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Rep. faults Capitol Police in scuffle

WASHINGTON -- Representative Cynthia McKinney, the Georgia congresswoman who had an altercation with a Capitol Police officer, said yesterday that the officer started the incident by ''inappropriately touching and stopping" her after she walked past a security checkpoint.

McKinney, speaking at a news conference where she was joined by singer Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover, said she understands that a case against her may be referred for prosecution, but declared she will be exonerated.

''Let me be clear. This whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman," McKinney said. ''I deeply regret that this incident occurred."

McKinney, a Democrat, declined to discuss the incident further since she still may be charged with striking the officer after she entered a House office building this week unrecognized and did not stop when asked.

Two law enforcement officials said it was unlikely a warrant would be issued this week. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

James W. Myart Jr., one of McKinney's lawyers, said he will be seeking an investigation against the officer, who has not been identified.

''Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, like thousands of average Americans across this country, is, too, a victim of the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials because of how she looks and the color of her skin," he said.

Belafonte and Glover said they were there as a show of support for the fiery six-term congresswoman. ''She alone has stood up for issues that are important to this country and important to the world," Glover said. ''We're not here to judge the merits of the case; we're here to support our sister."

A spokeswoman for US Capitol Police did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Members of Congress wear identifying lapel pins and routinely are waved into buildings without undergoing security checks. McKinney was not wearing her pin at the time, and the officer apparently did not recognize her, she has said.

''Congresswoman McKinney, in a hurry, was essentially chased and grabbed by the officer," Myart said. ''She reacted instinctively in an effort to defend herself."

Several Capitol Police officials have said the officer involved asked McKinney three times to stop. When she did not, he placed a hand on her and she hit him, they said.

Her appearance with Glover yesterday gave Republicans material to keep the criticism flowing.

''Rep. McKinney appearing with the star of 'Lethal Weapon'? Not exactly the message you want to be sending," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican.

In January, during President Bush's State of the Union address, Capitol Police drew criticism for first kicking antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan out of the House gallery, and then for evicting the wife of Representative Bill Young, a Florida Republican. Safety became a sensitive issue after a gunman in 1998 killed two officers outside the office of then-Republican Whip Tom DeLay of Texas.

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