Police Not Fazed by Protest After Protest

Posted September 20, 2005 at 6:46pm

After a hectic Monday afternoon in which the Capitol Police arrested more than 100 protesters who refused to leave Congressional office buildings, officers were back on alert Tuesday morning monitoring a large gathering of environmental activists demonstrating on the Capitol’s West Lawn.

And the demonstrations come during a week in which Capitol Police officers also are gearing up to assist at two major protests elsewhere in the city.

It’s business as usual for Capitol Hill’s law enforcement agency.

“There’s a lot going on, but I would say at this point we’re making the necessary adjustments and covering these events to the best of our ability,” Capitol Police spokesman Michael Lauer said Tuesday afternoon.

Though Lauer said that no leave requests have been canceled to deal with the several large events on and around Capitol Hill, he noted that “if additional officers are needed we’ll make the adjustments necessary to make sure those resources are in place. … Canceling leave has been used in the past but that’s an extreme measure. That’s a decision that Chief [Terrance] Gainer would have to make.”

And while a week full of large-scale demonstrations might see like an intimidating prospect for any police agency, Lauer said dealing with protests really just comes with the territory when your job is to guard the Congressional complex.

It’s “a daily part of our responsibilities on the Hill,” he said.

Not all demonstrations require the same kind of response from Capitol Police, he added. Most demonstrations simply require police to monitor participants and ensure that crowds don’t block roadways or other traffic.

“Not all of them are looking to come up here for negative purposes,” Lauer said. And the department has a number of officers dedicated to gathering information and coordinating with groups who plan to hold events on Capitol Hill “so we can be as best prepared as possible” before the event happens.

But some demonstrations, such as Monday’s American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today rally, require “a more reactive response.”

A total of 104 ADAPT protesters were arrested Monday and charged with unlawful assembly under the D.C. code when verbal warnings by officers went unanswered. In a Capitol Police press release issued Monday night, the department noted that officers “were aware of the special needs that many members of ADAPT had, and all of their needs were appropriately attended” during the removal process.

“Yesterday was an example of how the demonstrations really task our resources,” Lauer said. But “we were well informed and knew ahead of time what this group was planning to do.”

After each protester had been physically removed from the various Congressional buildings they were each charged and released.

“We have a holding cell at headquarters for a limited number of people,” Lauer said, explaining that if the agency must hold people long term they are transported to a Metropolitan Police Department detention center.

During citywide protest events — such as this weekend’s anticipated International Monetary Fund-World Bank protest and anti-war protest, which is expected to be the largest of its kind since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq more than two years ago — Lauer said the Capitol Police Department’s role is to protect its home turf while at the same time working with various other local police agencies to coordinate overall planning and response.

“Although the events this weekend are taking place in other areas of the city, we are constantly monitoring them and are prepared to address them if they enter our area of responsibility.”