Two of the protesters arrested on Thursday during an outdoor press conference at Washington D.C.'s Lafayette Square say that the show of force from police at the scene--which included a S.W.A.T. team and mounted officers, according to reports--was excessive and designed to send a message.
Tina Richards, of the group Grassroots America, and Ian Thompson, a lawyer and organizer for the anti-war group ANSWER Los Angeles, spoke to RAW STORY shortly after they were released from jail and formally charged with misdemeanors in D.C. Superior Court. A third individual, Adam Kokesh, a leader of Iraq Veterans Against the War, has also been released, Richards and Thompson said.
"They were completely there to intimidate," said Tina Richards in a telephone interview with RAW STORY. "We were there to say, 'no,' you won't."
After Richards confirmed the basics of earlier accounts of the arrests in the Washington Post and the AFP--"My attorney brought me the stories in jail," she said--the activist and mother of an Iraq war veteran reported that the police's actions were uncalled for.
"We were in complete compliance with D.C. law," said Richards of the group's activities yesterday, which included pasting an advertisement for an anti-war march taking place in Washington next week on an electrical box. She was charged today with defacing public property.
Richards also says she was injured in the scuffle that preceded the arrests.
"I'm on my way to the hospital right now," she said by telephone. "One of the S.W.A.T. team [members] harassed my daughter...and they slammed my head up against the side of a door."
Ian Thompson, who was charged with interfering with a police officer, says the tough treatment from police extended to the group's night in jail.
"We were shackled with leg irons from about six in the morning until two this afternoon," he said. "They completely overreacted--I was picking up a bucket of paste," referring to the adhesive the group was using to put up a sign.
"When [the police] are fishing for things, they really go for it," he said, adding that the three of them had initially been charged with disorderly conduct. "I mean, picking up a paste bucket?"
Thompson says the timing of the upcoming Sept. 15 rally--days after General David Petraeus is scheduled to give his progress report on Iraq to Congress--is key.
"The heat that's coming down on Congress about the Iraq war is really having an effect...actions like this are going to have a big impact."
"If they're scared of three activists," said Thompson, "just wait until there's tens of thousands.'"