Strange Scene: 10 Arrested As Tea Partiers Heckle Police

November 5, 2009 11:04 a.m.

U.S. Capitol Police arrested 10 people this afternoon after the Capitol Hill Tea Party crowd stormed Congressional office buildings.

Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, public information office for the Capitol Police, told TPMDC the arrests happened in the Cannon House building as tea partiers attempted to protest Speaker Nancy Pelosi about health care.

They were charged with unlawful entry (entering a Congressional office and refusing to leave when told to do so) and/or disorderly conduct (yelling in the hallway outside an office) at Room 235 in the Cannon House Office Building.

Room 235 is Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office for district business, not where she conducts her duties as Speaker. That’s handled at an office in the Capitol building.

TPMDC happened upon a crowd that formed around two police vans as the protesters were prepared for “transporting,” according to one officer there.

Without those official details, protesters in the crowd watching the arrests were furious. They shouted “Let them go!” and one man yelled at the police that “Martin Luther King” was being dishonored and shouted “Letter from Birmingham Jail!”

One woman told officers they were “shameful.” Others called the arrested protesters “political prisoners.”

“This is America, this is not the Soviet Union,” one woman said.Like a bad game of telephone, the crowd spread rumors without anyone having witnessed exactly what happened.

Several people said the group had been arrested for praying. Others said the group was arrested for ripping up pages from the nearly 2,000-page health care bill.

To show support for them, members of the crowd started ripping up their pages from the bill, which rally organizers had handed out for the purpose of reading them to members of Congress.

“Here’s a piece of paper, I’m tearing it,” one woman shouted as another joined in: “I tore a piece too!”

That woman later told the officers, “I know you guys are just doing your job but don’t you hate your job?”

“I’m embarrassed,” another woman told her friends.

“Read your history books,” another woman shouted at the officers.

“Thugs from Chicago,” a man shouted at police.

“Arrest Nancy Pelosi for treason. You’re arresting the wrong people,” another shouted. “Arrest some real terrorists!”

One of the men arrested (photo below) appeared to be wearing a priest’s collar. He was ill, and officers were holding him up as he sat on the curb. After several minutes, he was led away in an ambulance and the crowd shouted that he was a “hero.”

“Shame on you!” the crowd erupted. “These guys are patriots!”

“In your heart you know this is wrong,” a man yelled at police.

We’re uploading video of the strange scene, but it may take awhile, so check back.

Late update: Here is the first video we’ve uploaded, of the “God Bless America” moment.

Later update: Here you can watch another video as the man, priest collar visible, is led away to an ambulance.

That’s when the heckling really kicks up.

Friday update: Evan is running down the story of these arrests, Randall Terry’s group was involved. Also, the man who was on the curb appears to be Norman Weslin, and we dug up some video showing him using similar tactics as he was arrested at a Notre Dame protest when President Obama spoke during graduation.

Additional reporting by Eric Kleefeld.

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