Lawrence police: No updates on investigations of people driving into protests

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

A silver SUV approaches protesters and makeshift barricades at North Park and Massachusetts streets on June 29, 2020.

Lawrence police investigations into incidents of people driving vehicles into protesters are ongoing, department spokespeople said via email Tuesday.

As the Journal-World reported, at a May 31 march demanding an end to police brutality, witnesses documented multiple incidents of vehicles driving into crowds of people in the intersection of 11th and Massachusetts streets. A nurse at the scene assisted one protester who suffered minor injuries as a result of one of the incidents, and that person declined assistance from law enforcement and medics.

Patrick Compton, a spokesman for the Lawrence Police Department, previously told the Journal-World the department was actively investigating that incident. As of Tuesday morning, there were no updates on the status of the investigation, Compton said.

More recently, on June 29, two vehicles separately drove into protesters who were occupying Massachusetts Street from the evening of Saturday, June 27, through Thursday, July 2.

A Journal-World reporter witnessed one incident in which a white driver drove a silver SUV through makeshift barricades that protesters had placed on the street at the intersection with North Park Street, including a large trashcan that became lodged under the front of the vehicle for a moment.

On the northern end of the street where the protesters were standing, there were no signs indicating that the road was closed. A flashing message board had been changed to display messages of the protest, including “Black Lives Matter.” At the southern end, near South Park Street, there were orange-and-white-striped road closure signs.

Police said in a news release the same day that there was a second incident of a vehicle driving into the crowd, shortly before 4 p.m., but that they did not believe anyone had been injured in that incident, either.

Sgt. Amy Rhoads, public information officer for LPD, said Monday that she had no updates on those investigations.

Spokespeople for the department did not immediately respond to a follow-up email from the Journal-World Tuesday, asking whether the police had made contact with the driver of the silver SUV, whether any citations had been issued in connection with the incident, and whether the department has any concerns that a lack of information about what action has or hasn’t been taken in the case sends a message that the incident isn’t being taken seriously by law enforcement.

The issue has come up in a July 10 forum for Douglas County sheriff candidates. All three, current employees of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, declined to answer an audience member’s question about why drivers in the incidents hadn’t been arrested, stating that they were Lawrence police investigations.

The dayslong protest had been sparked by a banner found in South Park that depicted a lynching, along with a note denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement. Rhoads said Monday that the department had no updates on the investigation into the banner.

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Related coverage

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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