A peaceful protest escalated into civil unrest Saturday evening, ending in multiple arrests and a Virginia State Delegate in a standoff with police.
Virginia Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas, Bristow) announced on Twitter tonight that he was sprayed with CS gas (tear gas) by a Virginia State Police officer at a protest on Sudley Road. Carter also alleged that police tried to hit him with a flashbang as he walked away from them.
“Virginia State Police sprayed CS directly into my left eye after refusing to answer basic questions for 45min…. They tried to flashbang me again while I was walking away. Twice. They missed. I saved the hand thrown container,” tweeted Delegate Carter.
They tried to flashbang me again while I was walking away. Twice. One hand thrown, one weapon launched. They missed. I saved the hand thrown canister. https://t.co/Jg4NmOlKLc
— Lee ? Carter (@carterforva) May 31, 2020
Police used CS gas on Carter after Facebook Live video showed the delegate in a faceoff with police in riot gear while standing on the corner of Sudley Road and Sudley Manor Drive, the site of the protest near Manassas.
Virignia State Police told Potomac Local News, “in an effort to safely disperse the violent crowd, state police has utilized non-lethal tactics, such as OC ‘pepper’ spray and powder.”
Prince William police, the first agency on the scene, did not use so-called non-lethal tactics, department spokesman Jonathan Perok told Potomac Local News.
Protestors who spoke with, as well as videos and photos obtained by Potomac Local News, show that rubber bullets and tear gas were fired at what was estimated to be 100-300 protestors, many of whom are young adults and teenagers. It’s unclear who fired the rubber bullets.
“…so it all started when I raised my hands up peacefully and proceeded to walk closer to the officers I got down on one knee and repeatedly said ‘I am unarmed,’ and I heard two shots fired by someone else getting hit with one and one skimming off the side of my fingers which I bled from,” Fizan Ali, a George Mason University Student told Potomac Local News, describing what it was like being hit with a rubber bullet.
Tear gas was also used on the crowd.
“Since I was in front of the crowd, I inhaled some of it [tear gas] and ended up running because it was too much to handle. I started coughing and I have to rub my eyes as well. Fortunately, I wasn’t hit by a rubber bullet, but it landed near me,” said Emily Jasmine Reyes, a protestor and Stonewall Jackson High School student.
“I didn’t get a full dose of it [tear gas], but enough to breathe in. It burned all the way down to my lungs, even as I walked further back. Plenty of people around me were choking and gagging,” said Amber, who asked we only use her first name for this story.
The protest began peacefully with little to no police present, but the atmosphere changed at 8:10 p.m. when an unidentified individual threw an unknown object at a driver.
Police, who were staged at nearby Bull Run Library, issued a Signal 1, prompting officers to swarm the intersection of Sudley Manor and Sudley Road to put down what the Prince William County Police Department called civil unrest.
Hours into the incident, protesters continued to hurl rocks and bottles at police from the parking of a nearby Red Lobster restaurant. Prince William police brought Mulitple paddy wagons from its Eastern District (Garfield) Police Station on Route 1 in Woodbridge to the site of the protest, where several protesters were rounded up at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College and were arrested.
It’s unclear how many people were arrested during Saturday evening’s protest.
In the early phase of the civil unrest, police closed portions of Sudley Road, between Sudley Manor Drive and Interstate 66. Virginia State Police were called to shut down the highway interchange to prevent drivers from exiting toward Manassas.
Manassas City police also assisted in controlling the crowd.
Cities across the nation erupted in protest Saturday night in the wake of the death of George Floyd, 46, who was killed on May 25, 2020. Video shows a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, placing his knee on Floyd’s holding him down on the ground during an arrest attempt.
Video captured by onlookers captured Floyd saying “I can’t breathe,” and “please don’t kill me” in the final moments of his life.
Four officers, including Chauvin, were fired from the Minneapolis police force. None have been convicted in Floyd’s death. An FBI investigation is ongoing.
Saturday night’s nationwide protests, unofficially and effectively, marked an end to strict social distancing measures that were voluntarily and widely observed by U.S. citizens after President Donald Trump shut down the country 79 days ago at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.