U.S. Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse met privately yesterday with a senator and denied that he ordered officers not to arrest war protesters who painted slogans on the sidewalk near the Capitol.
Chief Morse conceded shortcomings in the police response Saturday at the protest against the Iraq war, however, and vowed to revise plans for managing demonstrations, Sen. Wayne Allard said after meeting with the chief.
“There was no order to retreat [or] not arrest anybody,” said Mr. Allard, Colorado Republican. “He had ordered them that if they saw anybody breaking the law, they were to arrest them. … They did not see them paint the graffiti.”
The chief’s pledge to review department policy follows public complaints that protesters painted anarchist symbols and slogans on the Capitol sidewalk Saturday right in front of Capitol Police officers.
The graffiti included the phrases “all cops are pigs” and “you can’t stop us,” officers said.
Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a department spokeswoman, said a band of protesters splintered from the tens of thousands on the Mall, mixed with visitors exiting the Capitol and in the confusion spray-painted the sidewalk.
However, some officers said the order for “hands off” protesters came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
“The word going around is that [the order] came from Pelosi’s office,” an officer told The Washington Times. “The order was not to interfere with the protesters.”
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker, who was in Afghanistan on Saturday, had not communicated with police about the demonstration. “No one from our office had any contact with police about response to [protesters],” he said.
He suggested conservative groups were spreading the story about Mrs. Pelosi’s involvement.
Capitol Police officials could not verify whether any orders originated from the speaker’s office.
“There are a lot of rumors going around, and I can’t confirm that,” Sgt. Schneider said. “There was a set of decisions that were made at the time, based on the circumstances.”
Those decisions were made by “law-enforcement officers on the scene,” she said.
She also said officers discovered the graffiti after a crowd cleared from the west entrance to the building.
A police union leader contradicted the official account of events.