Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl commended the regional police response team that handled the protests in Dayton Saturday, but some members of the public on Monday questioned the tactics officers used.
“(They) had to deal with long hours and engage crowds and individuals who had no interest in being law-abiding and in fact had intentions to some degree of damaging the city, talk of burning the city down, including violence against police,” Biehl said during a news conference.
The chief said some protesters decided to throw bottles and rocks at police. In response, officers launched tear gas and shot beanbags at protesters in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Social media filled with tweets and comments accusing officers of aggravating the situation. Posts also included photos of injured protesters depicted wounds caused by beanbags fired at the crowds.
Biehl said a Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy was transported for an injury and several other officers were hurt but were able to complete their duties.
“This was not the way to (protest) and we can’t accept that because it puts too many people at risk and the enforcement action was necessary and appropriate,” he said.
Tiffany Guithues came downtown to take part in a vigil, she told the Dayton Daily News. She said she showed up at the Federal Courthouse at 4 p.m. with candles in her backpack, but the group felt police didn’t want them in the area, so a march around the city ensued.
“We walked around peacefully for a while, the cops were routing us, using cruisers to block off streets, which was fine,” Guithues said.
She said the first confrontation with police took place on North Main Street when officers threw a gas canister and, in response, two water bottles were thrown at police by protesters.
“But we were self-policing, fellow protesters shut it down immediately,” she said.
The protesters continued and ultimately led to a showdown with police on South Keowee Street near U.S. 35, where Biehl said the response team was not going to allow the group onto the highway.
Guithues said it was unclear at the time if the group planned on going onto the highway and said the group tried to switch lanes away from the highway but both lanes were blocked by police.
“We were not running, we were all walking. We continued to approach the riot line of cops, and not within 50 feet, they started firing tear gas. They did not say a word to us, they did not give us any warning before they started firing tear gas,” she said.
Video of the altercation shows protesters kick and throw the canisters back at the police, which Guithues said didn’t land near officers but were away from the protesters. She then said police began firing beanbags, striking her in the arm and her husband in the chest.
Biehl, during the news conference, said it happened this way: The group had become aggressive and launched bottles and rocks at police. He said the response team had to draw the line at the highway.
Biehl declined to comment when asked if the department is considering different tactics moving forward. He said he hopes future protests will be peaceful.
“The vast majority of members of this community are law-abiding, including those who were at the protest and did so in a lawful manner,” Biehl said. “That needs to be the conduct moving forward.”
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