Lanier’s remarks came as her agency is under scrutiny. On Monday, amid pressure from protesters and their attorneys, police agreed to reexamine the decision not to charge the driver
in what appear to be two hit-and-run pedestrian incidents Friday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Police in other cities have moved to restrict camps and demonstrations affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. District police, however, have had a largely cooperative relationship with the protesters. They have blocked off streets to allow marches without a permit, monitored McPherson Square to help keep it safe and looked the other way when instigators have taunted them.
But that could be changing, as was evident during a tense standoff Monday afternoon between officers and protesters outside police headquarters.
“The Metropolitan Police Department supports an individual’s right to assemble,” Lanier said. “We do not condone, nor will we tolerate, violence or aggression.” She described the group as peaceful last week but distributed videos Monday showing some protesters blocking the doors of the convention center and pounding on windows.
“That is no longer a peaceful protest,” she said.
Lanier’s statements seemed to reinforce comments she made in mid-October, although they were not specific to the District. “The psychology of crowds is very unique,” Lanier said at an event hosted by the Institute for Education. “I think we’re at risk for some very large, very violent protests here in the United States. And they can spark off instantly.”
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who was arrested in April for blocking traffic in a voting rights demonstration, echoed Lanier’s concerns. He called on “all involved in the Occupy D.C. demonstrations to show restraint” so that the movement is not “discredited by violence.”
Leaders of Occupy D.C., who vow to continue their protest through the winter, insist they have been peaceful.
“My concern is for the safety of everyone,” said James Ploeser, 30, an Occupy D.C. organizer from Takoma Park. “We are a nonviolent, peaceful mass movement that is open, transparent. If the police chief can’t see that, she needs to watch more videos.”
And there are few signs that the National Park Service, which oversees McPherson Square, has had problems that would warrant it moving in on the group’s camp.
“We don’t have any issues with these folks in the areas of D.C. that we patrol,” said David Schlosser, a Park Police spokesman. “If there is something that needs to be addressed by us, we will address it.”