On Tuesday, June 9th, I went out to peacefully protest and practice my First Amendment rights. I had no idea that, within the hour, I’d be in the back of a police cruiser.
At approximately 6:30 pm, 21 other protesters and I were arrested by Dover Police and Delaware State Police along Route 13 just north of the Camden Walmart. Our group had assembled to protest systemic racism and police brutality by blocking traffic for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Everyone arrested received a minimum of four charges of Disorderly Conduct.
The group had been meeting at the Legislative Mall in Dover every day for over a week. During many of these protests, we walked onto the streets, either through downtown Dover or onto Route 13. Each time, the Dover Police Department helped to block off traffic to ensure our safety.
Tuesday night, however, everything changed.
About 40 other protesters and I met at the Camden Wawa and quickly moved onto the highway to block all four lanes of traffic. We started the timer for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and some protesters walked next to cars while holding signs and chanting.
One car near the front seemed particularly annoyed about the situation and the woman in the passenger seat appeared to call 9-1-1. Once this occurred, police officers approached us on the road.
This led to a verbal confrontation with the police. The Delaware State Troopers and Dover Police officers mostly remained silent as we voiced our concerns peacefully. In order to maintain this peace, we decided to head south away from the police confrontation and let the cars pass. At this point, an armored police truck had made its way to the area as well as many other police cruisers.
The police officers now outnumbered us.
While most of the group had walked away, some protesters stayed to talk to officers. This is when arrests started. As protesters were being taken to the ground, the rest of the group and I made our way back to the scene. Many of us took videos and asked the officers why they were making these arrests.
Within thirty seconds of my video, a State Trooper zip-tied my hands behind my back and pushed me to my knees. My phone fell and the screen shattered, but the video continued to record. A Dover Police officer placed it in my front pocket in such a way that it continued to show my perspective, including the forceful arrests of so many protesters.
One of those arrested and shown in my video is Andre Lamar, a journalist with the Dover Post. The young reporter, who has been documenting our group for over a week, was tackled by a Dover police officer as he yelled out “I’m with the press” repeatedly. His live stream while being arrested has now been viewed over 60,000 times on Facebook. The officers claim that they did know he was a member of the press.
“How do we have autonomous cars, men on the moon, and computers that fit in our pockets yet Black people are still asking for equal rights in 2020?” Mr. Lamar questioned.
Both the Dover Police and Delaware State Police have released official statements regarding the event. However, the police departments’ accounts differ from those of the protesters.
One college student who was arrested stated that “everyone who was there knows that [the police departments’] statements do not tell the story accurately. Unfortunately, people are reading those and accepting them as absolute truths while ignoring or refusing to believe there is another side of the story.”
We were eventually taken to Delaware State Police Troop 3, where we were held in cells or handcuffed to walls for almost 12 hours with very little knowledge as to what was going on. We were never read our rights, were denied phone calls, and my request to speak to a lawyer was rejected.
During this time, a group of family members, protesters who were not arrested, and supporters came to the police station and stayed all night on the sidewalk outside. They were met with State Troopers on horseback, an armored truck, and officers with dogs and riot gear.
The concerned group struggled to contact their loved ones in the station to find out what was going on regarding the arrests. One worried mother stated that “the troopers’ ridiculous show of force was meant to intimidate a peaceful group who just wanted to know that their friends and family were safe.” In the end, however, she says she is proud of her son.
We were released together at about 6:15 a.m., joining the group of supporters as we all continued to chant and raise our fists.
Just hours after being released from police custody, the other protesters and I met again Wednesday evening at Legislative Mall in Dover to share our traumatic stories and to continue to fight for change. We were met with an even larger group of supporters than we had the night before.