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Sunday, August 31, 2008 - Page updated at 04:50 PM

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9 arrested at Xcel in antiwar march

Police arrested nine people taking part in an antiwar march at the Republican National Convention on Sunday after they crossed a security fence into a restricted area near Xcel Energy Center.

Associated Press Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. —

Police arrested nine people taking part in an antiwar march at the Republican National Convention on Sunday after they crossed a security fence into a restricted area near Xcel Energy Center.

The nine were arrested for trespassing, said Doug Holtz, a St. Paul police commander.

Eight of the nine protesters were taken away in handcuffs. The ninth, a 78-year-old nun, was not cuffed. The protesters had planned ahead of time to cross the fence, and organizers had announced it ahead of the march, which drew about 250 people.

"We are going to march into the arms of police. Whatever they are going to do is all right with us," organizer David Harris, 73, said to the marchers before they entered the restricted zone. He was one of those taken away. All but one, who did not have identification, were soon released by police.

The arrests capped a peaceful march organized by Veterans for Peace and fellow peace group CODEPINK that began at the Capitol and made its way to Xcel, the convention hall. It was a quiet warm-up before a planned march Monday, organized by another group, that was expected to attract a larger crowd; organizers of Monday's protest have predicted as many as 50,000 demonstrators.

As the march began, Harris read the names of soldiers and civilians killed in Iraq. After each name was read, the marchers near Harris shouted, "We will remember you!"

Bringing up the rear of the march, about three dozen people wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods over their heads marched in silence with their hands behind their backs. Marchers carried a banner that said, "Torture Destroys Us All." Others carried banners reading, "S.O.S. Nation in Distress" and "Pro Peace Pro Soldier."

Members of the RNC Welcoming Committee - which is not a sponsor of the Monday march but has offered support to other protest groups - were trying to regroup after a series of raids Friday night and Saturday saw six people arrested and materials seized.

Meanwhile, the organizers of Monday's march said they weren't changing their plans despite the raids on other groups or the GOP's decision to sharply curtail that day's session due to the expected landfall of Hurricane Gustav.

"The main effect of this scaling-back of the convention tomorrow is that our voices will be front and center, and it will be the main news that is happening tomorrow," Jess Sundin, of the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, said Sunday.

"The world will see people of this country say 'no' to the war in Iraq."

She said Monday's march is intended to be peaceful and family-oriented.

---

Associated Press writers Scott Bauer, Ryan J. Foley and Martiga Lohn contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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