Weekend will Test Handling of Protests
by Petula Dvorak, Washington Post
The varnished wood police baton D.C. Executive
Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer will carry
for today's multi-themed demonstrations in downtown
Washington is the one he used in the 1968 antiwar
protest in Chicago that turned into an infamous
confrontation between police and protesters.
Gainer and his boss, Chief Charles H. Ramsey, have
come a long way since they were rookie cops that
summer in Chicago. These days, they are in demand as
consultants in handling special events and large
crowds of demonstrators, like those who have assembled
in the nation's capital this weekend.
Their successful track record with major
demonstrations, including the April 2000 large-scale
protests against the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund, has brought them or their aides
invitations to share their crowd-control tactics with
numerous other police forces across the country and
around the world.
Ramsey's and Gainer's reputations will be tested
"If you're a pitcher in major league baseball,
you're only as good as your last outing," Ramsey said.
"So we may have had a successful outcome at the last
protest, but if this one goes south on us, we'll all
be sitting here trying to figure out what went
The two officials are building on a policing
specialty cultivated in the District for more than a
century. This weekend, D.C. police plan to stick to a
playbook passed from chief to chief, with a few
"We have always shown, when it comes to special
operations and tactics, that our police department is
one of the best," said Mayor Anthony A. Williams
April 2000 was a test for the District. When huge
protests were held without the same downtown
destruction that occurred during similar
demonstrations in Seattle, the D.C. police force was
"I've had people from [the special operations
division] also go to Quebec City, Genoa, Sydney, New
York, Seattle, Salt Lake City," Ramsey said. "We share
police tactics, but more importantly, we learn tactics
used by demonstrators that may be used against
Robert Klotz, a former commander of the special
operations division who worked many D.C.
demonstrations from the 1950s to 1980, said Washington
has been successful handling the large protests
because the city has so many of them.
"It enables the men and women of the police
department to be less uptight about it," he said.
Also, they are trained to work in groups.
"Police officers generally operate alone or in
pairs. They have a lot of discretion, a lot of
autonomy," Klotz said. "When they're in a
demonstration, they've got to be trained to work as a
group, which is foreign to the way they work
But protesters contend that the crowd-control
measures D.C. police are teaching are illegal.
"Look at the illegal raid on the meeting center and
offices of the protest organizers in April 2000," said
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney for many of the
protest groups. "That was exported to Philadelphia,
where police raided and seized the large, beautiful
puppets and expressive materials in advance of the
Republican National Convention. That was also exported
to Los Angeles and the Democratic National
This seizing of protesters' materials before the
demonstration, she said, is the same questionable
police tactic used against union organizers in the
1930s. A lawsuit against the D.C. raid in 2000 is
"This conduct is now replicated from place to
place," Verheyden-Hilliard said.
It's not the first time D.C. police tactics have
been challenged in court. The mass arrest of about
8,000 people during May Day protests in 1971 were
"All we want to do is make sure that we're not the
story the next day," Ramsey said. "Then, we've been