Police, protesters clash at US capital museum

(Reuters) – Authorities shut down Washington’s popular National Air and Space Museum yesterday afternoon after antiwar protesters tried to enter the building and clashed with guards, a museum spokeswoman said.

One person was arrested during the melee at the Smithsonian museum involving between 150 and 200 protesters and six guards, museum spokeswoman Isabel Lara said.

“There was a lot of shoving going on,” Lara said, adding one of the guards was surrounded and used pepper spray before the demonstrators were moved outside. She said she was not aware of any injuries.

The shoving match broke out in a vestibule between two glass doors at the museum entrance after guards told the protesters they could not enter with signs, Lara said.

Protest organisers said the attempt to enter the museum on the National Mall was part of the Occupy D.C. antiwar demonstrations that began on Thursday on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan war.

“Along with the Occupy Wall Street movement, it represents an upswell of people taking to the street around the country to demand social and economic justice as well as an end to the immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” organisers said in an e-mail sent to Reuters.

“It is outrageous that the security guard of a major museum in America pepper sprayed Americans as they entered the museum. The drones housed in this museum and the pepper spraying of Americans at the door are clear evidence of repression in America,” Retired Colonel Ann Wright said in the e-mail.

Drones are armed tactical unmanned planes used by the US government to track and attack insurgents overseas.

The museum, which draws 8 million visitors a year and is the most visited Smithsonian Institution museum, was shut down at 3:15pm (1915 GMT). Lara said it would reopen today.

NYC protesters may expand

Anti-Wall Street protests continued in New York City yesterday and in other US cities, although crowds outside New York have been much smaller.

“We’re tired of other people controlling, or thinking they control, our lives and our livelihoods,” said Kristin Thompson, a 22-year-old preschool teacher and one of 100 protesters in Mobile, Alabama.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, about 250 protesters lined the streets outside a Bank of America branch, waving signs at passing vehicles.

Participants said they had been summoned via social network Internet sites, labor organisers, the liberal website MoveOn.org and members of the local Green Party.

“We are all in this together,” said Ramona Beene, 45, who owns a cake company.

She said her two college-age children were “spending thousands of dollars and won’t have jobs after they graduate.”

In New York, hundreds of protesters marched from lower Manhattan to Washington Square Park in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood — the site of protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s — to discuss expanding their encampment to other sites.

Lucas Vasquez, a student leading the march, said protesters were looking at expanding into Washington Square and Battery Parks, but stressed, “We’re not going to give up Liberty Plaza” — the protesters’ name for Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, where about 250 have camped out around the clock.

“It’s sometimes hard to move around there. We have a lot of people,” he said.