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Protesters clash with cops

and JACK MORAN

Police in riot gear fired pepper balls at protesters in Jacksonville Thursday after they refused to clear the street upon President Bush's arrival to spend the night.

Two people were arrested for disorderly conduct during the confrontation at 8 p.m. between protesters and police on California Street not far from where Bush and wife Laura were staying.

The skirmish followed peaceful protests earlier in the day both in Jacksonville and near the Jackson County Expo, where the Bushes held a rally at about 6 p.m.

Rogue Valley residents David Qotsaisaw, 30, and Michael Steveros, 38, said they were each shot with some sort of irritant fired by police. Both said they were not protesting, but just trying to help a fallen member of the crowd.

Someone got pushed down and we tried to help him up, said Qotsaisaw. He wasn't able to get to his feet. We tried to help and the (police officer) from behind the line started shooting.

— Steveros said he was also shot with a pepper ball and shoved with a baton as he attempted to help the man who had fallen on the sidewalk in front of the Jacksonville Inn.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said officers in the Mobile Response Team (made up of sheriff's deputies and Oregon State Police) had fired an undetermined number of rounds of pepper balls ' filled with cayenne pepper ' at protesters.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, about 250 people crowded the sidewalks of California Street, mostly to cheer Bush on as his motorcade left at about 5:45 p.m. to go to the rally in Central Point.

Welcome President Bush signs were displayed in many storefront windows.

I am so excited. I saw the president, said Maryann Ramsden of the McCully House.

Within an hour, most of the welcoming crowd had left, and demonstrators from Ashland and several other areas of the Rogue Valley poured into Jacksonville for a planned demonstration against the president.

Protesters voiced diverse complaints about Bush's policies and rolled out a red unwelcome banner in front of the Jacksonville Inn. A yellow 30-foot banner stating Less Bush ' More Trees was displayed at a nearby building as the protesters chanted and played music over loud-speakers.

I came to protest Bush, said Joan Norman, 74, of Cave Junction. When they yelled 'Four more years,' I yelled 'three more weeks.'

Candace Lucas of Jacksonville said she had come downtown to eat dinner and didn't know the protests were taking place.

I think it's cool, said Lucas. This is democracy in action.

But at around 8 p.m., police decided to move the crowd east of the Third and California Street intersection. Those standing on the west side of the intersection were not moved. As police moved forward, those who resisted or were unable to move quickly enough down the crowded sidewalks toward Fifth Street were shoved by officers in full riot gear.

City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen said he does not have an official explanation as to why that section of the street was cleared.

I was told they arrested two people for failure to disperse, he said. Up to that point, everyone had expressed good behavior.

Thaddeus R. Hust was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Bail was set at &

36;7,000. Quin Robert Barker was arrested for disorderly conduct. Bail was set at &

36;3,000. Their addresses were unavailable late Thursday night.

Before to the president's speech at the Jackson County Expo, protesters and Bush supporters near the entrance exchanged words and, at times, some unfriendly gestures.

Diana Lake was among those shouting pro-peace sayings at passing vehicles and people walking to the fairgrounds to hear the president speak.

What she got in return was often a little less peaceful.

It's been about 50-50 between the middle fingers and the peace signs, said Lake, who spent hours standing at the intersection of Pine Street and Peninger Road and holding a sign reading Pray For Peace, Vote For Kerry.

I'm shocked, actually, she said of the somewhat negative reception.

Lake and about 150 other demonstrators arrived at the intersection about four hours before the president's arrival in Central Point. Bush supporters headed to the rally kept to the other side of the road.

Police presence during the demonstration was minimal, with a handful of OSP troopers making sure the two groups remained on opposite sides of the road.

A man in his 20s who declined to be identified approached protesters and called them a bunch of morons before continuing toward the fairgrounds. His actions led a young woman to complain to police that she and other demonstrators were being harassed.

Where's Jane Fonda and the rest of the commies? another man yelled at protesters as he walked by.

Gold Hill resident Jim Boylar yelled at passersby headed to the fairgrounds rally, shouting anti-war messages that received mixed reviews.

It's OK, he said. They're my neighbors and I love them. They have a different point of view, and I'm just hoping to get them to change that point of view.

.

Reach reporter Jack Moran at 776-4459, or e-mail .

A protester is arrested by Mobile Response Team officers in Jacksonville after he refused to move back from the street. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman