Protests at the 2008 RNC

Bradley Crowder & David McKay

Other Events and Protests

February 26, 2008

In Austin, Texas, David McKay and Bradley Crowder meet Brandon Darby at the RNC Welcoming Committee Roadshow, an anarchist group rally that is gathering participants for a protest at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

March 3, 2008

The Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, a group of 130 organizations, obtains a permit from the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, to demonstrate at the 2008 Republican National Convention, but not within "sight and sound" of the delegates at Xcel Energy Center, who will arrive after the protest is scheduled to end. Over the following months, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild assist the coalition in its permit battles with federal courts.

Estimates for protest attendance are as high as 50,000.

March 4, 2008

Arizona senator John McCain becomes the presumptive Republican presidential nominee after winning primary elections in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont.

March 6, 2008

The Austin Affinity Group, of which Darby, McKay and Crowder are members, holds its first meeting. The group continues to hold meetings weekly.

July 22, 2008

The U.S. Department of Justice awards the St. Paul police department a $50 million grant, most of which will go toward paying an additional 3,500 officers during the convention.

August 13, 2008

The coalition of protesters announces that St. Paul has issued a permit for a September 1, 2008 march from the State Capitol building to the Xcel Energy Center.

August 28, 2008

Crowder and McKay leave for St. Paul, Minnesota, in an Austin Affinity Group van, with Darby and six others. Crowder recalls, "I wanted to go to the RNC to protest, because I want to change the world, and I believe it can be changed." McKay likens the voyage to a camping trip.

The van's trailer contains 34 homemade riot shields made from halved traffic barrels.

August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin is announced as John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election. McCain says, "She's got the grit, integrity, good sense and fierce devotion to the common good that is exactly what we need in Washington today."

Police raid a rental hall being used by the RNC Welcoming Committee, a self-proclaimed "anarchist/anti-authoritarian" group. According to a search warrant, police confiscate items used to make Molotov cocktails and bombs, but no arrests are made. The Star Tribune cites the assistance of informants from within the RNC Welcoming Committee.

August 30, 2008

The van arrives in St. Paul in the early morning and the group parks the trailer.

Crowder and McKay wander around St. Paul, overwhelmed by the number of officers in the streets. Crowder notes a "pervasive sense of occupation." When they are separated, each believes the other has been arrested.

Police pull over the Austin Affinity Group van at gunpoint.

August 30, 2008

According to media reports, six activists are arrested and several hundred others are detained.

August 31, 2008

In mid-afternoon, Crowder and McKay return to the trailer and find that it has been burglarized. The shields are gone along with their personal possessions. They tell Darby, who calls a meeting.

At the meeting, Darby is hysterical, accusing the other group members of lying or being responsible for the disappearance of the shields. Darby asks the group what they will do to fight back. FBI Domestic Terrorism Squad Special Agent Christopher Langert later says, "At this meeting, Crowder and McKay must have made the decision to do something else."

McKay and Crowder look up Molotov cocktails online, then go to Walmart to replace their missing items and purchase materials for producing gas bombs. McKay and Crowder return to the St. Paul home where they are staying. They make eight Molotov cocktails.

RNC Day 1
Monday, September 1, 2008

When McKay suggests they not use the Molotov cocktails, Crowder is relieved. They store the bombs in the basement, aware that dumping them could attract attention from police and harm the environment.

Crowder and McKay are running late to the protest, but meet the group in their gear and join the march at about 12:30 PM. After a break for lunch, the two join the Funk the War march. When police begin using tear gas, they are separated and arrested.

Crowder is held because he was not carrying identification; McKay, who says he was without identification as well, is released.

RNC Day 1
Monday, September 1, 2008

The first day of the RNC is scaled back as the nation's attention shifts to Hurricane Gustav in the south. President George W. Bush, who was scheduled to speak, announces that he will skip the convention. The anti-war march is scheduled to begin at 11 AM at the Minnesota State Capitol, with the march to the Xcel Energy Center starting at 1 PM, and a closing rally at 4 PM.

An estimated 10,000 protesters attend.

Media reports the use of tear gas and pepper spray. About 300 people are arrested; 120 of them are held on felony charges. Two more RNC Welcoming Committee activists are arrested as well, bringing the total to eight; the so-called "RNC 8" are charged with "conspiracy to riot in the second degree in furtherance of terrorism" under the USA PATRIOT Act.

RNC Day 2
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Disheartened by his protest experience, McKay spends the day photographing Minneapolis.

FBI agent Langert believes McKay and Crowder have made bombs and he wants a conversation with McKay on record via his informant, Darby. Langert asks Darby to "be his friend, see what he's willing to share with you." In the evening, McKay meets Darby at Hard Times Café in Minneapolis. As the FBI listens, McKay tells Darby about his intention to bomb parked police cars. McKay later says he made up the story to avoid being shamed by Darby.

RNC Day 2
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The ACLU claims the arrests are unconstitutional, saying, "Free speech has to be safeguarded during the Republican National Convention, as the workings of our democracy in the streets are as important as those in convention halls."

The RNC Welcoming Committee says, via its website, "The actions taken yesterday prove that the tactics of intimidation, harassment, violent oppression, the snatching of specific individuals, and the profiling of activists will not stop committed people from taking to the streets for what they believe in and putting their bodies behind those convictions."

RNC Day 3
Wednesday, September 3, 2008

McKay returns to the St. Paul home where his is staying, and he and Darby exchange text messages about the Molotov cocktails:

1:39 AM (Darby) What up, butter cup?
1:43 AM (McKay) We can't go to mom's tonight Too many ants around the candy bars.
1.49 AM (Darby) Chill. It's all fine. This is a normal feeling to have when you haven't seen family in a while.

At about 5 AM, St. Paul police raid the St. Paul home where McKay is staying and arrest McKay at gunpoint, two hours before he is scheduled to go to the airport.

RNC Day 3
Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani speak to delegates at the RNC.

At a protest march following a Rage Against the Machine concert in Minneapolis, 102 people are arrested.

RNC Day 4
Thursday, September 4, 2008

John McCain accepts the nomination as the Republican candidate for president.

Police arrest 400 protesters on the last day of the convention.

September 5, 2008

MinnPost reports a total of 818 arrests over the course of the RNC.

December 29, 2008

Darby announces online that he is an FBI informant.

January 2009

Crowder pleads guilty to possession of Molotov cocktails and will serve a two-year sentence.

McKay goes on trial.

February 2009

McKay's trial ends in a hung jury.

March 2009

Facing a potential 30-year sentence should he lose a second trial, McKay pleads guilty and is taken into custody. In May 2009 he is given a four-year sentence.

April 8, 2009

Terrorism charges are dropped against the RNC 8, but conspiracy charges remain.

May 2010

Crowder is released.


McKay is scheduled to be released.

Please note: The Crowder/McKay part of this timeline was culled from Better This World and interviews they did with the filmmakers. The other events and protests part was pulled together from news reports that came out at the time of the convention.