City police arrested four people yesterday after a loosely organized anti-war protest of almost 20 bicyclists turned violent.
Three of the four protesters - who shouted anti-war messages as they rode through downtown streets - were charged with assaulting police officers, and one was given a traffic citation.
Police spokeswoman Ragina Averella said a scuffle broke out between police and the bicyclists when an officer escorting the protesters attempted to give one a citation for weaving in and out of traffic, and another protester threw something.
But Scott Loughrey, a Bolton Hill resident in the protest, said it was the police who started the skirmish, harassing and then beating a bicyclist and another who came to his aid.
"There was no traffic around him," Loughrey, 39, said. "They surrounded him before he did anything and began hitting him."
Averella said that one of the arrested protesters, whose names were not available last night, was taken to Mercy Medical Center with a minor scratch on his ear. She said no complaints had been filed about police conduct.
Also yesterday, city prosecutors said they would drop all charges against 40 war protesters arrested last week when they blocked an entrance to the Garmatz Federal Courthouse in downtown Baltimore.
The 40 were charged March 21 with trespassing, disorderly conduct, failure to obey a lawful order and loitering after blocking an underground parking garage at the building that houses U.S. District Court.