Police in riot gear fired pepper balls Thursday night to disperse a crowd of protesters in this historic gold-mining town where President Bush was spending the night after a campaign appearance.
Witnesses said Bush supporters were on one side of California Street chanting "Four more years" and supporters of the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry, were on the other chanting "Three more weeks." Police began moving the crowd away from the Jacksonville Inn, where the president was to arrive for dinner and to spend the night after a speech.
"We were here to protest Bush and show our support for Kerry," said Cerridewen Bunten, 24, a college student and retail clerk. "Nobody was being violent. We were out of the streets so cars could go by. We were being loud, but I never knew that was against the law."
Bunten said she was pushed by police as she held her 6-year-old daughter.
Jeff Treadwell, 37, an auto mechanic from Medford, Ore., who joined the protesters, estimated about 500 people were assembled, counting both Bush and Kerry supporters.
Jacksonville City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen said the protest was peaceful until a few people started pushing police. Police reacted by firing pepper balls, which he described as projectiles like paint balls filled with cayenne pepper. Two people were arrested for failing to disperse.