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Protesters Charged After Mag Mile March, Claim Police Were Out Of Control

Jail Solidarity

Occupy Chicago demonstrators hold a jail solidarity action outside the Central District police station, after a dozen protesters were arrested during a rowdy Magnificent Mile demonstration. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 06/07/12 – 4:18 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A dozen protesters have been charged after a rowdy demonstration that spilled onto the Magnificent Mile, but the protesters claim police were the ones who were out of control.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, one man, Gary Wagaman, 30, of Michigan, stands charged with felony aggravated battery to a peace officer. Police said they saw him throwing a frying pan, striking an officer in the back of his head with it. Earlier, Wagaman had been using the frying pan to make noise during the protest.

At a court hearing on Thursday morning, bond for Wagaman was set at $50,000. Prosecutors said the handle broke off the pan when Wagaman struck the officer, who suffered head bruising.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

The officer was wearing a bicycle helmet at the time.

Gary Wagaman

Gary Wagaman, 30, is charged with aggravated battery to a peace officer for allegedly throwing an object and hitting a police officer in the head. (Credit: Chicago Police)

Although protesters accused police of using excessive force while making the arrests, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy emphasized that several of the protesters scuffled with police, and resisted arrest.

“What I want to really get publicized is the fact that I had five cops injured yesterday, as a result of these actions,” McCarthy said. “We’re simply not going to tolerate that.”

Police said several protesters darted in and out of traffic during their march, defying police orders to get back on the sidewalks.

“I’m gonna go back to what we’ve been talking about for months; which is the fact that we will facilitate people’s rights to protest, but at the same time we’re not going to tolerate criminal behavior,” McCarthy said.

In response to Wagaman’s arrest, the National Lawyers Guild – which is representing him – said in a statement they condemn the arrest of 12 people last night.

“Chicago police indiscriminately used batons last night, injuring several protesters and breaking one person’s finger,” the group said. “Once again, the Chicago police are relying on brute force to quell political protests.”

In court, it was revealed Wagaman graduated from Eastern Michigan University with degrees in political science and journalism.

He moved to Chicago to find work, and has been working at pizzeria downtown.

The other 11 protesters who were arrested have been charged with misdemeanors.

Kieran Aarons, 30, of Logan Square, is charged with battery, reckless conduct, and resisting a peace officer. Emilio Baez, 18, of suburban Carpentersville; Mathew McLoughlin, 26, of the Ravenswood neighborhood; Timothy Bogner, 25, of downstate Champaign; Crystal Vance, 24 of South Chicago; and Katya Marie Angur, 18, of New York, are also all charged with resisting a peace officer.

Stephen Salsman, 38, of Lakeview; Morgan Haner, 22, of Rogers Park; Marc C. Moran, 29, of Lincoln Park-Old Town; Samuel C. Blantz, 23, of Alaska; and Chainey Macak, 22, of Missouri are charged with reckless conduct. All the protesters except McLoughlin are also charged with reckless conduct.

CBS 2 talked with many of those arrested after they were released Thursday morning.

The scuffle began when a handful of protesters briefly took over Michigan Avenue without a permit and blocked traffic. They were protesting high tuition rates and demanding education reform.

Other protesters from Occupy Chicago and Occupy Quebec camped out all night in front of the Central District police station, 1718 S. State St., in a “jail solidarity” action.

One by one as the protesters walked out of jail, they were immediately embraced by their supporters.

“I was filming the other guys getting beat up, and I was arrested for that,” Salsman said.

The group began at the intersection of State and Harrison streets, then made their way north to the Canadian Consulate, located at the Prudential Building, then up Michigan Avenue to Ontario Street.

At Michigan and Ontario Street, several protesters tried to move into the street, but police yelled as they pushed them back onto the sidewalk and arrested some of them.

As more police officers arrived, they continued to push protesters out of the street, back onto the sidewalk. Protesters continued to bang on pots and pans throughout the ordeal.

The protesters said they were peaceful, and claimed police came after them – sometimes violently – even when they were not blocking the road.

“Yes, I was on the road. I was making my way to the sidewalk,” Angur said.

“The first person grabbed was on the sidewalk, so if they wanted Michigan Avenue, there was no reason to go snatching people off the sidewalks,” added Aarons.

Aarons thinks officers came looking for a fight.

“I got beaten quite hard by several batons, I got kicked all over, and I was thrown to the ground. Several of my friends had their faces smashed into the sidewalks,” Aarons said.

Aarons said he was left with welts on his leg from force used by officers, but he declined to display them.

Some demonstrators also took issue with a T-shirt they saw a police officer was wearing that read, “NATO Summit: We woke up early and beat the crowds.”

Police say five officers were injured during the confrontation, and News Affairs Director Melissa Stratton said “assaults against our officers will not be tolerated in any situation.”

But an Occupy Chicago member who identified himself as Christopher said it was the officers who took the situation out of hand.

“We were perfectly peaceful. We did everything within the confines of the law that we possibly could, and they attacked us. They jumped us for no reason,” he said.

But Angur was quick to say she would do it all again.

Police claim protesters refused to get off Michigan Avenue when they were repeatedly ordered to do so.

But Occupy Chicago spokeswoman Rachael Perrotta argued that protesters do not need a permit.

“The First Amendment is our right to protest, and there is no traffic violation or slowdown that could in any way warrant the brutality we saw tonight,” she said. “In addition, we apologize to anybody who was stuck in traffic, but that’s nothing compared to the student loan debt that today’s students will be facing throughout the rest of their lives. This is a crisis on par with the mortgage bubble.”

Police also say in spite of the claims that officers were overly aggressive, none of the protesters had to go to the hospital.