Updated June 10, 2020 - 6:55 pm
Protesters marched in downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday as part of a growing national movement seeking to defund police departments.
The protest began about 2 p.m. as the crowd walked from The Strat to Las Vegas City Hall. A flyer posted to social media advertising the demonstration called into question the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget.
Porfirio Flores and Alex Hatwood, who helped organize the march, said they wanted to focus on defunding the police department to bring attention to policing issues in Las Vegas.
The recent protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody empowered the two to organize Wednesday’s demonstration.
“This just gave us the chance to really step up,” Hatwood said.
The two said funding that would otherwise be spent on police should be diverted to other social services in the valley, such as education.
‘Seeing a shift’
During the march, one protester held up a cardboard sign reading, “Defund Police Fund Schools.” A woman sitting outside an Arts District business held her fist in the air and shouted support for teachers when she saw the sign.
Jayla Scott said she’s been involved in activism since she started a Black Student Union at her high school. But recent protests in the valley marked the first time she’s attended demonstrations.
The 19-year-old, who said she supports the movement to drastically change policing and funding for departments, walked with a sign reading “Say Her Name” on one side and “Try to Show Me a Good Cop I’ll Show You an Accomplice,” on the other.
“I think we’re seeing a shift in our society,” she said. “What we’re asking for could actually be achieved.”
The protesters had gathered at City Hall and were met with metal barricades blocking the front steps. The group of about 40 gathered on the steps anyway.
By about 4:15, officers gave a dispersal order, with one telling the protesters they were “disturbing the peace.”
Instead of leaving, the group stood face to face with officers standing in a line, wearing face masks. One officer wore a mask depicting the “Thin Blue Line” flag, meant to represent police.
Dre Therman stood on a raised concrete platform and looked down on the officers and talking to them. The 23-year-old later said he was asking why the officers were “working for a system that don’t care about you.”
The officers eventually went inside the building, and most of the group left City Hall by 5 p.m. After the officers had left, Therman said he was disappointed that Mayor Carolyn Goodman didn’t speak with the protesters.
During the protest, the group chanted, “Mayor Goodman, do your job.”
“If something’s going on that’s very dramatic in the world and you don’t say nothing, that shows a lot,” said Therman, who wore a black shirt bearing the words “Justice for Jorge Gomez.”
In Las Vegas, protests have largely been focused on racism and police brutality. On Tuesday night, more than 50 people marched in downtown as part of a vigil to honor Jorge Gomez, who was shot and killed by Metro officers during a Black Lives Matter protest last week.
According to records posted to Metro’s website, the department’s final budget for fiscal year 2020 to 2021 was set to be approved by the Las Vegas City Council and the Clark County Commission, then sent to the state Department of Taxation before June 1.
The final budget called for $655,617,383, which is an increase of more than $23 million, or 3.7 percent, from last fiscal year’s budget. The city is set to pay more than $146 million while Clark County is set to pay more than $261 million toward the budget, according to Metro records.
Calls for defunding police departments have emerged during nationwide protests over Floyd’s death.
The Associated Press reported this week that supporters of the movement say it’s not about eliminating police departments or taking all money from agencies. Rather they want the nation to “spend more on what communities across the U.S. need, like housing and education.”
A majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said Sunday they support disbanding the city’s police department.