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Police defend force used in Chapel Hill break-in arrests

Posted November 14, 2011
Updated November 15, 2011

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— Chapel Hill police defended the force used in arrests at an illegal encampment inside an unoccupied building downtown Monday during a town council meeting, saying riot gear and assault rifles were necessary to raid the building.

"We did not know what we were walking into," said Police Chief Chris Blue.

Supporters of those arrested, however, heckled local officials over the police response to the incident.

Police said more than 70 attendees from an anarchist book fair broke into the former Yates Motor Co. building, at 419 W. Franklin St., on Saturday. Police monitored the group until the crowd reached a more manageable size, and then a tactical team moved in late Sunday and arrested seven people.

Ellen Crawford, 23, of Richmond, Va., Eva Jones, 22, of Chapel Hill, Daniel Regenscheit, 27, of Chapel Hill, Kassandra Ofray, 21, of Pittsboro, David Maliken, 24, of Carrboro, Monica Ganguly, 29, of Chapel Hill, and Jack Jarrell, 24, of Carrboro, were each charged with misdemeanor breaking and entering.

"We did not break in. The building was already open," supporter Amanda Ashley said Monday.

Blue couldn't even get a word out at a Monday afternoon news conference before supporters of the group started booing him and shouting accusations of excessive force by officers.

Photos and videos taken by people during Sunday's arrests showed police in riot gear pointing assault rifles at the protesters and pinning some to the ground.

Police defend force used in Chapel Hill break-in arrests Police defend force used in Chapel Hill break-in arrests

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt's statement that police responded "in a deliberate and measured way" brought laughter from people attending the news conference.

As the crowd at the news conference got ugly, Kleinschmidt asked for respect.

"You can leave if you're going to continue to disrupt this," he told one man.

An unidentified man in the audience shouted, "You put a gun in someone's face, that is not respect. It's our Town Hall. It's our forum."

Blue said that officers tried to confront the crowd inside the Yates Motor building on Saturday but found some wearing masks and hoods and acting in a threatening manner. 

"This was a reaction we had not encountered in any of our interactions with the 'Occupy Chapel Hill' group," he said. 

The "Occupy" group has been protesting peacefully for weeks outside the Chapel Hill Post Office. Supporters said the seven who were arrested Sunday were part of the group that has been at the post office.

"I do believe it was appropriate," Blue said of sending the tactical squad in on Sunday. "I will tell you we review every use of force – and we will review our use of force – but we believe our response (Sunday) was the appropriate measured response to a set of unknown risks."

Police said the group inside the Yates Motor building had obscured windows with large banners, and some members were posted on the roof as lookouts. Anarchists use such strategies to take over buildings and destroy property, police said.

Inside the building, police said, they found flammable material, a bag of rocks and pamphlets that discussed the number of people needed to overturn a police car.

The Yates Motor building has been vacant for several years, and Ashley and others said the protesters only wanted to "recycle" it for a useful purpose – a community center and a base for local outreach programs.

"The building has been unused, neglected and thrown away by the owner," she said. "Many, many, many people have been in that building. That building has been unattended and thrown away like a discarded soda bottle."

438 Comments

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  • golorealist Nov 18, 2:01 p.m.

    "None of your comments have anything to do with this article. You are all bored desk jockeys talking, on yet another social networking site while at work or crying because there is none. I weep for the future."
    mos def
    November 16, 2011 5:33 p.m.

    you mean the comments on here supporting the police for using force to arrest the hoodlums that broke into the building (which is exactly what the article is about)? or, are you talking about the comments where the real 99% is pretty much unanimously saying they don't support the occupy movement?

    either way, i can tell the truth disturbs you.

  • mos def Nov 16, 5:33 p.m.

    None of your comments have anything to do with this article. You are all bored desk jockeys talking, on yet another social networking site while at work or crying because there is none. I weep for the future.

  • 4Strikes Nov 15, 5:18 p.m.

    "To the OWS protesters I believe the 1% are those with morals/values who work for a living. And with 4 more years of Obamas failures it may be only 1% with a JOB!" RM24

    Don't buy into thier 99% / 1% garbage. The OWS mob probably don't even add up to .05%. They have a lot of nerve calling themselves the 99%. I am not in the 1% but I sure am not part of that band of losers.

  • 4Strikes Nov 15, 5:15 p.m.

    "what like waving guns about? calling for second amendment solutions? And its hard to see your average soc sec and medicare receiving tea Partier being in for camping when they can afford a nice RV or hotel room at the end of a good day out in DC." haggis basher

    This is America, they can "wave guns about" anywhere that it is legal to do so. Don't know what you are talking about with the medicare comment but hey, I have a job and I would stay in a nice hotel if I decide to go to a Tea Party rally somewhere. Why shouldn't I? I won't complain about them charging me to stay there either. I love living in America and nobody has ever given me anything...other than my parents, until I became an adult.

  • RM24 Nov 15, 4:54 p.m.

    To the OWS protesters I believe the 1% are those with morals/values who work for a living. And with 4 more years of Obamas failures it may be only 1% with a JOB!

  • golorealist Nov 15, 4:51 p.m.

    "I want interest groups and lobbyists to stop buying politicians. I want the corruption to end."

    word. i do to.

    the ows will never do anything to accomplish that goal the way they are going about it. they're just making a mess of things, to be honest.

  • RM24 Nov 15, 4:44 p.m.

    I want my parents to be able to actually retire and not worry about healthcare. I want to leave a better place for my theoretical children. I want interest groups and lobbyists to stop buying politicians. I want the corruption to end.
    sunneyone

    And you think hanging out breaking into buildings, leaving litter everywhere, and being a complete eye sore is going to help with that? I think its safe to say everyone in America wants those things. But working for them is the way to get them. Not breaking laws.

  • sunneyone Nov 15, 4:30 p.m.

    "All they want is what you have.
    Ashen-Shugar
    November 15, 2011 11:50 a.m."

    I do NOT what you or anyone else here has. I want to keep what I already have. I want my parents to be able to actually retire and not worry about healthcare. I want to leave a better place for my theoretical children. I want interest groups and lobbyists to stop buying politicians. I want the corruption to end.

  • Nancy Nov 15, 3:24 p.m.

    golorealist - it's so very true that anything is attainable but it is hard work. My daughter is a prime example of that philosophy. And yet, some of the people she has under her she has had to fire and file felony charges on general managers for embezzlement - why?! Good jobs and they want more than they're willing to earn honestly.

    She's constantly hiring people because of the poor work ethic of those who want something for nothing.

  • golorealist Nov 15, 3:11 p.m.

    the message coming from "them".

    look at monca in here. she's obviously one of them, and THEY think it's alright to break into buildings.

    hoodlums.

    if THEY don't really want to be seen as hoodlums, why are THEY not screaming mad with outrage at some of the stuff that the hoodlums are doing?

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