Police rebuff Bush protesters
Hatfield: 'I have a right to freedom of assembly, too'
PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- Hundreds of protesters, holding signs that criticized President Bush's policies on Iraq, the environment and the economy, clashed with police Thursday evening outside a hotel where the president was attending a fund-raiser.
Black-helmeted police in full riot gear fired pepper spray, bean-bag rounds and rubber bullets at the protesters who filled downtown streets outside the Hilton Hotel where Bush attended a fund-raiser for Republican Sen. Gordon Smith.
While Bush was inside, the protesters blasted the president on his international policies and the "Healthy Forests Initiative" he announced earlier in the day. (Full story.)
Bush's forest initiative calls for increased logging of wilderness lands to help control forest fires, a plan many conservationists and environmentalists flatly reject. (Controversy.)
Chanting "Drop Bush, Not Bombs" and carrying signs with messages that included "It's the Economy, Stupid," the crowd of mostly young people occasionally blocked streets and tied up traffic during the afternoon as they made their way from a downtown park to the hotel.
At first policed by officers on horseback and on foot, the protest turned violent with the arrival of police in riot gear.
They arrived when protesters refused to back off a barricade near the hotel. The protesters pounded on police cars and shouted, and police responded with batons, pepper spray and "non-lethal" ammunition.
Portland media reports indicated that a handful of arrests were made during the day, and one police officer reportedly had minor injuries.
The Portland Police Bureau declined to speak directly to CNN regarding the incident.
Former Republican Sen. Mark Hatfield, blocked for a short time from entering the hotel for the Smith fund-raiser, said the protesters have a right to express their viewpoint.
"At the same time, I have a right to freedom of assembly, too," he said.
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