Conservative group staffers, event attendees: 911 hung up on us four times during Occupy DC mob

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Americans For Prosperity staffers told The Daily Caller that Washington, D.C. 911 operators hung up on them four times when they asked for extra police to help them deal with the Occupy DC protesters who stormed their “Defending the American Dream Summit” Friday evening.

AFP foundation’s director of programs Katie Engdahl said she called 911 to ask for more help in order to protect event attendees from the growing group of protesters outside the Washington Convention Center. Engdahl was the AFP staffer in charge of running the event, which the Occupy protesters swarmed on Friday night, most likely because billionaire investor David Koch was in attendance. Left-wing media have vilified Koch and his brother, Charles, for their donations to libertarian and free market causes.

“I was about to call ‘show’ and realized that we had a lot of protesters during the middle of program,” Engdahl said in a Saturday afternoon interview. “We realized it had gotten to the point where, even though the convention center had been calling and working with [Metropolitan Police Department], we needed to call them and make sure we had a game plan for people to get out of the building safely and back to their rooms or to their home.”

Engdahl said she called 911 in the middle of the show and told them the protesters appeared organized with a plan of attack as they had all the convention center exits blocked.

“I did mention [on the 911 call] how coordinated I thought the protesters’ effort was, as well as how ill-prepared both MPD and the Convention Center were in communicating together on how best to solve the problem,” she explained.

“I said that I didn’t want it to rise to where we had a confrontation or other problems – and they hung up on me,” Engdahl said, adding that she and other AFP staffers and volunteers had made at least four 911 calls from inside the convention center asking for help.

AFP’s director of Human Resources, Heather de la Riva, told TheDC she also called 911 to voice her concerns about the growing protest and was hung up on as well by the 911 operator. (RELATED: Occupy DC protest turns violent outside Washington Convention Center [VIDEO])

“Last evening when we were in our dinner session, we actually noticed that there were protesters outside, and lined up on each corner,” de la Riva said. “We were getting ready to dismiss activists and let out for the evening. So, I did place a call to 911 just giving them a heads-up that we were going to be leaving the convention area and that there were protesters outside. I did understand that there was already a police presence, but I was hoping that they would be able to calm the situation so that we didn’t run into any altercations. And, they [911] hung up.”

AFP volunteer Melissa Ortiz, who is wheelchair-bound, said she also called 911 to ask for help leaving the convention center. “I personally called 911,” Ortiz told TheDC. “They said, ‘are the police there?’ I said, ‘yes they are.’ Then, click.” They hung up on her too, she said.

There were police officers on the scene, but the event’s organizers said there weren’t enough officers to stop the protesters from causing mayhem, which ultimately resulted in serious injuries. Dolores Brodersen, a 78-year-old woman who came to Washington for the summit with her Detroit AFP group, suffered severe injuries to her wrist, both legs and ankle as a result of the havoc raised by the protesters.

“We went out the door, and the protesters were right there on the porch of the conference center, and they were locking arms and not letting anybody out,” Brodersen told TheDC. “Then, they started shouting things and more of them came and more of our people came out of the door. It was pretty crowded there at the top of the stairs. They were shouting something about corporations – that we were part of bad corporations or something. They said it was ‘undeniable’ or something.”

“Then, all of a sudden, somebody broke through the human chain of people and I went falling down the stairs,” she continued. “I don’t know if I was pushed, or if I fell because of everything going around me, but I couldn’t stop myself. I went down.”

Brodersen said nobody came to help her, not even one of the few police officers on the scene. “There were several police cars there, but nobody came to help us,” Brodersen said.

Gordon Stamper, a fellow summit attendee who was with Brodersen that night, also fell and suffered a shoulder injury. He was with Brodersen as they tried to leave the convention center to walk back over to their hotel. They fell – or were pushed down the stairs – at about the same time.

“Both Dolores and I fell – I didn’t see her fall, but I hurt my shoulder,” Stamper said. “Then, I noticed her lying on the ground right beside me. She couldn’t get up, and I didn’t know if she hurt her head or what. She wasn’t moving.”

Stamper then tried to help Brodersen up. Brodersen said that only Stamper and one of the protesters, who claimed to be the Occupy DC movement’s “medic,” came to her aid. She said the police did not help.

“After I fell, Gordon came – we had kind of gotten separated when they were pushing us around and everything,” Brodersen said. “And, then, this girl came [from the ‘Occupy’ crowd] and she said she was ‘the medic for the protesters.’ She walked me back to the hotel and encouraged me to go to the emergency room.”

Stamper and Brodersen decided to take a cab to the hospital since, they say, emergency and police officials weren’t helping them. The both received multiple X-Rays before heading back to their hotel around 2:30 in the morning, they said.

Stamper and Brodersen both think that if more police officers were there, they would’ve gotten more help on the scene immediately. And, if the “Occupy” protesters weren’t so belligerent, they doubt they would’ve been injured.

“The police didn’t do a thing,” Stamper said. “I didn’t even see any police officers. I looked around and there were police cars out there so I knew there had to be [officers somewhere] but I didn’t see them.”

Brodersen has gone to lots of political events but she said she’s “never, never” seen anything as violent as what happened on Friday night. “Not in Detroit, either,” she said. “I’m a Detroiter. I think we have better manners in Detroit.”

“There were a lot of young girls, young women in that group,” she continued. “I thought to myself, before the accident happened, that these were just little girls and young kids and I couldn’t understand why they were doing this. I don’t know how they get that vicious. How do they get that vicious?”

Another elderly woman was pushed or fell at the event as well, but TheDC hasn’t been able to confirm her identity. TheDC was able, however, to speak with three young summit attendees who helped the other elderly woman who was hurt during the protests.

