Palin Protesters Under Criminal Investigation

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Monday night on 11 News, we showed you video of police rushing a group of protesters after they had run into the middle of the street as Governor Sarah Palin's motorcade approached. Now officials say the group is under criminal investigation.

As Governor Sarah Palin's motorcade made its way towards Suplizio Field Monday night, chaotic moments, as a group of protesters ran out in front of the cars trying to block the way. Some officers jumped off their motorcycles and others rushed from the sidewalks to push the protesters out of the way.

"That action was swift, it was apporpriate and it probably saved several people from serious injury," said Acting Chief of the Grand Junction Police Department, Troy Smith.

But Mallory Rice, one of those protesters, says that wasn't the case and that police used excessive force.

"I had a police officer grab me by the back of the head, by my hair, and throw me to the sidewalk," said Rice. "It was terrifying."

Smith says the officers' number one priority, in any incident, is public safety.

"Their faces were covered with bandanas, those people had not been through any sort of security screenings, so we had no idea what their intentions were," said Smith.

He also says the officers in the area told the protesters, long before the motorcade arrived, they could exercise their rights as long as they didn't leave the sidewalk.

"They were given those rules and instructions and as the motorcade approached, they decided not to listen to those requests," said Smith.

The protesters complain that once they entered the street they were given no verbal warnings before police tackled them. But when we asked Rice about the officers initial request to stay out of the road she simply responded "Uh..." and looked away.

Officials say no arrests were made last night because they didn't want the situation to get more out of hand. They say they likely won't take any action until the investigation is complete.

Rice says she and the others never intended to hurt anyone with their actions. She says they simply wanted to show Palin that the Grand Valley does not share her ideals or values.

"We feel like civil disobedience, or an act such as we committed yesterday, was an effective way to get our message across," said Rice.

But police say they hope the incident sends another message -- they're happy to let people exercise their first amendment rights, but safety always comes first.

Rice says she and other protesters have filed complaints with the police department over their use of force.

Smith says as is normal procedure any time force is used, the officers conduct is under administrative review.

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