Contact: SAPD PIO - 210.207.7579
Release No: 20-031
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus issued the following statement regarding several nights of protests downtown, the rules of engagement if peaceful protests turn violent and the protection of demonstrators and the media during crowd dispersal tactics:
“The original protest that began yesterday afternoon and was non-violent, peaceful and successful in allowing protestors to convey their messages. Approximately 500 protestors marched through downtown from the Bexar County Courthouse to Public Safety Headquarters. The protestors then attempted to stop traffic on Interstate 37. We were successful in deterring the protestors from doing that. The group then marched back through downtown. Officers used traffic control measures to ensure the safety of protestors as they marched through the streets. Into the evening, the crowd began to shrink, and by night time, there were 150-200 protestors downtown who ultimately arrived at Alamo Plaza, which was closed to the public as a precaution to prevent disturbances and protect sensitive structures.
Similar to Saturday, when darkness fell, there were clearly individuals within the crowd intent on inciting violence and causing property damage. They spray painted numerous buildings, and at least six buildings had damaged windows.
The situation became volatile when bottles were thrown at police and laser pointers were directed at the eyes of the officers. As you know, several officers were injured by thrown objects on Saturday night.
At that point, officers deployed non-lethal crowd dispersal tactics and were successful in breaking up the crowd. There were no injuries reported and eight individuals were arrested. SAPD’s primary objectives – to allow peaceful demonstration, maintain order, and to prevent anyone from getting hurt – were achieved.
In a situation like what occurred Saturday night and last night, SAPD is committed to protect the constitutional rights of people and groups to conduct peaceful and lawful demonstrations. We are also committed to maintain the safety of our community. If the demonstration escalates to a point where the safety and well-being of our community are threatened, then SAPD will respond in measure to protect and maintain safety and civil order.
As soon as projectiles are thrown, we begin measures to disperse crowds. Typically, police will issue several warnings, but very fluid situations do not always allow for that. Police will use tear gas, pepper balls and rubber and wood projectiles. These are less than lethal options that are designed to help disperse a crowd. The projectiles are necessary because instigators will often wear gas masks to protect themselves from the tear gas.
It is my understanding that two local journalists were hit during the crowd dispersal. Although this was unfortunate, this was certainly not the police department’s intent. During crowd dispersal action officers cannot readily distinguish between peaceful protestors, media and agitators once the situation has reached the boiling point.
We have offered to media, and we will offer again now, to allow journalists to stand behind the line of officers for their own safety, effectively, a safe zone to allow you to do your jobs. Reporters who remain in the crowd are asked to exercise situational awareness and to leave an area that has become too volatile.
Finally, we need your help identifying the instigators. If you see someone engaging in criminal activity, like throwing something or breaking a window, point the individual out to the officers on the scene. Our job, again, is to protect the public – the protestors, the media and the officers – and we need your help to do that.”