On Tuesday, June 9th, the Dover Police Department served as a mutual aid/assisting agency in the arrest of demonstrators in the area of Camden, DE. In order to provide transparency and accountability, the Dover Police Department is providing the following details to clarify any misinformation.
The department has made every effort to engage and support the core group of demonstrators over the past week of activity in and around the City of Dover. Chief Johnson and a group of officers met with the demonstrators on Friday, June 5th and Saturday, June 6th on Legislative Mall. Chief Johnson and a group of officers willingly walked arm in arm with the demonstrators to show their support and willingness to stand with OUR community on difficult issues. Chief Johnson also agreed to a meeting (Tuesday, June 9th at 3:00PM) with up to six of the group’s leaders to hold a meaningful and productive conversation about police and criminal justice reforms and discuss any of the demonstration groups objectives and goals. At approximately 11:37PM on June 8th, the department received an e-mail submission from the group stating that they wished to cancel/postpone the meeting. On June 9th, the department called the person who sent the e-mail to confirm the cancellation in order to ensure that the message represented the entire group. The person the department contacted confirmed the cancellation. Despite this, we were prepared to meet with the group and still hope to have that opportunity in the days ahead.
Throughout the week, Protesters, both armed and unarmed, began to encroach on private property and/or jump into active lanes of Route 13 traffic in order to closely engage motorists and pedestrians. These decisions led to several near misses of persons being struck by cars and/or chain reaction crashes during panic breaking to avoid such impacts. These decisions led to many motorists calling 911 out of fear when being approached by protesters some of whom were wearing body armor and armed with weapons in uncontrolled traffic patterns. The dialogue has become more hostile in recent days and the message was made clear by protesters that further steps needed to be taken to make people more “uncomfortable”.
In collaboration with Delaware State Police operations for Kent and Sussex counties, a conference call was held at 4 p.m. on June 9th with senior level members of the State’s Attorney General’s Office. The purpose of this call was to clearly define the applicable laws that could be utilized to ensure public safety for all. It also included specific discussion of supported enforcement actions should circumstances again present themselves that posed a risk to safety and verbal warnings proved to be ineffective. For consistency, DSP and Dover PD agreed ahead of time to work collaboratively to enforce the same set of standards given certain articulable circumstances that would drive enforcement decisions.
On Tuesday, June 9th, the group of demonstrators arrived in the area of Legislative Hall to organize. The Dover Police Department was prepared to continue to provide safety and traffic control to allow the demonstrations to happen as they had throughout the week. However, the group left the area in vehicles and traveled to the area of the Camden WAWA store. Once they arrived, the demonstrators rapidly initiated protest activity, including running out into active traffic, and engaging motorists.
Based on the persistent disorderly conduct and defiance of a lawful order to disperse, Dover PD supported DSP as a mutual aid agency and began enforcement actions. While individuals were confrontational at times, we are not aware of any injuries to any person during the arrest actions on or near the highway. Despite some unlawful protesters resisting arrest in varying degrees, no Dover Police officer actually used pepper spray, gas, batons, Tasers or any other tool or instrument to make arrests.
An individual, later identified as a member of the Dover Post, was detained during the arrest process. The male subject is seen on drone footage (see released video) on the left side of the video. At the beginning of the video, the subject is seen putting on a press credential lanyard that contains what is believed to be a 3”x4” card that had not been worn by the subject prior to this incident. The subject is not wearing any other identifying items. The subject is then observed rummaging through his backpack. A Dover Police Officer observes the subject and engages him not knowing he is a journalist, nor the contents of the backpack he was digging in. The officer believed this to be public and officer safety concern in that moment. The subject was utilizing a cell phone to record at the time, as were several other demonstrators that were involved. As the officer approaches, the subject stands up and the officer secured the individual with the assistance of other officers. Once the subject was secured, he was immediately sat up by officers and placed in a patrol vehicle a short time later. Once all of the arrested subjects were transported to Delaware State Police Troop 3, it was confirmed that the subject was a media member and he was released by the Delaware State Police without charges.
In closing, the Dover Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Thomas Johnson, has stated several times that it stands with the community on difficult issues and will support peaceful and lawful protest that are protected by the 1st Amendment. Many of the demonstrators have been respectful and have exercised their 1st amendment rights peacefully. Despite the actions that officers were forced to take on June 9th, we remain 100% committed to working with citizens and having productive conversations that lead to meaningful and positive change in law enforcement and our community as a whole.