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Anti-war protestors fault city police
Group calls for investigation of use of stun guns, pepper spray
Monday, August 22, 2005

City police used excessive force when they used stun guns and pepper spray to break up an anti-war demonstration in Oakland on Saturday, members of the protesting group charged yesterday.

"Right now we're demanding an investigation," said David Meieran, a member of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, which protested outside an Army recruiting station Saturday morning. About 30 to 50 people marched from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to the recruiting post near Forbes Avenue and Atwood Street.

Police moved in on protesters after one of the marchers grabbed a TV camera, police said. Two protesters were hospitalized and five people, including one juvenile, were arrested or detained.

The juvenile was cited for disorderly conduct and released.

Meieran said three of the four others who were jailed were released yesterday, but he did not know their identities.

A police spokeswoman yesterday could not confirm that information.

Police used a Taser, or stun gun, on two people and pepper spray on others, including a 4-year-old girl, and "toppled a man with multiple sclerosis in his motorized wheelchair," according to the group's statement.

Others were clubbed with retracting metal batons, and a 68-year-old grandmother was bitten in the thigh by a police dog, the statement said.

The group hopes to show a video of the police actions, perhaps as early as today.

"This is an atrocious example of police misconduct," Meieran said.

The group claimed it was the first time that Tasers were used on protesters in the city, although city police have used them to subdue suspected criminals. The group said that the use of Tasers was a "clear violation of police official guidelines for the use of these controversial weapons."

The police spokeswoman said the kinds of situations at which Tasers have been used previously in the city could not be determined yesterday.

In a statement, city Police Chief Robert McNeilly Jr. said that the arrests were in response to the "actions of several participants who chose to turn the allegedly non-event into something that warranted police intervention in order to ensure public safety."

"When Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officers attempted to arrest a participant for assaulting a television news cameraman and damaging his property, other protestors, many clad in black bandannas to conceal their identity, tried to prevent that arrest and were subsequently arrested."

McNeilly noted that the group did not have a permit to block the streets and ignored warnings by police to stay on the sidewalk and to keep moving.

Meieran said his group is hoping to meet with Mayor Tom Murphy to discuss its concerns.

First published on August 22, 2005 at 12:00 am
Pohla Smith can be reached at 412-263-1228 or psmith@post-gazette.com.
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