More than a dozen Occupy Atlanta protesters were arrested Saturday during a standoff with police officers on foot, motorcycles and mounted patrol.
Atlanta police said some of the 19 people arrested refused to leave Woodruff Park after the 11 p.m. closing time and others blocked city roads to normal traffic.
One person was also charged with aggravated assault and obstruction after a confrontation with a police officer, Atlanta police spokesman Mr. Carlos Campos said.
Nearly 150 Occupy Atlanta protestors went to Woodruff Park, many with the intention of going to jail by refusing to leave the park when it closed at 11 p.m. But shortly after 11 p.m., the group began emptying out of the park, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The mixed group of working people and the homeless, students and mothers, began protesting on Oct. 7. Their grievances included foreclosures and bank bailouts, greed, wars and government policies that favor the rich, the paper reported.
Theywere given several warnings over a loudspeaker in English and Spanish that anyone remaining in the Park after the 11 p.m. closing time would be in violation of city ordinances, Mr. Campos said.
“Warnings were given to people in Woodruff Park after 11 p.m.,” Mr. Campos said. “They were also given to people blocking city roads, making it unsafe to open the roads for vehicular travel.”
Before midnight, waves of police were moving south down Peachtree Street, forcing the marchers back. The first rank of uniformed officers carried plastic handcuffs. Behind them followed officers in riot gear such as face plates, body armor and long nightsticks, the AJC reported.
The Occupy Atlanta movement said they planned to exercise the right of peaceable assembly.
“Two Occupy Atlanta participants volunteered to stay in Troy Davis/Woodruff Park in order to symbolically demonstrate that right, while the rest of the Occupy participants cleared out of the park and began a march around it,” according to statement released overnight.
“A large Atlanta police force including motorcycles, mounted police, officers on foot, a SWAT team in riot gear and a helicopter moved in aggressively and faced off with the marchers,” the release said. “Peace was maintained until a policeman on a motorcycle accelerated into a demonstrator. Several people were arrested including three journalists.”
The movement turned into a brief melee when the motorcycle policeman nearly ran over a protester who was marching with others around the park, according to the AJC.
The confrontation quickly turned into a shouting match with a line of officers facing off against a chanting crowd.
Mr. Campos said the protester assaulted the motorcycle officer and was charged with aggravated assault and obstruction.
“Mayor Reed was clear earlier this week in his public statements that the City of Atlanta would arrest any persons who violated the law,” Police Chief George Turner said in a prepared statement. “Tonight, our officers professionally and efficiently made arrests as authorized by State laws and city ordinances.”