Dallas, TX – Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said that the nearly 700 protesters detained on Monday night should not have been surprised they were arrested because protesters were warned to stay off the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
The police chief disputed protesters’ complaints they weren’t told they couldn’t demonstrate on the bridge that spans the Trinity River west of downtown, KDFW reported.
“We warned them,” Chief Hall said. “They did not stop. They decided to take a knee on the bridge and hold their hands up and say don’t shoot.”
“So no one should be surprised because my statement is: If you break the law, we will arrest you,” the police chief added, according to KDFW.
Police arrested 674 protesters and charged them with obstructing a freeway, the Dallas Morning News reported.
They were detained for hours in flexicuffs on the bridge before finally being released with citations.
One woman was charged with unlawful carrying of a firearm at the protest, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The action came late on June 1, the fourth consecutive night of demonstrations in Dallas protesting the death of 46-year-old George Floyd while he was being arrested by the Minneapolis police on May 25 for using a counterfeit $20 bill.
Pastor Ray Jordan told the Dallas Morning News he and his family felt trapped by law enforcement.
Jordan, who is an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University, said his family planned to leave after the protest in front of the courthouse on Monday but then they couldn’t get their car out of the nearby parking garage.
So he said they decided to join the march headed down the street instead of waiting for the street to clear, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Jordan said his family was near the front of the group and never heard any warnings from law enforcement to stay off the freeway ramp or the bridge.
He said he thought traffic had been stopped on the bridge to accommodate the protesters, the Dallas Morning News reported.
But instead, the pastor complained their arrival on the bridge was greeted by police officers in riot gear who deployed smoke canisters, flashbangs, and less-lethal ammunition rounds at the protesters.
“To the right of us, we had SWAT and cop cars blocking off pass. On to the left, we had like a couple of squad cars,” protester Weston Lucas told KDFW. “But I felt like at this point, I don’t feel like we had a place to go. We were boxed in we couldn’t go anywhere. So we ended up turning a left onto the bridge.”
“They didn’t know what to do with us, like, are we going to take them all the jail. We don’t have room for this many people,” Lucas said. “And then it was the longest process. I think they did not know what to do with us.”
Chief Hall made the call to collect protesters’ information and issue at-large charges for blocking the roadway because there was no room for the almost 700 detainees in the jail, KDFW reported.
She said she had warned police would arrest everybody who broke the law during the protests.
“I stood before you and made myself extremely clear that we will arrest anyone who breaks the law,” the police chief said. “And, although peaceful, the protesters broke the law.”
Activists gathered on Wednesday at Dallas City Hall to protest the treatment of the protesters on Monday night.
“The only thugs, the only criminals; the only ones who acted with violence were the Texas state troopers,” Carlos Quintanilla told the assembled crowd.