LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — 18 of 20 protesters have been released from police custody after being arrested during Saturday night’s protest.
Protesters marched in the streets on Saturday for the 16th straight night in Lexington, demanding an end to racism and social injustices, and calling for changes to the police department to ensure accountability and transparency.
At one point, demonstrators went inside barricades positioned in front of the Lexington Police headquarters in downtown Lexington to stage a “die-in” for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in honor of George Floyd. Police arrested demonstrators around 10 p.m. Saturday night after they refused to leave.
Many face charges of failure to disperse and all face charges of disorderly conduct.
“Let's just not forget they're charging them with failure to disperse from a public sidewalk that LPD decided to barricade,” said Jay Calhoun, one of the protest’s organizers.
The barricades were first installed two weeks ago. The barricades are in place to “protect police personnel and property” according to police.
Protest organizers Sarah Williams and April Taylor face additional charges for inciting a riot. Taylor is also charged with terroristic threatening.
“I'm really wondering myself where's the moment that you can point to that I contributed to inciting a riot, because I firmly believe that there is none,” Williams told LEX 18.
LEX 18 requested an on-camera interview with police officials to find out why protest organizers faced more serious charges compared to other demonstrators. Police declined an interview saying, “We have all had a very long night and week. No one is available for an interview today.” Instead, they provided an email statement.
“April Taylor was observed by officers moving barricades and talking other protesters into crossing past the barricade in an effort to obstruct law enforcement operations. She was also observed yelling at, shoving, and hitting another protester with her megaphone. Taylor was also observed telling officers that she was going to get a gun and kill all of them,” read the email.
Police said Williams was charged with inciting a riot “because of her actions of inciting individuals to go past the barricades for the purpose of arrest”. Williams is also charged with resisting arrest because she was “combative during her arrest.”
Williams expressed she is concerned with how the severity of some of her charges will affect her role in future protests because her court date will likely be postponed due to COVID-19.
“I do feel like they put drummed up charges knowing a court date would be delayed because they want me to fear being in the streets because if I get re-arrested then that's a problem,” she said.
Protesters led by Taylor and Williams have faced criticism in the community for their use of strong language and yelling directly at officers during demonstrations.
Williams defended herself, telling LEX 18 she does not condone violence and has not encouraged anyone to use it.
“You know the truth of it is cursing an officer out or cursing at an officer, people might not like it, but would you rather us be vandalizing the city or burning it to the ground?” said Williams. “Ultimately our end goal is not to inflict any physical violence on anyone. We have stated that from the very beginning.”
As of 7 p.m. on Sunday, April Taylor and Precious Taylor are the only protesters still in police custody.