I went down to the Capitol last night to see what was going on.
I walked up John Ireland past the State Office Building, and saw people – many if not most of them wearing identical T-shirts from the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees – gathering in knots and clots around the Mall, many carrying pre-printed signs (“Tax the top 2%!” and the like). It was as clear as it ever is; it takes a lot of money to show what a bunch of working stiffs they are.
I found a group of College Republicans gathered near the top, stage left (to the audience’s right). They assembled with their handmade signs fairly early in the evening. One of them – Ryan Lyk, one of their leaders and a long-time Twitter correspondent of mine – related a story; one of the “protesters” had walked up to them just before I arrived, and said (in and among a rambling discourse) that he’d “cut the heads off” the College Republicans. Then he’d apparently scampered away; they always, always do, I noted. The CRs reported the “man” to the police, but nothing more came of it.
As I was discussing that incident, I noticed a guy – short, mid-forty-something, in a sleeveless “Everlast” T-shirt – standing in front of the CRs, talking aggressively, ostentatiously taking cell phone calls and talking loudly about “We’re about to start it up with these people”. Then, he took his cell cam, turned around, and snapped a picture of one of the College Republicans’ women’s butts as she was facing up the stairs. From very close range.
Let’s get this straight; he walked up behind a teenage girl and snapped a close-up of her ass.
About this time, I flipped on my camera’s video function – catching him just as he checked out his work, slouching down the steps toward the rest of the crowd. Then he turned and noticed me taping him. He flipped me two middle fingers. “Did you get that?”, he gurgled, laughing an addled-sounding laugh. I kept on taping; he walked up the steps, trying to look intimidating; he got directly in my face put his cell phone maybe two inches from my face, and snapped a cell shot. He reeked of alcohol. He walked away, looking like every loudmouth aggressive drunk looks when they’re prancing about the pool tables at the bar, puffed up and aggressive and daring someone to cross ’em, bellowing about the picture he’d taken.
Suffice to say, we reported him to the cops too.
There was another guy – mid-forties, with that “academic” look about him, who wandered up to the CRs and started trying to pick an argument. He brought up tuition costs – and while I went there intending mostly to be a fly on the wall, photographing and videotaping, I had to join in. “Why do you think tuition is so high?”
He stared into my camera.
I explained a little basic economics; how if you pour money into the market for a good or service that is in limited supply – like seats at the U – the prices will rise.
He stared some more.
“What do you think about that?”
“Don’t photograph me. My face is copyrighted”.
I hadn’t heard that one before. “You’re in a public place…”, I responded.
“Could you please not photograph me?”
And that was the best argument I heard from any of them all night – or, truth be told, from almost any liberal, on any subject, ever. But I digress.
At any rate – before long, dozens of people in MAPE T-shirts crowded around the dozen or so CRs.
A young woman with a guitar was meandering about the place; while I placed her (correctly) as a “progressive”, she actually spent nearly as much time arguing with the union members who were, by this time, crowding around the CRs, alternately trying to obscure the view of their signs and, occasionally, to heckle them.
Photo courtesy Kate Paul
She actually wanted to know what it was that made people be Republicans. I gently corrected her – I’m a conservative – but in all my years of being a hate-choked agitator, I can’t say as I’ve ever been asked to explain that, impromptu. I told her I’d grown up very liberal; that Reagan’s prosperity was huge, and that his ending of the cold war was bigger still, and since I’ve been working in the real world I’ve found absolutely nothing about “progressive” ideology that makes any sense.
The conversation got harder and harder to have – the chanting around us was getting pretty intense. The T-Shirt Crowd were chanting loudly. And some of them seemed genuinely offended by the presence of the CRs on the Capitol steps. One guy – doughy, fiftysomething, with long, stringy, frizzy gray hair in dire need of a comb – kept bellowing “why don’t you all get jobs!”. I did at one point append “…so you can work ’til you’re 75 so he can retire at 55”. But I think it got lost in the din.
I had to leave around 10:30. It was getting dark out, and I had to be up at 5AM. Laura Gatz from Princess Politics showed up a little later, and snapped this photo of the Capitol lights shutting off:
Photo courtesy Laura Gatz
Which, if you’re not from St. Paul, you should know never happens; the Capitol is always lit.
I’ll upload photos and video when I get some free time here…