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"80 Arrested at Biotech Protest: Minneapolis Police Also Find Containers
MINNEAPOLIS, July 25 - Eighty people were arrested Monday after police
clashed with protesters outside an international conference on animal
genetics. Police said they also found canisters containing traces of cyanide
left by the protesters, who oppose genetic engineering. Some biotech critics
have become more violent in recent months, destroying test crops and
research facilities across the country.
THE CANISTERS were found at a McDonald's and at least one other location.
FBI tests revealed the presence of cyanide, which is lethal when inhaled or
"I don't want to be starting any panic thing, but this is clearly ratcheted
up, at least on the side of the protests. And this is clearly connected to
that," Police Chief Robert Olson said.
FBI Special Agent Paul McCabe said the agency was taking the incident very
seriously. "Not only does cyanide attack a person's central nervous system,"
he said, "but the gas it emits is very explosive."
In the scuffles, one officer suffered a minor injury. No major injuries were
reported among the protesters, but dozens were sprayed with pepper spray and
others were struck with police batons.
"We tried to be as gentle as we could," Olson said. "They want to shut down
our city. We were not going to let them do that."
The skirmishes were the first significant disruption since the International
Society for Animal Genetics conference opened Friday under heavy security.
Police, determined to avoid violence on the scale of the World Trade
Organization protests in Seattle last year, erected concrete barriers and
steel fencing around the hotel, where about 650 scientists are meeting
200 TEST POLICE
Monday's scuffles broke out after more than 200 protesters had gathered in a
downtown park. About 1 p.m., a group of about 25 tested a line of about 12
officers in riot gear about three blocks from the hotel.
When the protesters tried to break through, they and at least two news
photographers were wrestled to the ground by police.
A gas canister apparently containing a chemical irritant was deployed by
protesters, who also threw rocks at officers. Officers then fired rubber
batons - beanbag-like projectiles - into the crowd.
Eventually, protesters did break through a police line into a second park,
which has served as a staging area for demonstrators. There, officers fired
pepper spray into the crowd to break it up.
A recent review by MSNBC.com found that biotech extremists have dramatically
stepped up their attacks on genetically engineered crops and research
The Web site of the Upper Midwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering, or
GrainRAGE, said the meeting is a "good excuse to rail against one of the
foundations of our death-culture."
The group has posted a "Stop the mad scientists!" schedule and called for a
"shut 'em down" event.
Spearheading the protests are the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth
Liberation Front. Biotech critics say genetic engineering threatens
biodiversity and could pollute delicate ecosystems or create a society in
which corporations and the government control what kinds of animals and
humans are born.
ISAG is one of the world's most prominent groups that shares information on
the gene mapping of livestock and companion animals, used to enhance their
health and resistance to disease.
Organizers say the biennial conference, being held in the United States for
the first time, has never been confronted by demonstrations.