Dallas police and activists, thrown together to make nice during the aftermath of the July 7 killing of 5 officers, are having a very hard time balancing the right to assemble with security concerns.
Wednesday began with a couple dozen members of Dominique Alexander's Next Generation Action Network showing up for a Dallas City Council meeting. Alexander missed the open microphone session, and was removed from council chambers when he didn't take it well. He and his members then camped out near the council offices on the fifth floor of city hall, waiting for a meeting with the mayor that never happened.
What Alexander and company want, they said later at a press conference in the Flag Room, are police reforms. This means a stronger citizen review board to look at police use of force, more anti-racial profiling training for cops and an end to the current 72-hour waiting period afforded officers who've been involved in a shooting.
After the press conference two big things happened. First, Dallas Police Chief David Brown published an email exchange between himself and Alexander. Alexander wanted a private meeting with the chief, something Brown agreed to provided one condition — that Alexander stop organizing protests downtown because of the difficulties that setting creates for officers.
Alexander refused, but did say the protest would no longer include a march. About an hour before the protest was to begin, Alexander was arrested at city hall. According to DPD, he was given a criminal trespass warning and then arrested due to warrants stemming from multiple traffic tickets in Dallas and Collin Counties.
The protest went ahead without Alexander, or much fanfare. Kim Cole, an attorney associated with Next Generation Action Network, insinuated that Alexander's arrest was politically motivated. "Chief Brown was quite determined not to have this protest tonight," she said.
Alexander's arrest was based on old warrants that he'd addressed in December, Cole said, so she didn't believe it would effect his credibility within the Black Lives Matter movement in Dallas.
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Damon Crenshaw, the vice president of Alexander's group, said that they would continue to protest downtown, against Chief Brown's wishes. "We've been here before, so don't act like this is a new thing that's going on," Crenshaw said. "We protest down here because that's our right to do that."
At about 8 p.m., contrary to what Alexander told the police, the gathered protesters marched from Main Street Garden to Lew Sterrett County Jail. At the jail, they were confronted with a line of Dallas County Sheriff's deputies.
"Release him," they screamed, before Cole was allowed in to see Alexander, her client. "We want to know why Dominque Alexander is in your jail after doing his duty as a law-abiding citizen." As of Thursday morning, Alexander was still in jail, facing about $5,400 in unpaid traffic fines, according to Dallas County records.
This was the second protest since five Dallas police officers were shot and killed in downtown Dallas on July 7. The appetite to demonstrate, especially through the same canyon that Micah Johnson used to devastating effect last month, appears to be waning or at least temporarily stemmed. There were about a thousand marchers against police brutality that night, then maybe a couple hundred on July 29. Fewer people, maybe 20, showed up to Main Street Garden yesterday.