DENVER — Police in riot gear on Monday turned pepper spray on protesters about a mile from the site of the Democratic National Convention.
The confrontation occurred in the early evening in front of the Denver City and County Building. It's believed to be the first time police used any kind of force against protesters.
Authorities say police were trying to disperse a crowd of about 300 that had disrupted traffic. Police have led at least two people away as the crowd chanted "Let them go!"
Some of the protesters threw bags containing a colored liquid at police.
Police Lt. Ron Saunier says he did not immediately know whether there had been arrests.
He said, "The situation is still very fluid and active."
The flare up came on a day in which the turnout for protests was lower than expected. At one point, in fact, local authorities reopened some Denver traffic lanes sooner than planned. About 12 blocks along two busy streets reopened at around noon on Monday (local time), instead of 3 p.m. as planned. Authorities say they could remain open for the duration of the convention if marches can be accommodated safely.
The Joint Information Center, an emergency-response command set up by the city for the convention, cites "low attendance and parade participation" for the change.
Earlier, a small group of protesters marched to the demonstration zone outside the convention, complaining they were being treated like political prisoners.
Members of Recreate 68 Alliance visited the fenced-off zone for the first time on Monday and vowed not to return because they oppose the limits on where they can demonstrate.