Others wrested him away, then appeared to knock the officer to the ground. On one knee, the officer released an arc of pepper spray that gushed into the air in a thick cloud.
The crowd backed off. A young man scattered bundles of nails secured with duct tape in the street. Over the next 40 minutes or so, the crowd weaved through streets, sometimes pursued or approached by police, but often eluding groups of police officers or sheriffs deputies.
Some members of the group smashed windows while others objected.
“Is this really protesting?” a young woman shouted, apparently in anger.
[Meanwhile…ABC News reports, GOP parties as Gustav rages]