- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he has "absolutely no regrets" about the way things went during the protests at the headquarters of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

"I make no apologies, for anything anybody did," Chief Ramsey said at a briefing yesterday afternoon.

Asked if it was worth virtually closing downtown for the day, he responded: "We didn't lose the city, so as far as I'm concerned, it's worth it."

The weeklong protests around the city and increasing clashes between officers and demonstrators in the streets put Chief Ramsey and his department in the national and international spotlight.

The department was determined that Washington not see a repeat of problems the Seattle police encountered in November with many of the same demonstrators at a World Trade Organization meeting.

With the Democratic and Republican national conventions coming up this summer, police from host cities Philadelphia and Los Angeles, among others, were in the District to monitor how Chief Ramsey and his troops handled the situation.

The chief said repeatedly that the department would try to juggle the city's safety with the protesters' rights.

Chief Ramsey and Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer spent the better part of the past week trying to keep their officers from being overly aggressive, but force was used on several occasions.

Officers used their batons to push back crowds and let loose with pepper spray to clear the streets and sidewalks when demonstrators refused to move.

Chief Ramsey and Chief Gainer each made arrests, among the more than 500 yesterday.

In the early morning hours yesterday, Chief Ramsey was sure his department had fulfilled its obligation to the city. Damage was at a minimum, delegates arrived at their meetings as scheduled and protesters were able to state their case.

At 7 a.m., most of the World Bank and IMF delegates and staff were safely through police lines and scarcely a protester was in sight. Chief Ramsey was still uneasy, but he almost managed a smile for the morning newscasts.

While delegates arrived without incident, Chief Ramsey stood by the command vehicle, looking weary and short on sleep but hopeful for a quiet day.

"There's no 'Battle in Seattle' here," he said before it was fully light yesterday.

However, the early morning quiet soon gave way to thousands of protesters and clashes with police in hot spots all over town. Any confident talk and hopes that the rain would send the protesters home early were premature.

By midmorning, the chief and his command staff found themselves on the lines with their officers, making arrests and trying to keep everyone calm.

"The protesters see that we're trying to de-escalate the situation, and our own officers just need our assurance too," Chief Ramsey said of his presence. "It helps to know that you're not out there alone, because sometimes you get a little stressed."

Chief Ramsey and Chief Gainer were in their cruiser when they heard dispatches that a police officer was in trouble. They went to help, followed by Assistant Chief Michael Fitzgerald and Cmdr. Jose Acosta, head of the Special Investigation Division.

En route, they ran into several hundred protesters at the intersection of 18th and K streets NW.

"We couldn't back up because Fitzgerald was behind us," Chief Ramsey said.

Thus the command of the entire police department was at the center of the fray.

Chief Gainer said their squad car came around a corner and the protesters "rushed" the vehicle.

"It got violent there for a little bit," he said.

"We got out and we were quickly surrounded," Chief Ramsey said. "They were grabbing at me and we had to keep them off and call for assistance."

Later in the day, Chief Ramsey was asked what happened to the fourth star on the left shoulder of his uniform jacket.

"I got into a little scuffle," he said.

Overnight Sunday, police called in a company of D.C. National Guardsmen to shore up the outer perimeter of the police barricade surrounding the IMF and World Bank buildings.

Chief Ramsey expected that his officers would be trying to clear streets for the morning and afternoon rush hours and wanted the National Guard to ensure that the police lines wouldn't be breached.

"It was a precautionary move better safe than sorry," Chief Ramsey said.

Although the day started quietly, the number of protesters had grown to thousands by midmorning. They marched along 14th and I streets before sitting down in the middle of the street and challenging the police perimeter at 20th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. When protesters and police pushed and shoved for position around the metal barricades, Chief Gainer was just behind the three-deep lines of police and Guardsmen, barking out orders and helping to keep law enforcement inside the perimeter.

It was a tense few hours just before and after noon, as police were ordered to put their gas masks on and helmet visors down. Protesters and journalists in the crowd prepared for tear gas rounds to fire.

The protesters were concerned about police batons, gas masks and pepper-spray guns, and the officers became concerned when they saw protesters donning goggles and bandanas for protection.

Although Chief Ramsey held a gas mask and baton in his hand, he and Chief Gainer never took off their caps and kept a human face as the situation escalated.

"We each saw there was a way to calm those people, with putting a little love and trust into it," Chief Gainer said.

• Jim Keary and John Drake contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide