During the 2016 annual May Day march in Las Vegas, officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department began bullying and acting aggressively toward people participating in the march. Prior to these hostile actions by the police the march had been extremely peaceful and quite lighthearted.
The May Day march in Las Vegas is one of the most well attended and festive events held in the city. While people advocate for the rights of under-represented groups and in support of varying different issues, the march itself is more of a celebration than a protest.
Among other things, several motorcycle police began running into (at a very slow speed) and pushing anyone that stepped off the sidewalk as they were walking. They also began harassing several participants who were riding bikes on the street next to the march demanding that that they ride on the sidewalk. (Not only is riding a bike in the street the safest way to ride and completely legal, but riding on the sidewalks is in fact illegal).
Shortly after this began, the police attempted to arrest one of those bicyclists for (legally) riding her bike in the street. The thing you don’t see in the video, because it happened right before the camera was turned on, is that she had actually gotten off her bike and thrown it into the back of a truck that was accompanying the march with the intention of walking from that point on. So not only was the attempted arrest based on something that was legal to do, but it was also completely unnecessary since she had already decided to avoid any further harassment by not riding the bike anymore.
Once the police had illegally detained her, they then tried to pull her off to the side into the yard of a local business (a wedding chapel), apparently hoping that everyone would just keep going and allow them to perform their kidnapping without interference. Instead, several of us followed them to document what they were doing and ask her what they were attempting to charge her with.
In response, those officers began acting aggressive toward us as well and a female police officer, who appeared to be the original instigator, purposely threw her shoulder into me and then began to issue me a citation for some unspecified charge (presumably trespassing) in an attempt to intimidate me into leaving. As a result, the entire march also followed them and subsequently surrounded them so they could not leave, demanding and chanting that they “let her go” until they were forced to do so.
The police tried to use the fact that they had dragged her off to private property to force everyone to leave. In reality, since an illegal arrest is tantamount to a kidnapping, that amounts to a kidnapper grabbing someone and pulling them onto private property then saying, “you can’t try to stop me from kidnapping them anymore because I’m on private property.”
They also refused to state what exactly they wanted to charge her with and claiming that we could not speak to her and ask her that, using the excuse of “confidentiality” as a reason. Arrests are actually public record, so there is no confidentiality requirement and police are required to tell an arrestee the reason for which they are being arrested. In addition, a recent Nevada Supreme Court ruling banned police from charging people with obstruction for talking to a person being detained by the police, which had been a common tactic for them previously.
Reportedly, the police told one of the organizers of the march that she had said, “fuck you” when they told her not to ride her bike in the street and that was the real reason for their desire to arrest her. While I have little doubt that that is true, saying fuck you to police is not in any way illegal and has been ruled legal by the US Supreme Court.
Don’t just sit back and let innocent people be kidnapped for “contempt of cop” or other bullshit reasons. When people work together and look out for each other they can stop unlawful actions by the police. They quickly realized they weren’t going to be able to isolate one person and then drag her off to jail and instead would have to deal with hundreds of determined people.
In addition, their attempt to use private property and potential trespassing charges as a way to force people to leave her to their mercy backfired when the actual owners of that property complained about the disturbance it was causing to their business. They knew that the only way to quickly resolve the situation would to release her instead.
This was a rather typical situation in which the police unnecessarily escalated (and in fact created) a situation that they then wanted to use as a justification to make arrests in an otherwise peaceful community event. It happens all too often and for no good reason. Fortunately, this time the people stood together and did not allow it to happen.
BTW, one of the officers that was present that day has made quite a name for himself for attempting to arrest people, especially people filming him, on bogus jaywalking charges. Officer Brown was already featured in a submission on Cop Block back in 2013 for doing just that.
Additionally, almost exactly one year later in 2014, I began filming him and his partner after I saw them accelerate their police car toward and nearly run into a homeless man on Fremont Street that had taken one single step off the sidewalk when the signal was red. After the light changed, I crossed the street to get a closer view of them. Since they were blocking the crosswalk, I walked a couple feet to the side of it.
Officer Brown then detained me under the pretense that I was jaywalking because I was outside the designated crosswalk, even though I had done so to avoid walking through the area where they were holding the homeless man. Shortly after that he stated, “stop extending your arms and get your camera out of my face” in an apparent attempt to justify assaulting me.
However, several friends of mine showed up right at that time and they were also filming. You can pretty clearly see in the videos taken from a distance that I am simply holding my cell phone with my arms in a normal position (not extended) and that my camera is no where near his face.
Incidentally, Officer Brown was also one of the cops involved in Metro’s big two month chalk investigation that led to five of us being arrested on bogus graffiti charges in an attempt to intimidate us into not protesting against them and for which we are currently suing the LVMPD. Seems like everytime there is a negative incident involving Metro in Downtown Las Vegas Officer Brown is involved.
BTW (part deux), I was wearing a bloody pig face mask the entire time.
Kelly is a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, who’s been very active in local grassroots activism, as well as on a national level during his extensive travels. He’s also the founder/main contributor of Nevada Cop Block, served as editor/contributor at CopBlock.org and designed the Official Cop Block Press Passes.
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