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At Republican convention, protest takes center stage

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At Republican convention, protest takes center stage
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

ST. PAUL - With Hurricane Gustav leading Republican National Convention organizers to drastically scale back today's activities, the biggest story of the day could be the protesters outside Xcel Energy Center, not the convention inside.

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Thousands of war protesters and activists were scheduled to rally outside the State Capitol this morning before marching downtown to near the Xcel Energy Center before returning to the Capitol. Organizers of the Coalition to March on the RNC said since they are part of a police-permitted march, they did not expect their participants to engage in civil disobedience or criminal activity, but said other activists might.

A protest Sunday led by Veterans for Peace resulted in nine arrests. Police in riot gear made the arrests for trespassing. Two of those arrested are women in their 70s, one of them a nun.

Anti-war activists will maintain a presence throughout the convention.

On Tuesday, they will display boots representing Iraqi war soldier deaths, including some boot pairs worn by killed U.S. troops. Another march near the Xcel Energy Center is planned for Thursday, when Sen. John McCain is scheduled to accept the GOP presidential nomination.

Silent St. Paul

Anyone familiar with downtown St. Paul may have been surprised by how eerily quiet the area around the Xcel Energy Center appeared on the eve of the Republican National Convention.

Security officials used fencing and barricades to block off a large area around the arena, so major downtown streets were void of vehicles and traffic. There was a noticeable security presence in the area, with police officers, sheriff's deputies and others patrolling the area.

Some officers patrolled on bicycles, some on horses and others drove patrol cars. Many were stationary, stationed at strategic locations.

Delegates party

Minnesota delegates to the Republican National Convention checked into their downtown St. Paul hotel Sunday and then scooted off to a private reception for the Minnesota and Arizona delegations.

The reception at St. Paul's Landmark Center was scheduled weeks ago

"That was part of what fueled the speculation of Pawlenty," delegate Marty Seifert of Marshall said of speculation Gov. Tim Pawlenty would be Arizona Sen. John McCain's running mate. "A lot of us were thinking he's got to be the guy because of the fact that Arizona and Minnesota" delegates were invited.

Pawlenty, of course, is not the vice presidential candidate. That honor went to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Paul fans to be heard

Republican Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, is not welcome at the Republican National Convention, but his supporters are in and near the Twin Cities in force.

Paul, more of a maverick than John McCain, will hold his own convention in Minneapolis' Target Center. Former Gov. Jesse Ventura will be a featured speaker.

Just so people in Minnesota and western Wisconsin know about him, his backers have plastered road sign posts with Paul signs. On a drive to downtown St. Paul Sunday, dozens of Paul signs were spotted, but none for McCain.

Goodies for reporters

Journalists covering the Republican National Convention got more than just convention passes when they picked up their credentials Sunday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Reporters were offered a canvas tote bag - advertising Coca-Cola and Southern Company - filled with convention-related goodies like a key chain, lanyard, party guide and umbrella. The bag also was packed with a commemorative box of Macaroni and Cheese, a water bottle with the convention logo and a copy of World Traveler magazine featuring Sen. John McCain, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., on the cover.

Could hurricane help business?

Businesses could benefit if Republican National Convention activities are scaled back this week because of Hurricane Gustav, one Minnesota Republican said.

Michael Barrett of Browerville, an alternate delegate and one-time U.S. House candidate, said St. Paul-area businesses may see a boost in business if delegates and others in town for the convention end up spending more time away from the convention hall.

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State Capitol reporter Don Davis contributed to this story.

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State Capitol reporters are blogging from the Republican National Convention at www.areavoices.com/CapitolChat.

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