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Strip protest of Minnesota man’s death led to 80 arrests, police say

Updated May 30, 2020 - 3:49 pm

Las Vegas police said they arrested 80 people Friday night during a protest on the Strip.

Twelve officers were injured, the department said Saturday, although the extent of the officers’ injuries was unclear. Two of the people arrested were journalists; police did not comment on or acknowledge the journalists’ arrests in a Saturday afternoon news release, despite a request for comment that was emailed to the department Saturday morning.

Las Vegas Chief Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum said Saturday that none of the people arrested on the misdemeanor charge of failure to disperse should have had to post bail. Due to the coronavirus, those arrested on misdemeanors should be released on their own recognizance, with few exceptions, she said.

Anyone who remained jailed on the charge as of Saturday afternoon was being processed, and would not need to post bail to be released, Baucum said. Those who posted bail will get refunds, she said.

“That should never have happened,” Baucum said. “But there was a miscommunication from one of the chiefs at the jail — I don’t know who that was — to a supervisor at the jail via a telephone call to Las Vegas Justice Court pretrial services. I’m still working through that.”

“These people should have never been held on these misdemeanors,” she said. “It’s a travesty.”

The Review-Journal identified 50 people who were still listed in the Clark County Detention Center website as of about 1 p.m., all of whom face a failure-to-disperse misdemeanor, which appeared to be connected to the protest. Thursday was the first day this year that someone had been booked into the jail in connection with a failure to disperse charge, according to booking log records.

Metro said protest was violent

Police on Saturday afternoon characterized the protest, which occurred in conjunction with others nationwide following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, as violent and said demonstrators damaged property. Graffiti was seen in multiple places on the Strip during the protest, and demonstrators were seen throwing water bottles.

A small group of protesters threw rocks at officers later Friday night. Metro said that several officers were injured by the rocks.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo was quoted in the release stating that the department “sees this situation with great empathy.”

“While we understand people are hurting, we are here to see that more people aren’t hurt in clashes,” he said. “It does not serve the memory of a man to destroy, loot, and hurt others in his honor. It does honor him by standing up for what is right. And in that case, the LVMPD will stand with its citizens as they exercise their freedom to speak out.”

On Friday, Metro said that one officer was hospitalized with a hand injury. The department on Saturday did not say if any of the other 11 officers were hospitalized.

The two journalists who were arrested — Review-Journal photographer Ellen Schmidt and photographer Bridget Bennett — also face misdemeanor failure-to-disperse charges. Both were released from jail early Saturday after posting bail.

A statement released by Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson condemned Floyd’s death at the hands of “a despicable and loathsome Minneapolis police officer.”

“We hear you and we are listening, and more importantly, we invite you to be part of a constructive solution, and the healing our community desperately needs,” the statement said. “We respect and defend your right to protest, but please express yourselves peacefully.”

Dispersal orders

Metro on Saturday said the protest, which reached nearly 400 people spread throughout the Strip at its peak, escalated when “a group of agitators arrived to ratchet up tensions.” Metro officers then began ordering the crowd to disperse, which happens “when a crowd has become unruly or unsafe for citizens,” the release said.

The department said that after “several orders for the crowd to disperse,” officers began arresting people who didn’t follow orders. A few people were also seen being led away in handcuffs earlier, before dispersal orders were given.

Officers arresting people were seen tackling protesters, oftentimes with multiple officers arresting and tackling one person. The officers pushed a group of about 100 protesters onto Flamingo Road, east of the Strip, and were seen rushing the crowd in order to get people to leave.

Metro said that “property damage” was seen in several areas on the Strip, which “appears to have occurred as small groups splintered off from the large crowd.”

“As police prepare for another round of possible protests on Saturday, they ask members of the public to keep demonstrations peaceful and lawful,” the release said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Staff writer David Ferrara contributed to this report.

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