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Protests bring discussion on use of force

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Posted at 5:49 PM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-01 20:49:59-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The chaos in the streets has led to a show of force by police. Tear gas and plastic rounds have been used to restore order.

Dozens walked through the streets of downtown Las Vegas Saturday, frustrated, angry and upset seeking justice for George Floyd and for other victims of police brutality. What was once a peaceful protest turned ugly. Police used tear gas and plastic rounds to control the crowd.

“They were like massive Poke-ball look-alike bullets,” Devon Charters said.

He was in that crowd caught up in the chaos. Metro officers had ordered the crowd to disperse. He says that’s when the situation got out of control.

“They were shooting at all of us and we all got hit, but I was hit with a bullet in my lower back and I was smogged out with the tear gas,” Charters said.

He says he doesn’t understand, why officers would use force against them.

“If no one’s being hurt and we have a right as Americans to say how we feel.”

“It sounds like it’s a type of force in character of what we’re seeing and in character, post dispersal order.”

Adam Coughran is a former Southern California police officer. He says the use of force happens after the crowd has been ordered to leave. Officers give protesters an amount of time to leave on their own.

“Officers do have to begin clearing the streets and begin to move and so, after 5 minutes or 20 minutes depending on the situation, chemical agents will be used or gas,” he said.

Coughran says the plastic rounds deployed are used for pain compliance to get people moving.
They are supposed to be shot on the ground, and ricochet which may hit the legs or lower body.

“That’s a way to keep the impact area low so people aren’t getting shot in the upper torso or in the head where obviously there could be some grave injury that can occur,” he said.

Charters says he doesn’t feel the use of force he experienced was necessary from officers.

“I don’t think they should be very proud of themselves at the end of the day.”

The images of police lines in a standoff with protesters.

“These instances are extremely chaotic, not only for the officers, but also for those involved,” Coughran said.

He says the potentially volatile scene affects officers, physically and mentally.

“That gear, it’s heavy, especially depending on the weather it’s hot. I would tell you that officers are often dehydrated not only from the heat but also the anxiety and stress of having to be out there,” Coughran said.

He says the gear can make it difficult for officers, while they are trying to make decisions on whether a crowd is getting out of control.

“What’s going on with the crowd. Is it primarily peaceful? Are they marching or are they moving or is it dangerous for the people or for some of the property around it?” he said.

Coughran says protesters have the right to voice their anger and frustration and says it’s usually a few instigators that cause a crowd to become unruly. He says peaceful protesters should be prepared if they participate.

“When you out there and you feel things are becoming violent or you feel that the energy of the crowd is starting to turn, heed the officers warnings, take advice from the officers, in order to be able to get out safely and to protest somewhere else a different day,” he said.