Iowa police arrest 30 at protests, pepper spray used

DES MOINES, Iowa Mon Oct 10, 2011 2:45pm EDT

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DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Iowa police arrested 30 adults and took two juveniles into custody during a protest against economic inequality late on Sunday, subduing one man with pepper spray.

Police said the protesters were warned several times Sunday that the state Capitol grounds closed at 11 p.m. local time. Those who did not disperse were arrested shortly after the closing, state public safety department spokeswoman Jessica Lown said on Monday.

The Iowa protest was part of the anti-Wall Street "Occupy" demonstrations across the country over the last month.

The protesters object to what they see as an unacceptable income gap between rich and poor. They also have complained about the Wall Street bailout in 2008, which they say left banks to enjoy huge profits while average Americans suffered under high unemployment and job insecurity.

On Monday, Iowa's Republican Governor Terry Branstad told reporters the Capitol grounds were not meant to be a place for an overnight camp and no permits were available for such a use.

"The Highway Patrol ... I think they acted in an appropriate and restrained manner in protecting the public safety and enforcing the requirements of having a permit," Branstad said.

Several hundred people gathered at noon Sunday and voted to set up an around-the-clock "occupation" on statehouse grounds in a grassy area near the Capitol building where rallies are typically held.

The group had not requested or received a permit for the demonstration, state administrative services department spokesman Caleb Hunter said on Monday.

About 150 people were there on Sunday night when a state trooper told them their tents would be removed and they would be arrested and charged with trespassing if they did not leave after the grounds closed.

Protesters chanted "We're not leaving tonight" and "This is our park." Shortly before the park closing time, state troopers and Des Moines police began removing protesters after the deadline passed.

All of those arrested or taken into custody were cited for trespassing, which is a misdemeanor offense, Lown said.

Former State Representative Ed Fallon of Des Moines, a 2006 Democratic candidate for governor, was among the first of the protesters to be arrested. Fallon was released from Polk County Jail early Monday, records show.

"I'm out of jail and excited to be back at work, helping move the revolution forward," Fallon said later in a posting on his Facebook page urging people to go to the park later on Monday.

"Spread the word," he continued. "We need to let the powers-that-be know we are very serious about justice, peace, freedom, and true democracy."

Another group of protectors has been occupying a park in Iowa City, but there were no arrests there on Sunday. Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa.

The Des Moines crowd was a mix of young and old.

"This is not a bunch of bums camping out," Scott Kubie, 27, of Des Moines, said before the arrests began. "This is people here to discuss something and I think we certainly have a right to do that."

(Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Greg McCune)

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