Dover Post Lamar arrest teaser

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said none of the 22 protesters, who were arrested earlier this month, along with a Dover Post photojournalist, will be prosecuted, and a police investigation into any actions taken that day won't go any further.

Jennings said the decision comes after a thorough review of evidence, including videos made public.

"Neither a prosecution of these protesters, nor an investigation into the police—both of which have been demanded, with equal volume—would serve a good purpose. I may be demonized equally by those who push criminal convictions against protesters who were aggressive but non-violent, or against police who made arrests. Perhaps this is as good a sign as any that we must put June 9 behind us and find common ground."

The arrests--the first of protesters in Delaware--on June 9, 2020, followed two weeks of largely peaceful protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In Camden, dozens of protesters were permitted to walk on Route 13 and the median with a police escort, blocking traffic. Jennings said their investigation found the only "tense" moments between police and protesters were when police were attempting to allow some cars to pass through on Route 13 around the protesters.

"Otherwise, the protest to that point was similar to peaceful demonstrations that we’ve seen all over our state," she said.

At this time, no one was arrested consistent with the Delaware Department of Justice's advice to police that no one should be arrested for practicing peaceful civil disobedience and arrests should be made only when public safety is endangered.  

Jennings said, according to police reports and interviews, as protesters continued down Route 13, one would not allow a Dover police officer, in a patrol car, to pass. She said the officer's intent was to close a nearby intersection so protesters could continue their march.

"When the officer exited his vehicle and began talking with the protester, a second protester approached him and, according to police witnesses, 'began to use profanity towards [him]' prompting an order for both protesters to move so that the officer could move his vehicle."

As the second protester, who allegedly used profanity was being arrested for refusing to move, other protesters ran toward the scene, in an action caught on video.

"'Due to the overwhelming possibility of injury and violence to everyone,' the officer used his radio to call a 10-40 (officer in trouble). Police officers are trained, when they hear another officer call a “10-40” on the radio, to respond immediately to the scene and render assistance to the officer in trouble.  At that point, officers and protesters were rushing to the area of the original arrest, and several protesters were arrested," the investigative report said.

At that time, Andre Lamar, a Dover Post journalist, who DOJ said was at the protest "sometimes in his personal capacity, other times as a reporter" was also detained, despite showing his press credentials. DOJ requested Lamar was released and not charged.

Jennings noted since that incident, peaceful protests have continued in the state without incident.

"The notable exception was when two law enforcement memorials to fallen officers were defaced. As I have said, these acts are reprehensible and the perpetrators will be prosecuted."

In response to Floyd's killing, she noted police departments up and down Delaware, including Dover Police, have taken "unprecedented action" to increase transparency. Governor John Carney has also announced an executive order that would ban choke-holds by Delaware State and Capitol police, and the state legislature is taking up a number of reforms on the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus' agenda.

Jennings said she and her leadership team spent hours in meetings with the protesters in the Dover and Camden areas, the police and community advocates, before coming to the decision not to prosecute.

"We discussed the disparate role of race that pervades America—no more or less with prosecutors and police than in all corners of our society.  We heard compassion and empathy for the community. But what struck me was their overlapping message: everyone—protesters and police—wants the same things. Equal treatment under the law. A decent life for their families. A fair chance at the American Dream," she said.