Palin speaks in St. Paul while 'Rage' plays in Minneapolis

Rage against the machine
Spectators attend a Rage Against The Machine performance during the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Target Center Wednesday night in Minneapolis.
Max Whittaker/Getty Images

Politics in St. Paul and protest music in Minneapolis were opposing attractions in the Twin Cities as the Republican National Convention's third night got underway.

Alaska Gov. and vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin introduced herself to thousands of cheering, flag-waving delegates at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Then she held her baby in her arms and soaked in applause as Sen. John McCain, the party's nominee, made a surprise appearance onstage with her, electrifying the crowd.

Rage Against the Machine at the Target Center
Political rap-rock outfit Rage Against the Machine playing at the Target Center Wednesday evening. The day before an impromptu concert at the state capitol was broken up by police causing a march by fans to the Xcel.
MPR Photo/Sea Stachura

At the same time, the band Rage Against the Machine fired up its protest music to a raucous crowd at the Target Center in Minneapolis, an obscenity directed at Republicans written in lights above the stage. It took police some time to disperse the post-show crowd.

Bicycle-mounted police and others in riot gear chased some groups down 7th Street and Hennepin Ave. They made at least three arrests, but a total of the arrests around the area could not be immediately determined.

In Rice Park just outside the St. Paul hockey arena, a good-natured mix of Republicans and supporters of Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama watched Palin's speech, adding their own commentary as if they were watching a game in a sports bar.

Some booed when Palin attacked Obama, accusing him of calling for change to promote his career. Others cheered when she said she was going to Washington to serve her country. Some commented on her back-combed hairdo, one called out "flip-flop" when she said she had opposed Alaska's federally funded "Bridge to Nowhere."

Palin and McCain
Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin talk as he arrives on the tarmac at the airport in Minneapolis Wednesday.

Nancy McNulty, of Stillwater, Minn., said Palin's speech and personality -- "forthright and down to earth," deepened her support of McCain.

Oakdale, Minn. resident Seble Fissiha, an Ethiopian immigrant, said she was proud that a fellow woman was picked, but upset at Palin's attack on Obama: "The reason I'm supporting Obama is not because of his color or mine. He inspires me and my family."

A heavy police presence remained at convention-related venues in both cities. Seven people were arrested on Wednesday, according to the St. Paul Joint Information Center. Police had made 319 convention-related arrests since Saturday.

Police briefly closed the 7th Street pedestrian plaza that connects St. Peter and Wabasha streets after 7:15 when somebody lit commercial-grade fireworks there, said St. Paul Police Cmdr. Doug Holtz. There were no arrests or injuries associated with the blast.

A Minnesota Public Radio reporter who heard the noise from a distance said it sounded like a heavy metal plate dropping on concrete. A security guard said it sounded like an M-80 explosive, and Holtz said that was a possibility.

Police took extra precautions to prepare for tonight's concert in Minneapolis featuring the politically charged band Rage Against the Machine.

MSNBC in Rice Park
MSNBC's boradcast stage for the RNC in Rice Park in downtown St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Julia Schrenkler

The St. Paul police department brought in a deputy chief from Los Angeles to counsel local authorities on his experiences with the band.

After the group performed during the Democratic National Convention in L.A. 8 years ago, police used tear gas to break up a crowd that police said became violent.

In the minutes before Rage Against the Machine performed, an obscene message, "RNC F*** YOU" went up in lights above the stage. They took the stage dressed as Guantanamo Bay detainees -- wearing orange jump suits and black bags on their heads.

Meanwhile, many in the audience were avoiding security searches and leaping over railings to get to the stagefront mosh pit where they jumped to the music together, shoulder to shoulder. Every time another person lept the barricade, the crowd would get more wound up.

The band finished its last encore, "Killing in the Name" shortly before 11 p.m. Attendees exiting the concert found riot police lining Hennepin Ave.

St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington said officers on both sides of the river were ready to handle any unruly crowds after tonight's performance.

After the tear gas-tinged melees of the first two nights of the Republican National Convention, host city St. Paul seemed to have settled into a more routine mode of political spectacle.

It has become nearly normal to see people in elephant and donkey suits tool around downtown St. Paul streets on Segways. One man distributed joke fliers objecting to birdwatchers, and another pair of people costumed as as big pink pigs were there to oppose Congressional pork barrel spending.

Various groups staged performances and marches -- a group calling for an investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was one -- and truck-mounted billboards cruised the city. One called for an end to abortion, another wants religion out of government.

The Minnesota Interfaith Darfur Coalition drew a few hundred people to the state capitol grounds to view depictions of past human rights abuses around the world.

And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was seen stepping into the Minnesota History Theatre for a taping of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Heather Larson, 25, of Stillwater, who had been part of an anti-poverty march Tuesday night said, "Some of the protesters have been out of hand, but the (police) response has been so aggressive, it makes me more determined to be here and be part of the protest tomorrow."

Those arrested in previous days' demonstrations were having their cases processed, with the total number of arraignments reaching 150 by the end of business Wednesday, said Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin.

She said there were more felony cases than had been anticipated in pre-convention planning, and it slowed down the process.

"It's almost like a battlefield. You just make constant adjustments," Gearin said.

Some of those who were arrested Monday on misdemanor charges were being released on Wednesday on bail amounts of a few hundred dollars to over $1,000. Bail in some of the felony cases reached as high as $10,000.

Demonstrations and rallies are scheduled through the end of the Republican National Convention on Thursday.

Also on Wednesday, the Anti-War Committee pledged to go forward with a Thursday 5 p.m. march from the Capitol to the Xcel Energy Center, even though its permit will have expired by then.

"We're going to demand the police honor our rights to march and we'll see what they do," said organizer Jess Sundin.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty today told the C-SPAN cable network he celebrates protesters' First Amendment rights of free speech. But he says matters change when there is violence or property damage.

"Anytime you have an event like this you are going to attract protesters, and there is some subgroup of them who are going to be anarchists, or nihilists, or just goofballs -- and they are going to do bad things," Pawlenty said.

"We enjoy and appreciate their First Amendment rights to shout, to yell, to hold signs. But once you start breaking stuff, once you start hurting someone else, once you start endangering others' property or lives, you don't get to do that," he continued.

"These are serious matters. It's not most of the protesters, it's a subgroup. They are just nutty I think, in my opinion, trying to hurt people, trying to break property and for that subgroup of protesters they need to be dealt with and arrested."

(Minnesota Public Radio reporters Sea Stachura, Brett Baldwin, Brandt Williams, Chris Kelleher, Toni Randolph and Matt Peiken, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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