Delaware State Police and Dover Police have released additional details about what led to nearly two dozen people being taken into custody Tuesday, including a local photojournalist.
According to Delaware State Police, a group of about 40 people were protesting in Dover, then made their way onto Route 13 near Wawa on East Street. Members of the group entered into lanes of travel and started to act aggressively toward motorists and blocked traffic.
Police say the protesters were told several times that their activity was not lawful and directed them to move onto the shoulder. Some of the protesters refused to allow a Dover Police officer to proceed in his marked patrol car. He got out of the vehicle.
State Police said the group remained unlawfully congregated in the roadway and refused to leave. They were offered “alternative protest options that did not entail violations of the Delaware Disorderly Conduct law.”
20 of the 22 people who were taken into custody were arrested. Two were released with no charges. Four of them are charged with resisting arrest and three are charged with hindering prosecution, prevent or obstruct by force.
As a condition of bail, the defendant “will not interfere with public egress or ingress or shutdown public right-of-ways or block roadways when physically protesting unless legally permitted.”
In a statement also released Wednesday, Dover Police indicated that group members canceled a scheduled meeting with Police Chief Thomas Johnson to hold a “meaningful and productive conversation with police about police and criminal justice reforms and discuss any of the group’s objectives and goals.”
Dover Police say protesters – both armed and unarmed – have begun to encroach onto private property throughout the week and have jumped into lanes of Route 13 traffic, leading to several close calls and/or chain reaction crashes. “The dialog has become more hostile in recent days and the message was made clear by protesters that further steps needed to be taken to make people ‘uncomfortable,'” the Dover Police statement continued.
One person who was later identified as a photojournalist with The Dover Post was detained during the arrest process Tuesday. Police released drone footage which seems to show him putting on a media credential lanyard, then going through a backpack. A Dover officer engaged with him not realizing that he is a journalist and not aware of what was in the backpack. According to Dover Police, the officer thought this to be a “public and officer safety concern in that moment.”
The reporter was using a cell phone to record the events, as were some other demonstrators. After he was taken to State Police Troop 3, he was released without charges.