Radicals or playground addicts?

By Andy Mannix

Outside a back entrance to the Xcel Energy Center Monday afternoon, John Ireland Blvd. looked as if it were about to erupt into a post-apocalyptic warzone. On one side of the street about 40 of the Twin Cities’ finest stood in full riot gear, diligently guarding the Republican fortress. On the other side were 80ish anarchists. Most of them were wearing black hooded sweatshirts and bandannas that left little skin exposed, despite it being 90 degrees and humid. Those in the front of the pack were hoisting two large signs together like a makeshift battering ram. No one moved, but both sides looked hungry.

Radicals or playground addicts?

Everyone loves a parade! More photos by Andy Mannix in the slideshow.

One of the cops spotted an anarchist strapping on rubber gloves, and, expecting the worst, motioned like a military general for the rest to “gas up.” “Get ready,” he shouted, as they pulled on gas masks, “we’re about to get a lot of shit.”

But the shit never came. After a few minutes of stale standoff and empty threats from the anarchists, they fled toward the Basilica, away from the police. Earlier in the day I had seen this same group of radicals smashing car windows with hammers and tipping over dumpsters. I wasn’t sure our fair capital would withstand four days of this havoc. Even on the march to the Xcel they looked like they were gearing up for a blood bath, pouring vinegar on their bandanas to neutralize an anticipated mace attack and chanting things like “One solution: Revolution!”

But as I watched them retreat toward the hills -- like there was going to be some other back way to get into the Xcel that no one had thought to guard -- they looked more like Elementary Schoolers on a playground. They talked large, but they didn’t dare charge the bigger kids at full speed, trying to land that one blow for chaos before succumbing to the sweet, sweet aroma of tear gas. So here’s my question: Are these anarchists biding their time (many anticipate an aggressive, militant-style protest on Thursday)? Or are these a bunch of anxious kids, riding this strange wave of political tension, but ultimately just suffering from a bad case of the playground withdrawals? -- Andy Mannix

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