Ramsey sends positive message to protesters.

Posted: October 07, 2011

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has a message for those taking part in the Occupy Philadelphia protest at City Hall: The Police Department is here to help.

At roll call Thursday morning, to coincide with the official start of the protest, Ramsey had the First Amendment read in all districts, as a reminder of the department's role in protecting that right.

The exercise will be repeated until officers in all districts have heard it, Ramsey said.

In addition, police dispatchers have been regularly reading the amendment and a message about treating demonstrator respectfully over police radio.

"We want to make sure officers understand and respect that these people have the right to be here," Ramsey said Thursday.

He spent Thursday morning at the demonstration, often pausing to shake hands and talk with people. He said he planned to drop by regularly in the days and weeks to come, and hoped lines of communication would stay open between demonstrators and police.

He was there again this morning.

"If they want to march, we'll escort them," he said. "We'll just have to monitor this day by day."

In New York City, Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have clashed with police on several occasions, most notably when hundreds were arrested last weekend on the Brooklyn Bridge. Many protesters have said the police orchestrated the arrests by leading them onto the bridge roadway and corralling them there. Others have reported pepper-spraying incidents and other assaults by police.

Ramsey said the police hope protesters remain peaceful and keep in mind that other people need to be able to maneuver through the crowd on their way to work or elsewhere.

"We're going to be as tolerant as we can be," he said.

Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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