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

In this file photo from May 31, 2020, demonstrators marching against police brutality scramble as an SUV, obscured in center background, quickly accelerates through the crowd just south of the intersection at 11th and Massachusetts streets.

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.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact public safety reporter Mackenzie Clark:

Related coverage

July 14, 2020: Lawrence police: No updates on investigations of people driving into protests

July 2, 2020: Protesters pack up, vacate Massachusetts Street

July 1, 2020: Judge modifies bond to $500K for murder defendant, who is released the same day after 5 years in jail

June 30, 2020: Lawrence police say investigations are ongoing into vehicle incidents at protests, graphic banner

June 30, 2020: Section of Massachusetts Street occupied by protesters will stay closed ‘at least’ through Wednesday; mayor voices support for protesters

June 29, 2020: Vehicles drive through crowd, 6 demonstrators arrested as protest continues on Massachusetts Street; police barricade road

June 28, 2020: Part of Massachusetts Street closed as protesters set up tents, demand investigation into ‘heinous and racist’ banner

June 27, 2020: Protesters gather in Lawrence after graphic, racist banner is found with letter denouncing Black Lives Matter movement

June 5, 2020: Witnesses hesitant to come forward about people driving through crowds at Lawrence march; police investigating

June 1, 2020: Overall, organizer pleased with Lawrence march against police brutality; incident involving vehicle in crowd under investigation

June 1, 2020: Protesters rally in Lawrence for largely peaceful march against police brutality


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