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Three people struck by car at Occupy DC protest; driver won't be charged

Sunday, November 6, 2011

District of Columbia police and Occupy DC protesters are offering conflicting accounts about a weekend incident in which a motorist struck three protesters near a downtown demonstration.

Police said Saturday that a driver will not be charged for striking the three people Friday evening.

Assistant police chief Lamar Greene said at a Saturday evening news conference that police concluded from talking to two witnesses that the collision was unavoidable. But the three people involved in the crash gave a different story.

Hundreds of protesters affiliated with Occupy DC shut down streets Friday night near the city's convention center in downtown, where a conservative group was gathering. The two adults and one teenager who were struck were taken to the hospital after the collision and later released.

Lt. Christopher Micciche of the D.C. police said the driver was not cited because he had a green light when his vehicle struck the three around 10 p.m.

"The protesters were apparently trying to block the roadway," Micciche said. "It was essentially an accident where three individuals were injured but they were in violation by being in the roadway."

Micciche said witnesses told police that the three pedestrians "either ran toward or jumped in front of the moving vehicle." He said one pedestrian jumped on the hood of the car.

But the demonstrators said that wasn't true.

Heidi Sippel of Vandalia, Ohio, said that she, her 13-year-old son and her wife Brandy Sippel were taking part in the demonstration when a silver Lexus sped toward them. The driver slowed down, threw up his hands in apparent frustration and then drove forward, hitting them, she said. Brandy Sippel, who is six months pregnant, was grazed by the car's rearview mirror. Heidi Sippel said she and her son were both hit by the front of the car.

"He just threw his hands up and hit the gas," Heidi Sippel said of the driver.

She said none of them had thrown themselves in front of the car.

"We weren't trying to get in front of the cars. We would have very happily, given the opportunity, stepped out of the way and let him pass by," she said.

Sippel said all three members of her family were cited by police for obstructing traffic and walking against a do-not-walk sign, both of which carry fines. A police report confirms the citations.

A man identified in a police report as the vehicle driver, Shawn Valentine of Clinton, Md., said he was at work when reached by telephone Saturday night and could not speak about the incident.

According to a police report, he told officers he observed a clearing between the protesters and tried to pass between them when the demonstrators jumped "onto and in front of his vehicle."

Other individuals affiliated with the Occupy DC group said the same driver struck another demonstrator nearby before hitting the Sippel family. Greene, the assistant chief, said he did not know about another incident.


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