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Police brutality protest on Las Vegas Strip ends in arrests

Updated June 13, 2020 - 11:35 pm

A protest against police brutality Saturday night on the Strip ended with multiple arrests, including legal observers, after Las Vegas police used pepper spray and gave two separate orders to disperse.

The protest was partially organized by Organize the State Out Coalition Las Vegas, which uses community outreach to encourage the defunding of Las Vegas police.

”We believe the police are an enforcement branch of a racist system that oppresses us, exasperates poverty, drains our already minimal resources unfairly and massively incarcerates us,” the organization said in a statement prepared for media before the march.

The group of about 150 began to gather outside Bellagio at 5 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., protesters marched south along Las Vegas Boulevard.

Emma Seplecha, 24, of Henderson said she’s tried to come out every weekend because she’s inspired by those that continue to protest around her.

“I’m fighting to stop police brutality and protect minorities,” she said.

Jorge Salas, 21, of downtown Las Vegas said that as a child of Latino parents, he came to show solidarity.

“If a teacher has to buy their own books, a police officer should have to buy their own tanks,” he said. “This is about dismantling a system.”

Salas was among those who spoke during an open mic session for anyone of color who felt inspired.

Michael Callas, 23, of east Las Vegas took the opportunity to tell a story from a black Lyft driver he rode with Saturday morning.

“Our existence is resistance,” the man told Callas. “There’s nothing more powerful than us living.”

As protesters began walking south on the boulevard while dozens of Metro vehicles blocked the road, they chanted, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

When the group reached Tropicana Avenue, protesters were met with a line of officers and cars blocking their path. The protesters began to circle, filling the entire intersection at Las Vegas Boulevard while cars stopped at the lights honked. At least a dozen drivers stepped out of their cars to hold their fists up in support.

Those in the march with blow horns asked the white protesters to come to the front, arguing that their white privilege could protect other protesters from harm.

Both directions of Russell Road were blocked around 7:50 p.m. The group then headed south on Frank Sinatra Drive from Russell, but officers asked the protesters to head back to Russell because the area was private property.

Police reportedly used pepper spray on the crowd on Frank Sinatra around 8. Protesters walked with their hands up past officers as they returned to Russell Road.

Shortly before 8:30 p.m., the group stopped at Russell and Polaris Avenue, just west of Interstate 15. Fewer than 50 people remained, and dozens of cars offered free rides to any protesters who needed to get back to their own car.

Police had mostly left the area by 8:40 p.m., and the remaining protesters were arranging for rides home or back to their vehicles.

The Las Vegas National Lawyers Guild said in a tweet that “Six of our Legal Observers were detained tonight by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Two remain in custody. Legal Observers are volunteer attorneys, law students, and legal workers who are neutral observers, not demonstrators.”

The Metropolitan Police Department declined to provide information on arrests Saturday night.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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