Lawrence police submit investigations into banner found at South Park, people driving vehicles into protesters to DA’s office
photo by: Nick Gerik/Journal-World File Photo
Story updated at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5:
Lawrence police have turned three investigations into incidents connected to recent protests over to the Douglas County district attorney’s office for charging consideration, according to department spokespeople.
Sgt. Amy Rhoads, public affairs officer for the Lawrence Police Department, said via email Monday that police have completed an investigation into a banner found on June 27 at 11th and Massachusetts streets, and an affidavit has been submitted to the DA’s office.
The large banner, which depicted George Floyd being lynched, was found with a note denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement. It sparked a roughly five-day protest that occupied Massachusetts Street as protesters called for a law enforcement investigation into its source, among other demands.
Dorothy Kliem, trial assistant for the DA’s office, said via email Wednesday that the investigation into the banner had been referred to the Lawrence city prosecutor’s office for charging consideration. It was unclear Wednesday what sort of violation may be contemplated in the case. The city prosecutor handles municipal ordinance violations, including misdemeanor criminal violations.
At an earlier protest, a May 31 solidarity march against police brutality, multiple drivers drove their vehicles into demonstrators, as the Journal-World has reported. A Journal-World reporter had observed most vehicles turning around as they approached the protest at 11th and Massachusetts streets; however, one driver, a white woman, was captured on video coming to a stop in front of a large group of protesters, then rapidly accelerating into the crowd.
One person was apparently injured in that incident, but a registered nurse at the scene rendered aid and the person left after declining assistance from medics or law enforcement, the Journal-World has reported. Rhoads said the investigation into that incident was also completed and that an affidavit had been submitted to the DA’s office; Kliem said the incident was still under review as of Wednesday.
There were two other reports of people driving their vehicles into crowds of protesters occupying Massachusetts Street on June 29. The Journal-World captured one on video: the driver of a silver SUV, a white woman, drove through protesters’ makeshift barricades and into a group of about two dozen people in the crowd. Late Wednesday afternoon, Patrick Compton, a department spokesperson, said the investigation into that incident had also been submitted to the DA’s office for charging consideration.
In previous cases the Journal-World has covered, drivers who have intentionally hit and injured people with their vehicles have faced charges of aggravated battery, a felony.
Police said there was a similar reported incident later the same day, June 29. Rhoads said via email Monday that officers had responded to a report of criminal damage to a vehicle. An 82-year-old Eudora resident told police she was crossing Lawrence to get to the hospital when she encountered the protesters on Massachusetts Street.
“The victim reported damage to her vehicle caused by the protestors,” Rhoads said via email. “We have been unable to identify anyone else in the encounter who wanted to report being a victim of a crime.”
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Before Interim Chief of Police Anthony Brixius allowed protesters to remain on Massachusetts Street on June 29 and had more substantial barricades put in place on the road, law enforcement had arrested six people and issued three notices to appear, the Journal-World reported.
However, the DA’s office said in a news release that staff would not file charges based on the citations referred to the District Court, “or against anyone engaged in peaceful, nonviolent protests.”
Kliem said Monday that each of the people arrested would receive a letter before their court dates later this month stating that no charges will be filed.
According to the Douglas County Jail booking log, the arrested protesters each paid $200 cash bonds. Kliem said the letters they receive will also indicate that their bail bonds should be returned by the clerk of the District Court.
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• July 2, 2020: Protesters pack up, vacate Massachusetts Street