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St. Paul police chief: RNC convention 'successful'

Police officers block a street from protesters at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Authorities say there will be a formal review of the police tactics used during the convention. (AP Photo)
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By Anthony Lonetree
The Star-Tribune

ST. PAUL — St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington said today that the decision to seal off downtown to hundreds of protesters gathered near the state Capitol Thursday night was fueled by evidence many planned to riot near Xcel Energy Center during the final day of the Republican National Convention.

It was a decision that would touch off a cat-and-mouse game that resulted in the arrests of 386 people -- most of them for unlawful assembly, authorities say.

For three days, Harrington said, authorities knew of a plot to use Molotov cocktails to attack the convention center and a nearby viewing area. Police officers would be targeted, too, he said, citing information gleaned from investigations that netted three people for conspiracy to commit arson.

Closing off downtown, he said, was the right move.

"Nothing burned in downtown St. Paul. No one was injured in downtown St. Paul," the chief said. "It was a very successful day."

His comments came during a RNC news briefing today during which Mayor Chris Coleman commended police for reining in people who aimed to disrupt convention activities.

"They didn't shut down the convention - as was their stated intent," he said. "Delegates were able to get in and out of the convention. The presidential candidate and the vice presidential candidate were able to deliver their message . . . (D)emocracy took place in the city of St. Paul on scale that has never taken place before."

As a result, Coleman added, "We put St. Paul on a map that it's never been on before - as a city that could host any event."

On Friday, Amnesty International issued a statement expressing concern about allegations of excessive force and about the mass arrests of protesters. The organization also said it'd received unconfirmed reports of people receiving poor treatment at the Ramsey County jail.

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