09/04/2012

Cops surround protesters near Democratic convention

Officers made a barricade of mountain bikes to stop the progress of an unauthorized march

By Michael Biesecker
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police surrounded a group of protesters Tuesday who blocked an intersection five blocks from where the Democratic National Convention is being held. At least one person was put in handcuffs at the scene along a route used by delegate buses.

A group of about 200 protesters began the march around 12:30 p.m. The group was intentionally heading outside of a designated parade route and didn't have a permit to march. They had only made it a few blocks from a park where protesters are camping when hundreds of officers began arriving.

Officers made a barricade of mountain bikes to stop the march's progress, surrounded the group and attempted to corral them into an area near the park designated for protester speeches.

A protester who tried to cross the barricade was put in handcuffs by officers. The protester had identified himself to a reporter as a veteran named John Penley earlier in the march.

A group of 25-30 protesters sat in the intersection and was surrounded by officers. Police in riot gear began arriving to supplement an initial wave of officers in regular uniforms. After the standoff had been going on for some time, protesters unfurled and set up a domed tent in the middle of the street.

The intersection is along a route used by buses ferrying delegates to and from the convention hall at Time Warner Arena. Official convention events don't begin until Tuesday night, but at least some buses had been running and were forced to stop.

Oklahoma delegate David Ratcliff, 43, said he'd been waiting for a bus but found out that it wasn't running so he walked over to see what was happening. Ratcliff said that while he doesn't agree with some protesters' views that Obama is a war criminal, he was encouraged to see people expressing themselves.

The group of protesters was led by Penley and about a half-dozen other veterans, who were joined by approximately 200 others, many of whom appeared to be part of the Occupy movement. Penley, of Asheville, said he and the other former service members wanted to raise awareness of veterans issues and talk to delegates.

Some were also protesting the incarceration of a soldier accused of giving classified documents to the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Some were chanting: "Free Bradley, arrest Barack."

Copyright 2012 Associated Press

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