Joella Kudron, Aaron Marcus and David Ptalis all helped the other elderly victim, who fell at the top of the same stairs that Brodersen and Stamper fell down. “She was laying there for a few seconds because she was in shock,” Kudron said. “Then, her husband and her friend were there and the police officers came over and everyone came over to see if she was okay and we were like, ‘ma’am, you need to sit down. Take your time.’”

“Then, the cop was like, ‘move your arm, is it broken? That’s the only way you can tell,’” Kudron continued. “So, we got her to sit down, and the poor thing, she was shaking, she was having a panic attack – she was worried about her husband too, because her husband was very upset and he recently had a heart attack, and she wanted to make sure he was okay as well.”

Kudron said she and her friend ran across the street to the Renaissance Hotel to get the woman some water, and in the meantime, Occupy protesters surrounded her. “When we came back, there were more protesters surrounding her – and basically yelling things at her,” Kudron said. “The poor thing was shaking, she was going like this the whole time [rocking back and forth in the fetal position]. She was so upset, she didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t clearly speak.”

What happened next shocked Kudron.

“Then, the cop said, ‘Ma’am, you have to move, you need to move, you need to leave,’” Kudron said. “I was like, ‘are you serious? There are these other people screaming at her and she can’t walk.’”

Kudron, Marcus and Ptalis eventually were able to help the elderly woman and her husband down the street where they called an ambulance just to ensure the elderly couple was alright. The elderly woman did not go to the hospital in the ambulance.

Ortiz, the wheelchair-bound woman who said 911 operators hung up on her, also experienced her share of the Occupy madness as she tried to exit the Washington Convention Center. “There were only certain exits I can use to get in and out of this building because I’m a wheelchair user,” she said.

When she found an exit, she tried to leave, but the protesters weren’t letting her out. “I was all but pulled out of my chair and attacked by Occupy protesters,” she said. “I was trying to go out an exit, and they were all pressed up against the door.”

Ortiz was only able to exit certain doors, and because the protesters blocked off the wheelchair ramp exit, she was trapped. But she tried to go out anyway.

“They started screaming at me, telling me ‘conservatives don’t care about me,’ that I’m ‘with the wrong people,’ calling me a ‘stinky scumbag,’” Ortiz told TheDC. “That to me is a mixed message. Don’t tell me in one breath that you care about me, and then in the next break call me a ‘stinky scumbag.’”

Ortiz has a service dog that helps her deal with seizures she suffers. The dog, Lucy, was on her lap as she was trying to leave. “When I was finally able to get out [of the door], they [the Occupy protesters] tried to pull me out of my wheelchair and take my service dog,” Ortiz told TheDC.

Ortiz said “the police did nothing” even though “they were there.”

“One [officer] stood very half-heartedly between me and the protesters, but the protesters were all there with linked arms,” Ortiz said. “I finally knew what it felt like for Ruby Bridges [a black girl widely known as the first to attend an all-white school in the south] to start second grade in desegregated schools in Mississippi in the ‘60s. She said she wasn’t afraid and I wasn’t afraid last night because I was determined that I was getting out of the building and I was going about my business.”

Linda Boyd, spokeswoman for Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, confirmed to TheDC that four 911 calls were made from inside the convention center, but said the operators didn’t “hang up” on the callers. “All calls were answered and handled by the call takers appropriately,” Boyd said. “One of the callers terminated her call when the call taker asked for her name.”

She said that the Office of Unified Communications, which handles 911 calls, “does not hang up on people.”

“Two of the calls came from people who were together and in both calls the people explained that there are elderly people inside the convention center being blocked from coming out by the young people,” Boyd continued. “The female caller indicates that she believes this is because of President Obama. The 4th call was from a woman who was obviously upset that she could not get out of the convention center.”

When TheDC asked for tapes or transcripts of the calls, Boyd refused to provide them, saying they’re only available to those who actually made the call.

Boyd added that “Mayor Gray does not believe in violence of any kind and does not condone violence as acceptable behavior under any circumstances.”

DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier told TheDC that “violent protesters were arrested on scene.”

She also disputed the claims that police officers weren’t helping those who were injured as result of the protests.

“During the demonstration two individuals were leaving the convention center and fell down the front steps which were crowded with demonstrators,” Lanier told TheDC. “Officers Timothy Dummant and Lonny Bruce responded and assisted the subjects immediately.”

Lanier said Dummant and Bruce “helped both citizens to their feet and called for medical assistance,” even though one of the women and the summit attendees on scene remember it happening quite a bit differently.

“DC Fire EMS responded, one individual denied medical assistance and one was treated,” she said. “This was not a dispatched call for service; the officers present noticed the commotion and assisted immediately.”

Boyd said Mayor Gray and the Metropolitan Police Department will be more vigilant about the Occupy protesters and their potential for violence going forward.

“The prior [Occupy protester] demonstrations have been peaceful,” Boyd said. “The aggressive nature of Friday’s demonstration prompted the Metropolitan Police Department to adjust tactics as needed to ensure safety. They will continue to protect life and property (residents, visitors, protestors –everyone) and adjust strategies as warranted.”

“We have no reason to believe that the protestors will change from their peaceful state just because of Friday’s incident,” Boyd added, however. “They have been relatively peaceful since they began protesting October 6.”

She also said that Gray has “no jurisdiction” over McPherson Square or Liberty Plaza, where the Occupy DC protesters are currently camped out, so the mayor can’t kick them out, even though they don’t have a permit to protest legally.

“Mayor Gray has no jurisdiction over the areas that they occupy,” Boyd said. “The property they are settling on is under the authority of US Park Service Police.”

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Matthew Boyle