Metro Louisville

Kentucky police officers have made more than 330 arrests amid ongoing protests for racial justice in Louisville, according to Louisville Metro Police Department records.

Police arrested many of the protesters on charges of unlawful assembly and curfew. Other charges include disorderly conduct, rioting, inciting a riot, fleeing, burglary, obstructing a highway and open containers.

About 49 percent of those police arrested are Black and 48 percent are white.

In total, between May 28 and July 1, police arrested 338 for people on charges related to protests in Louisville, according to a spreadsheet of arrests provided by Louisville Metro Police Department.

LMPD conducted most of the arrests, though Kentucky State Police have made a few as well. WFPL News found some inconsistencies in police data including duplicates and misspellings.

While Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has said he supports peaceful protests and the movement for racial justice, protesters say that many of the arrests have been arbitrary and involved peaceful protesters.

Abe Roque, whose name was misspelled “rogue”, was arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct in the early hours of Friday, June 19, along with 56 other people. That night police accused protesters of setting off fireworks and breaking windows.

Roque’s arrest report describes him as being part of a group of about 40 people who “failed to disperse.”

“Subject was a part of a group of approx. 40 subjects who failed to disperse and were walking on Liberty causing inconvenience annoyance and alarm to citizens of Louisville. Officers have been dealing with protesting and rioting in the city of Louisville since May 28, 2020.”

Roque, however, describes a different version of events. He said campers peacefully left the park and police chased them down the street. He said the arrests felt like entrapment because the group was “trying to disperse,” walking down the street holding up their hands saying, “hands up don’t shoot.”

“And out of nowhere all these police cars are right at the corner and we’re like, ‘you know we’re trying to disperse’ we’re doing exactly what you told us to do. What the hell?” Roque said.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Carmen Jones

Carmen Jones was arrested on June 15 on charges of unlawful assembly and second degree rioting. The police report states:

“Listed subject was told by LMPD to disperse from the area and out of the intersection at 8th street and Jefferson Street, but she continued blocking the roadway. At the time of the incident, there was about 50 people rioting in the street and (illegible) subject was one of them.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Carmen Jones shows an injury she said is from being struck by a pepper ball round prior to her arrest.

Jones said, yes, she was in the street protesting as an act of civil disobedience, but has never once engaged in acts she would consider “rioting.”

“I didn’t break anything; how am I rioting?” she said, “I’ve never broken a window, I’ve never spray painted, I’ve never been the cause of boards being put up in this city.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Carmen Jones shows an injury she said happened during her arrest.

Criminal defense attorney Ted Shouse has been in contact with about 100 people arrested amid the protests. He claims the vast majority of the arrests are peaceful protesters who are asking for justice. It appears that police may have initially arrested and charged some of the protesters haphazardly, according to Shouse.

“Particularly in those first couple of days it was a chaotic situation and it appears to me that officers were arresting who they could get their hands on,” Shouse said.

Shouse says he is now working with about 75 other attorneys who are volunteering to represent protesters.

“I believe in the underlying message that Black Lives Matter. I believe in the underlying message of police accountability in our city. This is the way that I can contribute to that effort,” Shouse said.

Whether or not an arrest is merited, getting arrested is a harrowing experience. This is the sound from a police interaction that WFPL News had on the third night of protests. It gives some idea of what it can be like to engage with riot police during a protest. Warning: This audio contains graphic language. 

Kansas City, Dallas and Salem, Ore. are among the cities where prosecutors have moved to dismiss charges against protesters including curfew violations and rioting.

The decision to dismiss charges is now in the hands of County Attorney Mike O’Connell.

In an emailed statement, O’Connell reiterated the fundamental right to peacefully protest. He said his office would review each case and decide whether to dismiss charges. Cases involving violence, weapons, property damage or issues of public safety would be viewed “in a different light,” O’Connell said.

“Peaceful protest is a fundamental right in our nation. The outcry over the effects of our country’s history of structural racism is widespread and deserved. Racial justice has been a focus of mine as County Attorney. This includes my decision last year to no longer prosecute low-level marijuana cases due to clear racial disparities in charges and when I personally argued in court for the removal of Louisville’s Confederate memorial in 2016,” O’Connell said.

Updated.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.