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Occupy DC At Odds With Police

MPD chief calls protest 'increasingly violent'

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Justin Rodriguez, 25, with a sign in front of MPD headquarters on Indiana Ave after a march from the convention center.
Patrick Madden
Justin Rodriguez, 25, with a sign in front of MPD headquarters on Indiana Ave after a march from the convention center.

The relationship between Occupy DC protesters and local authorities is beginning to fray after a car struck several protesters during a demonstration this past weekend. 

Protesters were outraged that no charges were filed against the driver, and yesterday, the Metropolitan Police Department agreed to review the incident.

But that didn't stop MPD Chief Cathy Lanier from calling demonstrators "increasingly confrontational and violent." In turn, it seems protesters are beginning to focus their anger and attention toward the city's police department.

They marched yesterday from the Washington Convention Center -- where Friday's accident occurred -- to MPD headquarters on Indiana Ave. NW. 

"D.C. police officers are now occupied by the people!" the group shouted in cadence, using its signature "human microphone" system, while standing face to face with a line of officers standing guard in front of MPD headquarters.

Compared to the tense, and in some cases, violent exchanges between police and Occupy protesters in other cities, local authorities have been recognized by some observers for having a relatively hands-off approach.

But that seemed to change Friday night. Hundreds of occupy demonstrators had gathered in the streets outside the D.C. Convention Center to protest a conservative group's dinner.

At some point, a car struck several protesters. Police say protesters jumped in front of the vehicle.

The Occupy DC media team, led by Adam Green, says the driver deliberately ran over protesters. Green contends police did not properly investigate the incident. As evidence, Green yesterday produced a second police report showing a hit-and-run incident involving a vehicle with a similar description at approximately the same time and location.

"Will the police now acknowledge that there were two incidents, not one; will they acknowledge it was not an accident, it was intentional; and will they commit to interviewing every witness?" Green asked outside Convention Center. The protesters then descended on police headquarters so that witnesses could deliver statements in an effort to force police to reopen the case.

At first, police wouldn't budge. Officers stood like statues, blocking the front entrance as protesters complained and criticized the police. But after an hour, a police officer came outside to start taking statements.

"How many people am I talking about that's got additional information?" the officer asked the group. Protesters soon began to chant, proclaiming "victory" outside MPD headquarters. 

But it may be a costly victory. Lanier now says police, who have been helping clear traffic for protesters when they march, will be "changing tactics." She called the protests "no longer peaceful."

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