- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2011

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.

Protesters say police refused to arrest a Maryland man for striking multiple demonstrators with his car Friday night and did not collect witness statements from at least two of the victims.

Police dispute the protesters’ account. Chief Lanier said the demonstrators have become “increasingly confrontational and violent toward uninvolved bystanders and motorists.”

About 50 protesters marched to police headquarters in Northwest on Monday waving a police report they said supports their account of the incidents.

They were met by roughly 30 police officers, who guarded the entrance to police headquarters as protesters shouted that they were not armed and they were only demanding their right to freedom of speech.

“Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like,” the protesters chanted above their accompanying drumbeats and the rumble of police motorcycles.

Ohio resident Heidi Sippel, who said she was injured on Friday, asked officers, “Is there someone who can answer my questions,” before she, her family and attorney were allowed inside to give their official statements.

The demonstrators who remained outside for the 90-minute confrontation held signs with messages such as “Don’t be too hard on the cops: They’re 1 layoff away from joining us” and “hit + run is not an accident.”

When Ms. Sippel returned outside, she told the crowd that the investigation into the weekend’s incident was still open and that “everybody was friendly” inside the department.

The small crowed applauded when it heard the news that police had opened the investigation into what happened on Friday. The protesters left police headquarters and marched toward City Hall.

“They’ve been respectful of us,” said Occupy D.C. protester Sam Jewler. “They’ve escorted us on marches and we appreciate all they’ve done. What’s violent about this?”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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