Portland Police Arrest 14 Anti-War Marchers
Published on Friday, September 27, 2002 in the Portland Press Herald (Maine)
Portland Police Arrest 14 Anti-War Marchers
by David Hench

Also See:
Maine Indy Media: Portland Anti-War Rally Met With Police Brutality and Arrests
Portland police arrested 14 people Thursday night during a demonstration in which more than 100 people protested against possible U.S. military action in Iraq. One of those arrested was charged with punching the police chief in the head.

Most of the arrests were passive, with police leading away people who refused to get out of downtown streets after repeated warnings and loading them onto a waiting bus from the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Portland, Maine
A demonstrator protesting possible U.S. military action in Iraq is arrested Thursday night during a confrontation with police on Middle Street.
(Jack Milton Photo)

But about two hours into the demonstration, a scuffle broke out on Middle Street after one man ran into the crowd as police, including Chief Michael Chitwood, chased him.

"I told the guy five times to get out of the street," Chitwood said afterward. When officers tried to grab the man, who police say was inciting the demonstrators, he plunged into the crowd on the sidewalk and officers followed.

Some protesters were knocked back and others tried to pull police off the man, who later was identified as Walter Beasley, 32, of 7 Fox Court in Portland.

"I went to assist the officer," Chitwood said. "Next thing, I was dragged down by this person being arrested and then I got kicked several times by someone behind me."

Officers rushed to help Chitwood, who was kicked in the ribs and grabbed by another man who punched him repeatedly in the head, leaving a large, reddish lump on the right side of his face.

Police overwhelmed and arrested the man, who they identified as Christopher McCadden, 24, of Blue Hill.

Police also charged Lisa Hopkins, 43, of Harborside in Hancock County with assault on an officer. They say she hit an officer in the arm with her cane and threatened to hit a deputy police chief.

Beasley refused to let police handcuff him and was sprayed in the face with pepper spray. McCadden left a splash of blood from a bloody nose on the brick sidewalk.

Eleven people were arrested on charges of obstructing a public way or obstructing government administration, police said.

While some of the protesters shouted at the police "Let them go," others held up their hands in peace signs.

The demonstration started peacefully at High and Congress streets around 5 p.m. Between 150 and 200 people of all ages marched through downtown Portland, led by oversized puppets and banners criticizing U.S. policy against Iraq.

"This is great," Wells Staley-Mays, a veteran of several anti-war marches with Peace Action Maine, said over the din of drums, cymbals and whistles. "This sends a clear message to (President George W. Bush) that the youth of this country will not participate in this cruel and stupid war," he said, referring to the administration's insistence that Iraq comply with U.N. resolutions or face invasion.

"This is happening because our government will trade our blood for Iraqi oil," Beasley said during the march.

Police followed the procession and tried to divert traffic from the path of the march, but they could find no organizer who would describe the intended route.

The marchers eventually stopped at the intersection of Congress and High streets, blocking traffic for more than 20 minutes.

"The only thing we asked them to do was not block traffic - either stay on the sidewalk or just take up one lane," Chitwood said.

Every available officer, roughly 30, encircled the crowd.

Asked whether she was prepared to be arrested, one protester, Amy Kustra, said, "I believe in peaceful protest. I think it's an individual's choice for that to happen."

The group moved down Congress Street toward Monument Square, with a cruiser following behind and an officer warning over its public address system that they would be arrested if they stayed in the street.

When they reached Monument Square, a line of officers stretched across Congress Street. Chitwood, wearing jogging pants and a white sweatshirt, stepped forward.

As he approached the procession, those holding aloft the puppets led the group onto the brick plaza, beneath the statue honoring the 300 Portland residents who died in the Civil War.

Over the next 20 minutes, the protesters chanted, yelled and banged drums, and three men were led away quietly after they refused to leave Congress street.

"We didn't want to do this. We don't have a problem with free speech," Capt. Joseph Loughlin said. "We appealed to them repeatedly, individually and as a group. They're bringing the city to a halt."

With police videotaping the crowd, a handful of protesters hid their faces with bandanas and hoods.

The group eventually marched down and along Middle Street, spilling out into the travel lanes until they again met a line of officers, in front of the police station.

There, more people were led away after refusing to leave the street, including one older woman who walked out of the crowd and turned so that officers could handcuff her.

Most of the crowd, people in their teens, 20s and 30s, stayed on the sidewalk.

Minutes after the melee on the sidewalk in which Chitwood was hit, the crowd dispersed, with about 20 left playing drums and talking at Post Office Park.

Copyright © 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc