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Updated 05/20/12 – 12:24 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Sunday that a group of out-of-town protesters attacked a police van while hundreds of protesters were wandering around downtown Chicago for about 10 hours.
Around 9:30 p.m., while protesters were marching along Jackson Boulevard in the Loop, a police van was trying to push its way through the crowd. Several protesters standing in front of the van tried to push it back, but the van continued going and drove several feet as a number of protesters clung to the front of the vehicle.
McCarthy said Sunday the incident started when several protesters from New York attacked the van, which had only one officer in the cab. McCarthy said that officer suffered a concussion after he was punched through the window. The tires on the van were also slashed, and McCarthy said the officer drove the truck through the crowd to get to safety.
The superintendent also defended the department’s tactics in handling protests, which he said have largely been peaceful. Saturday’s protest march ended after protesters wandered around downtown for about 10 hours, often scuffling with police who were blocking their paths to certain streets.
“What you’re seeing is exactly what we’ve been telling you you were going to see for months now. You’re seeing us facilitating peaceful protests, protecting people, providing for the public safety, while at the same time being intolerant of crimes being committed,” McCarthy said. “We also told you that there’s people coming here from outside, who are looking to cause problems.”
Friends identified one of the men involved in the van incident as 24-year-old Jack Amico. They said he was pushed by the police van during the protest.
Amico’s girlfriend said, “When I turned to my left, Jack was laying on the ground, and had just been hit, so the medics rushed over and formed a circle around him.”
Amico was taken to a local hospital and was expected to be okay.
Without mentioning any of the protesters by name, McCarthy said a protester who claimed to have been injured in the incident was released from a hospital without an apparent injury.
In all, police said 19 people have been arrested over the past week, not including four people arrested in two separate plots involving plans to use Molotov cocktails during the NATO summit.
McCarthy said two of the people who have been arrested were two men seen parking a vehicle that had several weapons inside on Saturday.
“The weapons were knives,” McCarthy said. “As a result, they were arrested for possession of a weapon.”
Another of those arrested was identified by Cook County prosecutors as Taylor Hall, who was arrested Saturday for aggravated battery to a police officer. He allegedly shoved an officer with a bicycle.
Protesters said police have been attempting a campaign of fear and intimidation against demonstrators, but protesters have also been seen taunting police during Saturday’s march.
McCarthy was walking with police throughout Saturday’s protest march. He said police are ready for the big march planned for noon on Sunday from Grant Park to McCormick Place.