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Protesters taunt conventioneers; 50 arrested

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A protester is arrested during an anti-war protest at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., on Monday.

C. Rex Arbogast / ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

ST. PAUL - Thousands of anti-war protesters took to the streets outside the convention center, with a breakaway faction disrupting traffic and tangling with police as the Republican National Convention began its first day.

Several demonstrators and reporters were hit by pepper spray when a small group, some wearing masks and swim goggles, attempted to break through a police blockade downtown.

At other points, protesters taunted delegates as they walked into the convention center.

Others got into face-to-face confrontations with counter protesters who carried flags and signs supporting the Iraq war.

Police arrested more than 50 people.

Many of those involved in the more violent activities identified themselves to reporters as anarchists.

"This is people that are here to say that we don't believe the Republicans should be allowed to have a party convention," said one woman who appeared to be one of the leaders of a small group that broke from the main march. Like many protesters, some wearing gas masks or bandanas to hide their faces, she did not give a name.

Demonstrators did not get past the perimeter security around the Xcel Energy Center, where the Republicans are meeting in a truncated first session.

At one juncture demonstrators got face-to-face with pro-McCain demonstrators, some carrying flags and signs reading "Victory Over Terrorism" and "Let Our Soldiers Win."

The main body of the march assembled at the state capital in the morning hours and in the afternoon a faction of younger protesters left early and dodged police at intersections throughout the city's downtown.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dennis B. Roddy is a staff writer at the Post-Gazette.

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