Police defend force in Occupy confrontation

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by Teresa Blackman

NWCN.com

Posted on November 5, 2012 at 1:19 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 6 at 7:22 AM

PORTLAND -- Portland Police described last weekend’s confrontation with Occupy protesters as “a violent struggle” and released video Monday showing tense moments when some officers got knocked over.

The event began as an unpermitted march through downtown Portland and then escalated into a confrontation with police.

Background: Occupy protest turns violent

Police said several of the protesters were using ramming devices and shields that knocked some officers off their bicycles.

“The demonstrators were seen putting on masks and/or goggles and multiple rows of people began using the shields to ram at the line of bicycle officers,” said Lt. Robert King with the Portland Police Bureau. “It was during this ramming, that pepper spray was deployed by officers, targeted directly at the people in the front of the line that were ramming the police officers.”

King added that officers were able to pull the ramming devices away from the demonstrators and drag them away.

Photos: Occupy Portland clashes with police

Occupy Portland members complained over the weekend that they felt the officers' use of pepper spray was "excessive."

"They literally covered people in pepper spray. I mean just drenched them in pepper spray and did not let up, and you are talking about 16-year-old kids and elderly people that are just getting drowned," said protester Tommy Murray.

"It's not a spray-the-crowd maneuver, it is not to deploy it at will, it is to target it at those who are actively engaged in physical resistance," countered Sgt. Simpson, with the Portland Police Bureau.

On Monday, leaders of the protest movement took a turn and held a press conference praising city officials. They said they wanted to recognize city officials for moving taxpayer money from big corporations to locally-owned banks.

The one person arrested in Saturday's protest was identified Monday as 44-year-old Johnny Christopher Wells.

“Wells ran behind the line and grabbed a police bicycle and started to run away northbound. Officers caught up to him within a few feet and the man swung the bike at officers. The officers were able to grab the man and the bike and take him into custody,” King said.

Wells was charged with robbery, attempted assault on a public safety officer, attempted theft, disorderly conduct, interfering with an officer, resisting arrest, and theft.

King said that, as in all incidents involving police use of force, the incident will be thoroughly reviewed and investigated to ensure that Portland Police Bureau policies and procedures were followed.

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