US police arrested over 10,000 protesters, many non-violent

<span>Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP</span>
Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

Since George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 25 May, around 140 cities in all 50 states throughout the US have seen protests and demonstrations in response to the killing. 

Related: Protests about police brutality are met with wave of police brutality across US

More than 10,000 people have been arrested around the US during the protests, as police forces regularly use pepper spray, rubber bullets, teargas and batons on protesters, media and bystanders. Several major US cities have enacted curfews in an attempt to stop demonstrations and curb unrest. 

Jarah Gibson was arrested while non-violently protesting in Atlanta, Georgia, on 1 June. 

“The police were there from the jump and literally escorted us the whole march,” said Gibson. 

She said around 7.30pm, ahead of Atlanta’s 9pm city-wide curfew, police began boxing in protesters. While protesters were attempting to leave, Gibson tried to video record a person on a bicycle who appeared to be hit by a police car and was arrested by police. She was given a citation for “pedestrian in a roadway,” and “refusing to comply when asked to leave”.

“The police are instigating everything and they are criminalizing us. Now I have my mugshot taken, my fingerprints taken and my eyes scanned. Now I’m a criminal over an illegal arrest,” added Gibson. “I want to be heard and I want the police to just abide by basic human decency.”

<span class="element-image__caption">Protesters clash with New York City police in Manhattan on 31 May.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images</span>
Protesters clash with New York City police in Manhattan on 31 May. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Ruby Anderson was arrested while non-violently protesting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 31 May. The police refused to provide a reason for her detention until they were placed in a police van, where they were told the charge was loitering. They were given a wristband that stated “unlawful assembly” and ultimately charged with disorderly conduct. 

“While I was arrested, I was standing next to two white people who were doing the same thing as me, standing between a group of officers and a group of black teenagers. I was the only one arrested in my group of three, I was the only black person,” Anderson said.

Reports of excessive police force throughout the protests have emerged around the US. More than 130 reports of journalists being attacked by police have been recorded since 28 May.

On 2 June, six police officers in Atlanta, Georgia, were charged with excessive force during an arrest of two college students on 30 May. A staggering 12,000 complaints against police in Seattle, Washington, were made over the weekend of 30 May in response to excessive force at protests.

A Denver, Colorado, police officer was fired for posting on Instagram “let’s start a riot”. In New York City, videos surfaced of NYPD officers pointing a gun at protesters, driving an SUV into a crowd of protesters, swiping a protester with a car door, an officer flashing a white supremacy symbol, and another officer shoving a woman to the ground, which left her hospitalized.

Several protesters and bystanders around the US have been left hospitalized from rubber bullet wounds, bean bags, teargas canisters and batons, while police have reportedly torn down medical tents and destroyed water bottles meant for protesters. 

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dan Rojas was arrested on the morning of May 27. Though there were no protests occurring at the time, Rojas had decided to clean up fragments of rubber bullets, teargas and frag canisters on the public sidewalk in his neighborhood when six police officers confronted him and arrested him. 

<span class="element-image__caption">A police officer aims a non-lethal launcher at protesters as they clash in Washington DC on 31 May.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Samuel Corum/AFP/Getty Images</span>
A police officer aims a non-lethal launcher at protesters as they clash in Washington DC on 31 May. Photograph: Samuel Corum/AFP/Getty Images

“They put me in handcuffs, took my property off of me, and they shoved a local reporter out of the way. They put me in a squad car and arrested me for rioting at 10.30 in the morning, the day after a peaceful protest,” said Rojas, who wasn’t released until over 48 hours later. “ At the end of it no charges were filed, everything was dropped and I was never told the probable cause they had to arrest me,” 

Several non-violent protesters arrested during demonstrations requested to remain anonymous for fear of police retaliation as they still face citations and pending charges. The protesters described police tactics of “kettling”, where protesters were surrounded and blocked by police forces from leaving, often until curfews took effect or arrests were made for obstructing a roadway. 

“The curfews are a way to give police more power, exactly the opposite of what protesters want. These curfews, like most other ‘law and order’ tactics, will disproportionately impact the very same communities that are protesting against state-sponsored violence and brutality,” said Dr LaToya Baldwin Clark, assistant professor of law at UCLA.

One protester in Los Angeles, California, told how she was returning to her apartment before the city’s 6pm curfew, while police were blocking protesters and obstructing exits. 

<span class="element-image__caption">Atlanta police clash with a demonstrator during a protest on 2 June in Atlanta.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: John Bazemore/AP</span>
Atlanta police clash with a demonstrator during a protest on 2 June in Atlanta. Photograph: John Bazemore/AP

“I was arrested two streets away from my apartment, it had just turned 6pm,” said the protester. She noted during the arrests, bystanders were protesting the arrests from their apartment balconies, while police were aiming rubber bullets, teargas, and pepper spray at them.

“They handcuffed us all with zip tie handcuffs and left us in a police bus for about five hours… I asked for medical assistance and they denied it to me, I was handcuffed for over five hours with a bleeding hand that eventually turned purple until I was finally released.” 

She was eventually released at 1am on 2 June, with a citation for being out past curfew. 

“The police set us up to get arrested. They shut off the streets forcing us onto Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Once we were on the bridge, the police blocked both exits in front and behind us,” said a protester in Dallas, Texas, who was arrested on 1 June and later released without charges.

She added: “They shot teargas at us and shot a protester with a rubber bullet and it injured her hand. The police made us all get on the ground, proceeded to zip tie our hands together, lined us up on the side of the highway and left us there for hours.”

<span class="element-image__caption">Protesters and police clash in Columbia, South Carolina on 31 May.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Jason Lee/AP</span>
Protesters and police clash in Columbia, South Carolina on 31 May. Photograph: Jason Lee/AP

In Cincinnati, Ohio, a resident in a neighborhood where protests were occurring on 31 May saw several protesters were at risk of being caught outside past the city’s curfew at 8pm. 

“It felt like a trap to me. I felt if I could pick some people up and take them to their cars, I could stop people from getting arrested, so I jumped in my car, drove down the street, saw a group of people hiding, they had their hands up, and they climbed into the car, and shut the doors. We tried to drive, but were stopped,” said the resident. “We were asked to leave the car, zip tied on the side of the road, loaded onto a bus, and they detained us for a few hours doing paperwork.” 

A protester in Houston, Texas, described police kettling her and other protesters before getting arrested on 31 May for obstructing a roadway. 

“We weren’t allowed to go home,” she said. “We tried our best to go home and were told ‘no, you’re not leaving.’ From then on, the cops said anyone outside their circle is going to jail and they would push us further from the sidewalk. They had us closed in.” 

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