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Police, protesters clash in Denver at DNC

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Q&A about the DNC with Denver PD chief

By Judith Kohler and Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press

DENVER — Denver authorities were busy early Tuesday processing about 100 people who were arrested when police officers and protesters clashed about a mile from the site of the Democratic National Convention.

The confrontation erupted Monday night as police in riot gear tried to disperse a crowd of about 300 people that was disrupting traffic near the Denver City and County Building.

Police said they were forced to use pepper spray when members of the crowd, some carrying rocks, rushed a police safety line. But one protester said officers charged the protesters with no warning.

Those arrested faced charges for violating city ordinances including failure to obey a lawful order, obstructing a public roadway and interference.

"The bonds have ben set low enough so that we believe that most people will bond out in a relatively short time," said John Harrison of the Joint Information Center, a command set up by city, state and federal authorities to field media inquiries during the convention.

Harrison said two officers deployed pepper spray during the incident, while another officer shot pepper balls, similar to a paint ball containing pepper spray.

As events escalated, officers led at least two people away as the crowd chanted "Let them go!" Some of the protesters threw bags containing a colored liquid at police.

Kaycee Ryann and Eric Finch said they were in the crowd marching through Civic Center Park when police tried to split the crowd into smaller groups.

"There was no warning. We weren't coming at them. They were coming at us," Finch said.

AP Television News video showed one group of protesters counting down from 10 and then charging at police. They quickly retreated as police shoved them back. Some of the officers gripped their batons, one hand at either end, as they pushed the protesters back.

Finch said he was struck by rubber pellets and a baton.

Polly White of the Joint Information Center there were no reports of police firing rubber pellets.

Ryann and Finch described themselves as anti-capitalists who were protesting ecological devastation. They said others in the crowd were protesting other issues.

It was believed to be the first time a police-protester confrontation turned physical and the first time officers used any kind of chemical spray since demonstrations began on Sunday, a day before the convention.

Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam veteran and anti-war activist who led a peaceful march the day before, hurried to the scene in his wheelchair from his downtown hotel after he heard about the confrontation.

"We must remain nonviolent. We must have the high moral ground," he told the crowd.

"There's a powerful police presence here. The chill of 1968 is in the air of Denver," said Kovic, whose story was chronicled in the book and movie "Born on the Fourth of July."

At least eight other people were arrested across the city on Monday, including five detained about a mile southeast of the state Capitol. Four faced charges of disobeying a lawful order, two faced a trespassing charge and two faced false information charges.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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