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Posted at 03:18 PM ET, 11/08/2011

Occupy DC protesters stress peaceful relationship with police


Police are now using horses to keep protesters away from the street. (Katie Rogers - The Washington Post )
Occupy DC protesters stressed peace during a Tuesday afternoon protest after a few days of strained relations with District police.

“A lot of [the police] individually appreciate why we’re here,” said Michael Thompson, who joined Occupy DC about a month ago. ”This isn’t personal.”

Still, police used promised new tactics to handle crowds during an early afternoon protest Tuesday; this time, it meant using horses to keep demonstrators on sidewalks.

The previously non-confrontational relationship between protesters and police was disrupted Friday night when a motorist struck a group of protesters and was released without citation during a protest at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Occupy DC protesters have since protested outside of police headquarters and released footage of what they say is violent behavior from police officers.

Nearby, after a press conference announcing new campaign D.C statehood, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said he still sympathizes with the goals of Occupy DC but said city officials plan to reach out to the protesters try to guarantee a peaceful coexistence between them and residents.

“We’ve got to make sure that the functions of this city go on,” Gray said. “We are going to talk with them and see what we can work out so they stay within the limits and that we preserve the limits of the people of the city.”

On Tuesday, Occupy DC lent assistance to D.C. Jobs or Else, a group protesting a perceived lack of local District hiring practices, for a march to the CityCenterDC construction site. The group has previously protested District construction projects including the 11th Street Bridge reconstruction and the U.S. Coast Guard redevelopment project at the campus of St. Elizabeths hospital.

“We wanted to bring people together who would probably have never met,” said organizer Rev. George Gilbert.

Arsenio Rodriguez, 24, visited the protest after speaking to Gray after the press conference. He wanted to tell the mayor that the group was nonviolent.

“I said Occupy DC is peaceful,” Rodriguez, who has been living at McPherson Square for four days.

Organizers said protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York will soon be making a two-week trek to McPherson Square — it’ll be called “Occupy the Highway.”

The New York protesters are set to arrive Nov. 22.

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