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Police arrest protesters at Iowa Capitol after confrontation

Pepper spray used to disperse crowd gathered to urge restoration of felons' voting rights

The Iowa Capitol dome is illuminated by the sunset Feb. 16, 2017, in Des Moines. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa Capitol dome is illuminated by the sunset Feb. 16, 2017, in Des Moines. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — A protest to persuade Gov. Kim Reynolds to restore voting rights to felons turned violent Wednesday during a confrontation between law enforcement officers and some protesters.

The confrontation escalated when police tried to take activists who had been arrested inside the Capitol outside to be taken away.

KCCI reports video showed Iowa State Patrol troopers taking some protesters to the ground while others tried to pull authorities off them. Des Moines police responded and more arrests were made.

Police also used pepper spray to disperse the crowd, KCCI reported.

Police said protesters started the confrontation, but protesters said law enforcement mishandled the situation.

Drake law professor Sally Frank said police made the arrests in the “worst way possible” by “grabbing” protesters in the middle of the protest, rather than trying to talk to them.

“When detectives tried to take prisoners out of the Statehouse, the crowd followed them outside and, at the one point, swarmed them and attacked the officers,” Des Moines police Sgt. Paul Parizek said. “It’s probably one of the most violent attacks I’ve seen on police in a long time. They were tackled to the ground. They were ripped off people they were trying to arrest.”

It was not immediately clear how many people were arrested or if there were any injuries.

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