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2008 Republican National Convention


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From today's St. Paul(Mn.) Pioneer Press:

2008 Republican National Convention / Sheriff seeking $4.4 million for security

Fletcher tells county he is planning for arrest of up to 3,000 protesters


Pioneer Press

Article Launched: 04/18/2007 12:01:00 AM CDT


Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher says he will need $4.4 million to pay for the detention of as many as 3,000 protesters and other security costs during the 2008 Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center.


Citing growing fervor over the war in Iraq, Fletcher said there could be a high number of arrests during the gathering in downtown St. Paul to nominate the GOP's presidential candidate. Detainees could be held at a fenced-in, temporary pen near the Ramsey County Correctional Facility in Maplewood, he added.


The 3,000 figure is similar to planning numbers used by Boston and New York City to prepare for the 2004 Democratic and Republican conventions, respectively. Neither city arrested that many people, and St. Paul officials were quick to downplay the number.


But Fletcher said that is the number he and the St. Paul Police Department are using to prepare for the event.


"The tenor of the country's feelings about the war in Iraq is different than it was four years ago," Fletcher said.


Of the $4.4 million Fletcher says he'll need for the convention, $3 million would pay for detention, $500,000 would cover Mississippi River patrols and $900,000 would fund a civil disturbance response team in the event of widespread chaos similar to 1999's World Trade Organization riots in Seattle.


"If that's what he needs, that's what he needs. He's the expert," Ramsey County Board Chairman Tony Bennett said. "Let's hope that we don't have to arrest anybody, but that's never the case."


Fletcher said he is "very hopeful" that St. Paul would cover any costs to the county through a $50 million federal convention security appropriation now pending as part of an Iraq war spending bill.


Although planners expect as many as 15,000 media members to descend on St. Paul from Sept. 1-4, 2008, no one knows how many protesters to expect. Several groups have asked the city for protest permits but were rejected, since the city does not approve such requests more than six months before an event.


Fletcher said protesters held at the Ramsey County workhouse facility would not intermingle with inmates there and said other sites are under consideration. He hopes to fingerprint and release detainees within four hours.


St. Paul officials have held three open houses to take public input and say they will work with the U.S. Secret Service to draw up a convention security plan. But that plan is a long way off, and attaching any figure to the number of potential arrests is premature, St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh said.


"We don't have the agenda yet. We don't know where things are going to happen. We don't know when they're going to happen," Walsh said.


Thousand of arrests, Walsh added, would be "highly improbable."


The Ramsey County Sheriff's Department is responsible for handling prisoners, but St. Paul police would have primary responsibility for arrests. The city also could contract with other surrounding law enforcement agencies to process arrests.


Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman was surprised to learn of Fletcher's request and said she didn't believe anything has been put in writing.


"I'll be the first one to say I want (county taxpayers) to be reimbursed, but right now, I don't want to get into a numbers game," Rettman said.


In 2004, New York police arrested 1,800 protesters, prompting dozens of federal lawsuits that persist to this day. Boston police arrested just a handful, and St. Paul officials have said they prefer Boston's approach to New York's.


"You plan for worst-case scenarios and then you do everything in your power to make sure that doesn't happen," St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington said.


Harrington said New York police have a "different style" than St. Paul police, and mass arrests "never has been (a St. Paul department practice) and it certainly isn't under my watch."


Chris Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has been involved in many of the legal fights over the 2004 convention, said in an e-mail that he could not see a scenario where thousands of arrests could be justified.


Jason Hoppin can be reached at jhoppin@pioneerpress.com or 651-292-1892.




Living here in Minnesota, the number of potential arrests is not what I was thinking of when St.Paul was awarded the Convention. I'm willing to see the money spent to fund a good, efficient security plan. The 3,000, or anything close to it, seems incredible high.

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"As many as 3000" as in, "I have to be ready for a big horde of arrests." If the capacity exists and he doesn't need it, then all is well, if the capacity doesn't exist and he does need it he's screwed. If anyone remembers the WTO meetings in Seattle where the police department just wasn't ready for the violence, then they would understand his concerns.

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