State will not prosecute police or protestors in relation to June 9th protests in Camden
CAMDEN, Del. – After an investigation, Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings says the state will not be prosecuting police or protestors in relation to protests in Camden on June 9th.
Jennings says her staff as reviewed all available evidence, including several videos, scene photos, 911 recordings, dispatch records, and police reports. Several facts were determined as a result of the investigation.
The two weeks of protests were mostly peaceful displays of civil disobedience, according to Jennings. Law enforcement fielded numerous 911 calls over several days from residents concerned about particular protest tactics, such as being surrounded in a parking lot with children in the car. Dover Police and the protestors had met on multiple occasions.
On June 9th, approximately 50 protestors were allowed to walk on Route 13 and in the median. The protestors marched in the northbound and southbound lanes for roughly 25 minutes, with police officers escorting some of the protestors. Traffic was mostly blocked during this time, as an act of civil disobedience, to commemorate the time George Floyd was pinned to the ground with an officer’s knee on his neck as he lay dying.
In the hour or so before the arrests, the only tense moments between police and protestors were when police were trying to allow some cars on Route 13 to move around the protestors. Otherwise, the protest to that point was similar to peaceful demonstrations seen all over the state. No protestors were arrested for protesting in the roadway, which is consistent with the Department of Justice’s advice to the agencies that no one should be arrested for civil disobedience, and police should step in only when public safety is in danger.
While protestors were moving down Route 13, a Dover officer got into his patrol vehicle with the intent of closing down a nearby intersection so that the protestors could continue on the highway. One of the protestors stood in front of the patrol car and refused to allow him to proceed. When the officer got out of his vehicle and began talking with the protestor, a second protestor allegedly approached him and, according to police witnesses, began to use profanity towards him, resulting in an order for both protestors to move so that the officer could move his vehicle.
Officials say the protestors would not move, leading officers to place the second protestor under arrest, at which point several protestors allegedly began running in the direction of the officers, trying to prevent the arrest of other protestors. The police report continues by saying that “due to the overwhelming possibility of injury and violence to everyone” the officer used his radio to call a 10-40, which is an officer in trouble. At that point, officers and protestors were rushing to the area of the original arrest, and several protestors were arrested.
After the 10-40 call, officers began detaining protestors in the immediate vicinity, attempting to keep others away, and moved several across Route 13 into the median. Officers also arrested a Dover Post employee who had been with the protestors for several protests, sometimes in his personal capacity, other times as a reporter. Jennings says that when their officer learned that someone with press credentials was arrested, they requested that Delaware State Police release him immediately.
Jennings released the following statement:
In the two weeks since those arrests, our state has plowed forward in ways that make me proud. Peaceful protests have continued, all over the state, showcasing civil disobedience. Many protesters are turning passion into advocacy for reform in the halls of government. Police have accommodated the protests while keeping the public safe—I am unaware of any arrests or physical harm since June 9. The notable exception was when two law enforcement memorials to fallen officers were defaced.[v] As I have said, these acts are reprehensible and the perpetrators will be prosecuted.
Police Departments up and down our state—including Dover Police—have taken unprecedented action to increase transparency. Our Governor used his executive powers to bring important reforms to the Delaware State Police. And the General Assembly is moving reform bills as we speak.
My leadership team and I spent several hours in meetings with Dover/Camden protesters, the police, and community advocates. We discussed the disparate role of race that pervades America—no more or less with prosecutors and police than in all corners of our society. We heard compassion and empathy for the community. But what struck me was their overlapping message: everyone—protesters and police—wants the same things. Equal treatment under the law. A decent life for their families. A fair chance at the American Dream.
Our review of the evidence, as well as what we learned in our meetings, made clear that neither a prosecution of these protesters, nor an investigation into the police—both of which have been demanded, with equal volume—would serve a good purpose. I may be demonized equally by those who push criminal convictions against protesters who were aggressive but non-violent, or against police who made arrests. Perhaps this is as good a sign as any that we must put June 9 behind us and find common ground.
In communicating my decision to the protesters and Dover Police, all parties committed to continued dialogue with each other. That is how we make progress. As Dr. King observed, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”
We, as a state, are now engaging in these difficult exercises. I’m hopeful about where we are heading, and I remain committed to effectuating that progress.