DALLAS (AP) — A small group of demonstrators took to the streets in downtown Dallas on Wednesday night to protest police use of force against black people, despite the police chief’s request that they stay away out of concern for officers’ safety.
Police Chief David Brown told the organizer of the demonstration that holding such events downtown poses a tactical threat to officers. The group behind Wednesday’s protest was the same one that planned the July 7 protest and march that ended in the sniper shooting deaths of five law enforcement officers.
Brown posted an email exchange with organizer Dominique Alexander, founder of the Next Generation Action Network, to a police blog Wednesday a few hours before the protest was set to begin.
“What’s more important than our officers (sic) safety… cancel it and don’t schedule anymore in the downtown area… I insist,” Brown wrote in an email that included the ellipses.
Just before the protest was set to begin, Alexander was arrested outside City Hall.
A police spokeswoman said Alexander was issued a criminal trespass warning and arrested on unrelated outstanding warrants for failure to appear. The outstanding warrants against Alexander involve about $5,000 in tollway tickets from adjoining Collin County, said Damon Crenshaw, the network’s vice president. Kim Cole, an attorney for Alexander and his group, said she and Alexander believed the warrants were resolved a year ago.
By 6:30 p.m., about 25 demonstrators had gathered at a park.
The group then marched along Main Street toward the jail, gaining numbers as they went. Upon arriving, they encountered about a dozen Dallas County sheriff’s deputies standing in a shoulder-to-shoulder line to keep demonstrators away from the jail.
As the group dwindled, Cole emerged from the jail to say Alexander was safe and in good spirits.
“He’s very, very proud of you all for keeping up the fight,” Cole told the group.
She also said the group would continue to hold demonstrations in downtown Dallas, regardless of the police department appeals.
Brown spoke to the City Council on Tuesday about the ongoing investigation into the July attack that left four Dallas police officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer dead as well as several other officers and civilians wounded. Shooter Micah Johnson was also killed.
The chief told the council he is increasingly worried for officer safety with downtown protests. He said officers would continue to staff the protests and rallies but would crack down on protesters who blocked traffic or attempted to shut down freeways.
The Next Generation Action Network, a Dallas-based civil rights group, held a protest march on July 29 that attracted several dozen protesters compared with nearly 1,000 at the July 7 event. The July 29 march did not include a police escort, and officers armed with rifles in riot gear ordered protesters off the streets to the sidewalks
Alexander, an ordained Baptist preacher and a convicted felon whose uncle died in a police-involved shooting, has asked the City Council to meet to discuss violence toward African-Americans. Alexander and a handful of protesters went to City Hall for a Wednesday council meeting to make several requests, including asking the city to form an independent review board to investigate police shootings.
Associated Press writer Emily Schmall in Dallas contributed.