POLITICS

Protesters occupy vacant former homeless center in downtown D.C.

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WASHINGTON (ABC7/AP) - District of Columbia police on Saturday arrested 13 protesters after entering a city-owned building in downtown Washington that was being occupied by a group inspired by Occupy D.C.

As police were making arrests, supporters of the Free Franklin protesters block streets outside the old Franklin School building at 13th and K, NW, Saturday evening. Photo: Richard Reeve/ABC7

Supporters of the protesters cheered as officers led demonstrators outside in handcuffs and into two police vans.

The group Free Franklin began occupying the four-story Franklin School on Saturday, protesting the lack of housing for homeless people. The historic building served as a homeless shelter until 2008.

Participants with handkerchiefs over their faces lowered a banner from the roof that said "Public Property under Community Control." More than 60 supporters gathered in a park near the historic building and cheered the protesters.

The building is two blocks from Occupy D.C.'s encampment.
Spokeswoman Abigail DeRoberts said earlier Saturday that protesters plan to remain in the building indefinitely.

Police watched as protesters hung the banner and later called firefighters and more officers to the scene.

Protesters said police and firefighters then entered the building with crow bars and other instruments. Supporters blocked alleys around the building and chanted, "We are the 99 percent." By early evening, the banner had come down.

Demonstrators blocked alleys next to the building even after police officers went inside.

A spokesperson for Mayor Vincent Gray told ABC7 in Washington that the protesters in the building at 13th and K Street, NW "will be removed and arrested."

A police spokesman was unavailable Saturday evening to confirm what charges were being brought.

Following the arrests, more than 50 protesters remained in the middle of 13th Street, NW, which was blocked off by police cars.

Some chanted, "Our children's future is not for sale." More officers were arriving at the scene as the crowd continued to linger.

All 13 remained in custody Sunday because they refused to identify themselves, said Chief Louis Cannon.

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