You may have heard that my fair city hosted the 2008 Republican National Convention. I was one of the thousands of volunteers that did what it took to make it all happen. Since I'm such a square, I stuck to my agreement with the volunteer committee to refrain from detailing my role since I was assigned within the security perimeter.
I worked for the transportation coordination contractor for five days. It was quite an interesting look into the dynamic and ever-evolving challenge of people logistics (wow - I should write brochures). After clearing the federal background check and going through training, it looked like my job would be part air-traffic control and part rodeo clown, only with giant motor coaches instead of pissed-off livestock. I wound monitoring the parade of delegation-carrying buses into the secured area. Should they take too long clearing the Secret Service sweep, I was to slow them down via one of those confounded and completely non-intuitive Nextel things. Anyway, it all went quite smooth, but I am not looking for career in which I will spend eight to ten hours on my feet.
About one third of downtown Saint Paul was somehow transformed. There was ominous and very thorough security fencing lining many streets. MSNBC had a huge open-air live set in Rice Park. Fox had a broadcast tent about the size of a football field and CNN took over (and rebranded) the Eagle Street Grille as their broadcast quarters.
Of course, whenever the whole world is watching, there will always be strangers coming out of the woodwork. From the guy carrying the "Stop Bird Porn" sign to the gray-hailed fellow who was opposed to 'government spying' but was very happy to pose for cell phone pictures by uniformed law enforcement.
There were also plenty of hoodlums and felons a la Seattle 1999. I will not call them protesters, since legitimate protesters actually have a point and a position they want heard. I do not accept the term anarchists, either, since the moment these amateurs were caught and faced consequences, the went running home to mommy and then lectured the police about proper procedures - that's right, these wanna be 'anarchists' come equipped with their own set of rules they expect others to adhere to; how ironic.
It's tough to come up with an actual term for these clowns. They exhibited a jackass behavior that was in part "Let's Break Stuff, Heh, Heh, Heh, Heh" Beavis & Buttheadesque and part childish, champagne-fueled spoiled brat bride on her wedding day. These drecks exhibited basic ignorance by branding the whole scene a police state when, in fact, what they encountered was appropriate security precautions and adequate response. Here's the lesson, you idiots; in an actual police state, the entirety of the city of Saint Paul would have been locked down and all citizens would face restrictions, not just the ones that bragged about the havoc they promised to produce.
Ultimately, they are merely adolescent cowards who hid behind masks and within the crowds of legitimate protesters. Since their goal (stated by them) was to shut down the convention, they are also complete failures. All they accomplished was stealing the limelight from the adults that protested in a manner that did not require arrests or result in crimes.
What a weird world to live in: Hitch a ride to Saint Paul from wherever you call home, drop sacks of sand onto buses from overpasses, scare the crap out of cub scouts, throw bleach on senior citizens, set stuff on fire, break glass, run away and then hold press conferences to complain about the law enforcement that was ultimately 10,000 times better at their jobs that the patchouli gang was at theirs.
And, now that it's over, where are these punks today? Don't tell me you care about affecting change to a political system when you just sit on your ass the other 364 days of the year, screaming at the wind, while collecting a government check or cowering under the nurturing veil of academia.
After all the hubub blew through, I spend Friday shuttling cars from the Minneapolis Convention Center to a holding lot near the airport. I can report that is that the hybrid Tahoe and hybrid Yukon are very classy, quiet and comforable but still thirsty, the hybrid Malibu is much nicer and more composed than I expected (I had branded these things chronic rental-fleet darlings) and the DTS makes me want a CTS more than ever.
By Friday night, it was amazing (and relieving) to see how so much of downtown Saint Paul was restored to its normal state. Speaking on a civic level, we all need a massage and a beer. I settled for Thai food and Saint Paul beer.