PITTSBURGH - Police charged four people protesting the war in Iraq, two of whom
suffered minor injuries from the police response, when 60 people disrupted traffic
by marching the wrong way down a busy one-way street toward an Army recruiting
The Pittsburgh Organizing Group planned the Saturday morning demonstration.
A spokesman for that group, David Meieran, accused police of responding with
"inappropriate and excessive force."
Meieran claimed some protesters were pepper sprayed and Tasered; he
said a 68-year-old woman who was not resisting was bitten by a police dog.
Police spokeswoman Tammy Ewin initially said no pepper spray was used on protesters,
but Sgt. Clint Winkler, a supervisor on duty, told The Associated Press he tried
to use pepper spray on one woman who would not leave, but it hit her glasses.
She was then subdued with a Taser, Winkler said.
The Taser victim and the dog bite victim were being treated at UPMC Presbyterian
Hospital. Winkler confirmed that the older woman was bitten in the leg by a
police dog when she refused a police order to disperse.
The names of those charged were not immediately available because they were
being readied for arraignment in City Court Saturday afternoon, Winkler said.
Winkler said one teenage female was handcuffed but not arrested when she screamed
at and shoved officers. She was cited for disorderly conduct and released.
The recruiting station was not open for business when police responded to reports
of the non-permitted march down Forbes Avenue, where the University of Pittsburgh
main campus is located.
Winkler said campus police tried to quell the march, and at one point protesters
grabbed the camera of a freelance media photographer and broke it. City police
tried to help and said some protesters fought the effort to break up the march.
"That's when they were told, due to the violence, that this was no longer
a lawful protest," Winkler said. "They were told to disperse, peacefully
disperse, and failed to do so we started down the sidewalk - officers in front,
K-9's behind us, and started pushing the crowd down the sidewalk."
In addition to the injured women, a man was also arrested on charges of disorderly
conduct and failure to disperse.
Winkler said the protest broke up without further incident after the arrests,
but Meieran disagreed with the police version of the events.
"The response was way over the top," Meieran said. "Why in the
(expletive) were they using Tasers on these nonviolent protesters in the first
place? I heard no dispersal order. What they're saying is total (expletive)."
Meieran said the same recruiting station was targeted by marchers two weeks
ago, and the office announced beforehand that it would be closed. Meieran said
the marchers didn't know if the station would be open when they arrived; it
"Our goal for today was to shut down military recruitment for that station,
and to the extent that they may have shut down preemptively, we achieved our
goal," Meieran said.
Army officials could not immediately be reached for comment about the march
or why that recruiting station was closed.