The incident occurred during Butler’s tenure as city council liaison for the Alexandria, Virginia, police department, where he served as a lieutenant from 1997 to 2001.
“A group of protestors stormed the meeting of a governing body to protest and issue,” Butler said. “They carried signs and chanted slogans. This disrupted the meeting and the council members recessed to a safe place elsewhere in the building. We notified other officers to respond and had them standby. A commander contacted the protestors who wished to remain peaceful and not be arrested. The ‘sit-in’ lasted about two hours, during which time print and electronic media were allowed in to monitor and report the protest. When the protestors were finished, they left about two hours later. There were no arrests, no injuries, and no recurrence from that group. The council called the meeting back into session and finished their agenda without further interference.”
The hands-off response to the protest, which allowed the protestors to voice their Constitutionally protected speech while maintaining order, was similar to how Ottawa police dealt with three local demonstrations, Butler said. Specifically noting isolated protests by a religious organization and a group aligned with the nationwide “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations, he said police followed protocol and kept a watchful eye.
“The ‘Occupy’ protestors stood at the corner of Second and South Main streets intermittently for several weeks holding up message signs,” Butler said. “I received several inquiries about what I was going to do about it. My response was that they were non-violent and were exercising their right to free speech. The group did write some messages on a concrete planter using chalk, but this was washable and removed sporadically when they weren’t there.”
• The Ottawa Police Department manages a Special Tactics and Rescue Team (STAR), a joint venture between the police force and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, which is the sole user of surplus military weapons and equipment acquired by local law enforcement. The name of the team was incorrect in The Herald’s Weekender edition.