WASHINGTON -- The head of the District of Columbia's police union said Tuesday that he has confidence his fellow officers will handle Occupy DC protests professionally should they grow larger and expand to more locations.
While the protests, now in their fourth day, have thus far been relatively small and somewhat unorganized, Fraternal Order of Police head Kris Baumann told The Huffington Post that the Metropolitan Police Department is used to demonstrations, protests, rallies and other events in the nation's capital and said that Occupy DC should be no different.
"I think we're very respectful of people's rights to be there," Baumann said, adding that a primary concern is keeping the protesters safe.
But looming is the specter of the Pershing Park mass arrests from 2002, which resulted in lengthy and costly litigation in which the city agreed to pay $8.25 million to nearly 400 people detained during World Bank/International Monetary Fund protests, especially as a larger, but separate, protest is planned for Oct. 6 in Freedom Plaza.
That class-action payout came on top of a $13.7 million settlement with 700 protesters who were detained during World Bank/IMF protests in 2000.
"There was a time when we were very good at" managing demonstrations, Baumann said. "There was a time in the early 2000s when we weren't good at it. I'm hoping that we've come back around."
As The Huffington Post reported Monday, the protesters in McPherson Square have said they aren't looking to agitate law enforcement authorities as they press their myriad causes.
"At this point we feel we have a very good relationship with the [Metropolitan Police Department] and the Park Police. And we hope to continue to nurture that relationship," protester Micah Bales said Monday.
"Where we've had real problems is when anarchist groups come in and want to hurt the police," Baumann said.
But thus far, there's no evidence of that happening -- and anarchists may not be intent on causing trouble in the first place. Kevin Zeese, an organizer of Thursday's planned "October 2011" protests in Freedom Plaza said in an email to The Huffington Post that "[a]narchists would not be the problem, it would be the Black Box who tend toward property damage," referring to a particular type of protester intent on causing chaos. "We have not heard any rumors of that and we have a very clear non-violence pledge on our front page. It has been there from the very beginning."
But Zeese admitted that despite their best intentions, and 60 trained peacekeepers, protests can be hard to manage. "Obviously, we can't control everything. Too many times these types of violent activities have turned out to be done by police out of uniform pretending to be part of the activists," Zeese said.
"If someone is assigned to come in and cause that kind of problem, it will be hard to prevent, but we are telling everyone attending to be prepared to take video and photographs," he added. "In Spain and Greece they were able to catch undercover police on video using this tactic, showing that the police were the ones instigating violence."
The Huffington Post's Arin Greenwood contributed reporting.
WATCH: Occupy D.C. Protests In Downtown D.C.