Police: 12 arrested after protester hits officer with frying pan

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemPoliticsActivismMagnificent MileEastern Michigan University

A protester charged with hitting a Chicago police officer over the head with a frying pan Wednesday night on North Michigan Avenue was ordered held today in lieu of $50,000 bond.
 
Gary C. Wagaman, a 30-year-old Michigan resident, appeared in Cook County bond court this afternoon wearing blue jeans and a dark blue T-shirt that was ripped open beneath his left shoulder.

He shook his head as he walked away from the bench after Judge James R. Brown announced the bond amount.

Wagaman is one of 12 protesters who were arrested after a scuffle with police on North Michigan Avenue at Ohio Street that left five officers injured, including the officer Wagaman allegedly hit with the frying pan, authorities said.
 
Wagaman is charged with aggravated battery to a peace officer, a felony. The other 11 protesters, ranging in age from 18 to 38, face a variety of misdemeanors, police said.

Police initially said Wagaman threw the 8-inch pan at the bicycle officer, but prosecutors said in court today that he struck the officer with the pan, causing its handle to break off.

The officer had gotten off his bike to help with arrests when he was struck and suffered bruises and swelling on his head, prosecutors said. Police said he was wearing a bike helmet.
 
Police said some of the other people who were arrested allegedly tried to stop officers from arresting Wagaman.

Stuart Smith, an attorney who represented Wagaman in court today, told the judge that Wagaman graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2005 with a double major in journalism and political science.
 
Wagaman moved to Chicago after having trouble finding work and is now working at Pizzeria Due at North Wabash Avenue and East Ontario Street, Smith said.
 
After court, Smith called police "notorious liars" and said that Wagaman shouldn't be presumed guilty just because police have accused him of striking the officer.
 
"I don't know that he whacked the police officer," said Smith, who works with the National Lawyers Guild, which has represented most protesters arrested in Chicago in recent weeks.
 
Smith said that he wasn't sure if the incident was caught on video. Prosecutors told the judge they did not believe it had been filmed.
 
The protesters who demonstrated Wednesday night had been using pots and pans to make noise during a march up the Magnificent Mile, police said.

Those arrested were part of a larger group marching in support of students in Canada who have been demonstrating against issues including higher tuition fees, according to Leon Andersen, a member of Occupy Chicago who said he was part of the march but not among those arrested.

Protesters began marching on the 500 block of South State Street around 5 p.m. and then headed to Michigan Avenue toward Canada’s consulate office, Andersen said.

Many of the protesters were associated with the Occupy Chicago movement, but some were members of other activist groups as well, said Rachael Perrotta, a member of Occupy Chicago’s press committee.

rhaggerty@tribune.com

nnix@tribune.com

pnickeas@tribune.com
Twitter: @peternickeas

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