Cops: Protesters Left Poison Behind

Tuesday, July 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Demonstrators who clashed with police at an animal genetics conference also left behind canisters containing traces of cyanide in at least two locations, authorities said.

The suspects were caught on videotape Monday, and officers said some were recognized from protests at the International Society for Animal Genetics conference, which opened last week under heavy security.

A note left at a McDonald's, where some of the chemicals spilled on the floor, linked the incident to the protests, FBI Special Agent Paul McCabe said.

FBI tests revealed the presence of the poison, which is lethal when inhaled or digested. No one was hurt.

``We take this very seriously,'' McCabe said. ``Not only does cyanide attack a person's central nervous system, but the gas it emits is very explosive.''

Determined to avoid violence on the scale of the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle last year, police erected concrete barriers and steel fencing around the downtown hotel where about 650 scientists are meeting through Wednesday.

The demonstrations were peaceful until Monday, when protesters hurled rocks as they scuffled with police near the hotel. Police said 80 people were arrested.

No major injuries were reported though dozens of demonstrators were sprayed with pepper spray and some were struck with police batons.

``We tried to be as gentle as we could,'' Police Chief Robert Olson said. ``They want to shut down our city. We were not going to let them do that.''

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.

Activists 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.

A gas canister apparently containing a chemical irritant was used by protesters, said Roseann Campagnoli, a spokeswoman for the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.

Eventually, protesters did break through a police line at a park that has served as a staging area for demonstrators since the conference opened Friday. Officers fired pepper spray into the crowd, Campagnoli said.

Protester Brett Stephan, a University of Minnesota student, said the violence occurred when demonstrators were penned in by police.

``It's just absurd the actions they took against people who were defenseless,'' he said.


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