BEST GROUND ZERO Minneapolis 2001 - Loring Park
The weeks leading up to last summer's International Society for Animal Genetics conference brought no shortage of hyperventilating about the impending clash between lefty protesters and The Man. Minneapolis, it seemed, was at risk for a disturbance on the scale of the World Trade Organization riots in Seattle the previous fall. In an effort to justify a heavy police presence (and $60,000 in snazzy new riot gear), Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson predicted that more than 1,000 demonstrators would soon be roaming about on Nicollet Mall. As it turned out, the "Biotech Battle"--as one hysterical TV station that shall remain nameless (WCCO) dubbed the conflict--fell considerably short of both the Seattle standard and prognosticators' visions. Protester ranks peaked at around 200, and there was minimal damage to property. (None of which prevented the city from spending upward of $1 million in public funds on the conference, all told.) Still, when Minneapolis police squared off against a scraggly band of demonstrators near Loring Park on Monday, July 24, some of the video footage aired on the local news was ugly: Images of the officers' liberal deployment of pepper spray and batons caused many residents to reconsider their city's reputation for tolerance and civility.