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Police: More than 75 arrested during Tuesday police protests in Santa Rosa

The local protests mirror those around the nation and the world in showing outrage sparked by the May 25 death George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died when a white police officer in Minneapolis held him face down on the street with a knee on the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him. Derek Chauvin and three other officers have been fired; Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter.

During Tuesday night’s protests, police arrested and cited more than 100 people.

Violence and property damage from Tuesday appeared to be less than what was seen previous nights, when smaller groups of protesters broke away from the larger, peaceful crowds and smashed windows and sprayed graffiti downtown.

But a few protesters threw projectiles at officers early Tuesday evening, and broke windows of at least one business and a few parked cars, police said. Police did not specify what protesters threw.

A larger group that marched from downtown through the Santa Rosa Junior College and McDonald Avenue neighborhoods made a lot of noise but was generally peaceful.

Officers from Santa Rosa and assisting agencies cited and arrested about 100 people and towed more than 20 vehicles during the protests, which began around 5 p.m. and lasted until around 11 p.m - three hours after the citywide nightly curfew in place since Monday. It is set to expire Thursday morning.

One of those arrested was a man with an unloaded shotgun who police said was trying to prove a point.

“The suspect’s intention was see what the police would do to a ‘white’ male holding a gun,” said Police Lt. Jeneane Kucker.

The suspect, Jordan Choat, 30, of Santa Rosa, was booked on a violation of the curfew and carrying a firearm in public, both misdemeanors. He was being held at the Sonoma County Jail and was scheduled to appear in Sonoma County Superior Court Thursday morning.

A few minors were cited and released to their parents, Police Chief Ray Navarro said, but most protesters who refused to leave after being ordered to do so were arrested and booked into Sonoma County Jail on misdemeanor charges.

Those arrested were held overnight at the jail, with many spending more than 10 hours in custody. Several of those released later complained about the conditions and the length of time they were held.

Demographic information about those arrested wasn’t available from police, though it appeared most of those taken into custody in the largest action were high school age or young adults. Kucker said most were from Sonoma County.

Officers also towed nearly two dozen vehicles. Two stolen vehicles were recovered during heightened traffic stops conducted downtown, Navarro said.

Police did not use chemical agents or rubber bullets on the protesters.

“Almost all arrestees were compliant once officers contacted them,” Kucker said.

Still, several protesters Wednesday complained about police force, including one incident in which a woman had her feet taken out from under her as officers tried to control her.

Navarro said he was confident his offers used the appropriate amount of force necessary, but he vowed to investigate every complaint anyone filed with his department.

His officers must hold the line on unsafe conditions in roadways, vandalism or other violence.

“People were told early on. We’ve been telling the community for days now, peaceful demonstrations are fine,” he said. “This this the second day of the curfew, they were given dispersal orders. They had every opportunity to leave the area and they didn’t. So we had to respond with the resources we had.”

By Wednesday afternoon, police and city officials were looking ahead to another potential night of demonstrations and considering whether the curfew should be extended or allowed to expire.

Santa Rosa Mayor Tom Schwedhelm said he didn’t expect any announcement about the curfew’s expiration or extension to occur until Thursday morning.

“My hope is that it expires at 5 o’clock and then we’re done with curfews in the city of Santa Rosa,” he said, adding that he believed the curfew had been an effective deterrent and an aid to local law enforcement.

Vice Mayor Victoria Fleming, who like Schwedhelm spoke with City Manager Sean McGlynn and Navarro on Wednesday morning, said she expected the curfew to expire barring a dramatic shift in local conditions.

Schwedhelm, a former police chief, said he was disappointed that so many people chose to face arrest by violating curfew Tuesday night, though he expressed optimism that the vast majority were peaceful arrests and that no tear gas or nonlethal ammunition was used. He noted that blocking roadways and streets is “inherently not a safe practice.”

Fleming said she wanted to acknowledge the “deep and justified pain in our community and beyond that goes back generations.”

While expressing sympathy to the property damage sustained by local businesses and churches, Fleming said it’s nearly impossible to compare those losses to the massive damage wrought by centuries of slavery and other racist American institutions.

“It’s like comparing a tsunami to a waterfall,” she said.

Staff Writer Will Schmitt contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

Lori A. Carter

 Sonoma County courts and Rohnert Park, The Press Democrat

Local journalism is vital to a community's wellbeing, and that means keeping an eye on what happens in our justice system and our communities. I cover Sonoma County courts, as well as the city of Rohnert Park. In my work, I want to share the stories that affect our daily lives and, yes, maybe even rile us up. 

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