When Some Protesters Attempted to Take a Man Being Arrested for Vandalism From Police, Pepper Balls Were Deployed
After Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson and Humboldt County Sheriff Billy Honsal joined those protesting the death of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officers in a chant of “No justice, No peace,” most of those assembled marched to the Humboldt County Courthouse and left the area by 8 p.m.
However, a core of protesters remained. About 10:30 p.m., Eureka Police fired pepper balls to break up an incident. Police Chief Watson told us by email that they were intervening to recover a man being arrested after some protesters attempted to take him from their custody.
According to Watson who wasn’t there at the time of the incident but arrived soon after, the core of protesters marched to Target. He provided us details to the best of his knowledge at the time.“Officers had to intervene to prevent worse vandalism but at least one individual vandalized the store,” he told us. “As the group began walking back west, certain individuals started leaving a trail of criminal destruction behind including graffiti and a broken window at Sizzler at least.” Watson told us, “I feel it is important to note that while there were a few in the group of 50 or so that were clearly seeking confrontations and committing crimes, others were trying to stop them and keep it peaceful. I have much respect and appreciation for them. For example, some in the front of the group were tipping over trash cans as they walked down the street. Others at the rear were picking up the cans and trash to make things right.”
Officers were able to identify which protester had done the vandalism at Target, he said. “We could not allow that to continue so officers were tasked with arresting the vandal we’d identified. As they did so, they were suddenly mobbed by numerous [protesters that]…tried to physically pull him away from the officers. It was a very tense, chaotic, and rapidly evolving situation.”
Watson told us, “Pepper balls fired from an air gun were used to successfully stop [the incident] with likely much less force than batons, Tasers etc…Many (but not all) of these balls were fired into the ground to disperse their contents which are an irritant to the eyes and respiratory system.”
He added in a later email, “At least two officers were also struck by the projectiles during those intense moments of chaos but are fine.”
[Video from Nazy Javid of North Coast News]
Watson said, “Captain Stephens and I addressed the crowd to explain the officers and deputies actions and answer questions. They eventually calmed down and several told me they felt the officers had no choice.”Watson recorded a conversation last night with several of the protesters who appear to corroborate his account.
Watson explained that he believes that a few of the protesters were trying to cause an outbreak of violence. He told us in an email, “We had intel that the anarchists had planted individuals who were tasked with trying to incite violence and confrontations with the police….I’m very proud of those [protesters] who fought for peace.”
According to booking records, at 10:35 p.m., a Brent Alan Clark was arrested by EPD for vandalism. We have not been able to confirm this arrest was the one that precipitated events but there is no other in the time period that fits the situation.
Earlier articles on yesterday’s protest:
- Police and Some Protesters Gearing Up for Possible Clashes at Tonight’s Protest in Eureka Even as Speaker Calls for Calm
- Protest Heating Up as Night Grows Darker