POLITICS

Police tactics questioned in Occupy Wall Street protests nationwide

An Occupy Portland protester is arrested Thursday, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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In Los Angeles, helmeted police equipped with batons surrounded the base of a bank tower but the protest remained peaceful. Several hundred Occupy sympathizers marched to the Bank of America Plaza in downtown Los Angeles, with some setting up tents on a lawn. Police arrested two dozen people after they sat down in a street during a peaceful rally by hundreds of people organized by labor groups who had a permit.

Authorities cleared an encampment set up by Occupy protesters on the University of California, Berkeley campus; about 150 police officers and deputies in riot gear.

Police arrested 21 demonstrators in Las Vegas, and 20 were led away in plastic handcuffs in Portland, Ore., for sitting down on a bridge. At least a dozen were arrested in St. Louis after they sat down cross-legged and locked arms in an attempt to block a bridge over the Mississippi River.

Several of the demonstrations coincided with an event planned months earlier by a coalition of unions and liberal groups, including Moveon.org and the Service Employees International Union, in which out-of-work people walked over bridges in several cities to protest high unemployment.

The street demonstrations also marked two months since the Occupy movement sprang to life in New York on Sept. 17. They were planned well before police raided a number of encampments over the past few days, but were seen by some activists as a way to demonstrate their resolve in the wake of the crackdown.

Thursday's demonstrations around Wall Street brought taxis and delivery trucks to a halt, but police were largely effective at keeping the protests confined to just a few blocks.

Officers allowed Wall Street workers through the barricades, but only after checking their IDs.

Live television shots Thursday showed waves of police and protesters shoving back metal barricades set up to separate the protest from the public in downtown Manhattan. Some of the police hit protesters as they resisted arrest.

Emmanuel Pardilla, 20, a political science and history major at Fordham University in New York, said the heavy police presence "added to the fear tactic."

Haberfeld and other policing experts said the crowd control was aggressive, but not excessive. But First Amendment experts said that every interaction with demonstrators, particularly when televised nationally, can thwart the goal of protests and discourage others from joining.

"That's really is terribly inhibiting," said New York attorney Herald Fahringer. "Because people say, `Gee, well, I don't want to go out there and join the protest if I run the risk of getting hit over the head with a billy club."

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