More than a dozen police officers converged at a corner of Lafayette Square yesterday, bringing with them a horse and extra handcuffs.
Their target: a handful of demonstrators who had gathered to post two signs on an electrical box advertising a protest march Sept. 15 against the Iraq war.
During a clash that drew a crowd during lunchtime, two demonstrators, including an Iraq war veteran and the mother of another veteran, were arrested on charges of defacing public property. Police charged a third protester with impeding an officer.
"It was a case of extreme police overreaction," said Brian Becker, a protest organizer.
The D.C. government has fined the coalition about $20,000 for posting signs, and the Park Service has asked the group to remove them.
The coalition countered by filing a lawsuit challenging the District's regulations. The suit is pending.
The group assembled for a news conference yesterday at Lafayette Square to promise to put up more posters, regardless of possible sanctions. Within minutes, the pledge was tested. An officer approached and asked whether the demonstrators had a permit for their gathering.
More officers arrived, including several dressed in black commando-style uniforms and one atop a horse that he maneuvered to push back the crowd.
Video of the press conference and arrests is here.