Police will get tough on Occupy D.C. protesters

Chief Lanier cites five injuries last week

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Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Monday that her department is adjusting its tactics in response to Occupy D.C.’s “increasingly confrontational and violent” demonstrations, following the actions of other U.S. cities looking to evict  — or at least crack down  — on what officials are characterizing as unruly protesters.

The chief’s tough talk changed the tone of what had been about a month of congenial relations between protesters and authorities. It came after a Friday night incident in which several people attending a downtown event where the protesters were demonstrating were hurt.

“Five people that we are aware of were injured,” Chief Lanier said in a statement issued Monday. “That is no longer a peaceful protest.”

Chief Lanier’s statement also included links to videos that police say support their claims that the protesters are becoming more aggressive. In one video, protesters appear to use children to block an entrance.

“We do not condone nor will we tolerate violence or aggression,” Chief Lanier said. “The administration will do what’s necessary to maintain order in the city and to ensure that everyone is safe.”

Occupy D.C. organizers disputed Chief Lanier’s response in an email statement of their own, calling her charges against them “false.”

“There is no evidence to show that protesters directly caused any injuries to anyone. The injuries cited by police were perpetrated by others against peaceful Occupy DC protesters  — making today’s police statement all the more dishonest,” protest organizers said in the email.

Chief Lanier did not elaborate on how the department might adjust its tactics.

In Georgia on Sunday, 20 demonstrators were taken to jail by officers in riot gear when an Occupy Atlanta rally spilled into the streets.

Police in Chicago issues citations to 43 Occupy Chicago protesters who blocked an intersection in the city’s financial district Monday and then refused to leave.

The protests began on near Wall Street in New York City in response to what demonstrators see as corporate greed. But as police continue to look for ways to remove protesters from public spaces, where they eat and sleep, the demonstrators have honed their message to demand their rights to assemble and to have freedom of speech.

Oakland, Calif., became a rallying point last week after an Iraq War veteran was injured when protesters and riot police clashed in the streets.

Riot police arrested more than 80 protesters in the city’s downtown, where bands of demonstrators threw chunks of concrete and metal pipes and ignited Roman candles and firebombs, police said. Five protesters and several officers were injured, but other segments of the Occupy movement were quick to disavow the violence.

The weekend incident in the District unfolded about 10 p.m. Friday when Occupy D.C. protesters, who have been camping in McPherson Square, demonstrated outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center where the Americans for Prosperity group was holding its “Defending the American Dream” summit.

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