WASHINGTON - The National Air and Space Museum in Washington was closed Saturday after anti-war demonstrators tried to enter the building to protest a drone exhibit, and at least one person was pepper-sprayed.
Smithsonian spokesman John Gibbons said a large group of demonstrators, estimated at 100 to 200 people, arrived at about 3 p.m. and tried to enter the National Mall museum. When a security guard stopped the group from entering, saying they could not bring in signs, he was apparently held by demonstrators, Gibbons said. A second guard who arrived used pepper spray on at least one person and the crowd dispersed.
A number of groups have been demonstrating in the city in the past week. The group that arrived at the museum Saturday included individuals affiliated with the October 2011 Stop the Machine demonstration, which has been going on in the city's Freedom Plaza and has an anti-war and anti-corporate greed message. The group also included protesters affiliated with Occupy D.C., a group modeled on the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City. Occupy D.C. has been holding marches and meetings in Washington's McPherson Square.
Legba Carrefour, who is working with Occupy D.C., said a number of individuals joined the march to the museum following an afternoon meeting of the group.
Ann Wilcox, a lawyer working with Stop the Machine, said a 19-year-old woman from Madison, Wis., was arrested by police. She paid a fine and was released later Saturday. Wilcox said the protesters went to the Air and Space museum to demonstrate against a drone exhibit.
The museum has an exhibit, "Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles," that covers the history of unmanned aircraft and their current use as offensive weapons. Drones are often called the weapon of choice of the Obama administration, which quadrupled drone strikes against al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, up from less than 50 under the Bush administration to more than 220 in the past three years.
The museum is expected to re-open Sunday.