A tense standoff between protesters and authorities near the steps of the Colorado Capitol erupted into a clash Saturday that resulted in a surge of demonstrators being met with police force that included reports of pepper spray and rubber bullets.
The situation downtown escalated when some supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement marching in a group of about 2,000 tried to advance up the Capitol steps.
About eight officers scuffled with a group of protesters, according to the Denver Post, and police confirmed to the newspaper that they used pepper spray and either rubber bullets or pepper balls to break up the crowd.
Denver police spokesman Matt Murray said protesters knocked an officer off his motorcycle and other officers were kicked by demonstrators.
Murray said seven protesters were arrested, including two for assault and one for disobedience. He said some demonstrators had received medical treatment on the scene, but no one had been taken to a hospital.
In Nashville, Tenn., Occupy Wall Street protesters and state officials squared off for a third consecutive night Saturday, even though a local judge has consistently refused to jail the demonstrators and said the state lacks the authority to set a curfew on the property.
The protesters, some of whom have been arrested two straight nights, were galvanized by the friction between state officials and the local magistrate. Several new demonstrators showed up at the state-owned plaza near the Capitol for the first time Saturday.
"My heart has been here all along, but the arrests gave me the momentum to come," said Vicki Metzgar, 61, director of a Nashville Public Schools science and math initiative. "This [plaza] belongs to us, not the politicians."
Nashville magistrate Tom Nelson has said there's no legal reason to keep the demonstrators behind bars and he has released them after each arrest. He has refused each night to sign off on arrest warrants for more than two dozen people taken into custody.
Some experts agreed with the judge.
The arrests appeared to be a violation of First Amendment rights that allow for people to peacefully assemble, said lawyer David Raybin, a former prosecutor. He and others said the nature of the arrests, coupled with the judge's refusal to sign off on the warrants, could become ammunition for lawsuits.