Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum said six arrests were made after abortion rights protesters participated in what he described as an "unlawful assembly" on Wednesday night in downtown Sioux Falls.
Those who were arrested could face a "violation to disperse" charge and possibly other misdemeanors, Thum said.
The arrests came following the release of smoke bombs by officers after the group was warned multiple times to leave the area. Protests started at about 7 p.m. as hundreds of people marched from Lyon Park down Phillips Avenue. At that point, police blocked traffic near 10th Street and Phillips Avenue for them to protest peacefully and without harm.
The demonstration, organized through word of mouth and social media, was against the Supreme Court of the United States deciding Friday to turn power back to the states to legislate abortion access, the first time the highest court in the land has made such a drastic move against what was once ruled and protected as a Constitutional right.
As the crowd moved downtown, some took to the ground and sat in front of Pave for about 10 minutes while chanting "Abort the Supreme Court," and "My body, my choice."
Once protesters reached 14th and Phillips and Lyon Park near downtown, the situation escalated, Thum said.
Around 8:20 p.m., police in riot helmets and holding batons were posted at intersections, and about 10 officers stood across 14th Street next to Lyon Park, Argus Leader reporters observed at the time.
Police could be heard issuing dispersal notices over loudspeaker several times. Some protesters sat in the street. Others shouted, "This is a protest, not a riot."
Minutes later, police in riot gear moved into the crowd gathered on the street, pushing them back, demanding them to move and get onto the sidewalks.
Some people watched from nearby houses as police launched smoke grenades into the crowd, scattering protesters onto the park hill overlooking the street or further back down 14th Street.
One woman standing in the El Riad Shrine parking lot shouted at protesters running from the smoke to get off their property and that they were trespassing.
Thum said no tear gas was deployed. That's when arrests were made, though Thum would not specify how many.
Officers were observed to have white plastic zip ties on their belts. At least two people who were detained were detained with zip ties.
As the smoke cleared, three protesters remained in the roadway while the crowd was separated on both sides of the sidewalk. Some officers pulled out gas masks in preparation for deploying tear gas.
Around 9:15 p.m., the crowd assembled at Lyon Park moved away toward downtown. By 10:30 p.m., crowds had moved throughout downtown and began to separate.
Thum: Lack of organization by protesters led to issues
Thum pointed at the lack or organization with the protesters as a reason the situation escalated. He said there was no clear organizer and that groups promoting the event had different messaging and a lack of a clear plan where they were going.
Often, the department works with the event organizer to help identify people on the team who can act as security or event staff, something the department has been successful at in the past, Thum said. When police get involved, it tends to escalate things, he said.
"Throughout this time as I'm watching people move through the streets, my No. 1 concern is people running them over or cars getting involved or other things," Thum said. "We have a really tough time protecting people exercising their First Amendment Rights when we don't know what their plan is."
Protesters: 'We're angry'
Lanie Chapman, 20, said she came out because, "We're angry. Yeah, we care and we want to show , especially in this state, our voice really is important right now."
Chapman, who grew up in Portland, Oregon, said it's scary being in a state where a person's right to abortion access is not protected.
Others like Romy Klessen, who was in high school when Roe v. Wade was originally ruled on in Jan. 1973, said she was impressed to see many young people out peacefully protesting.
"I think everybody knew somebody who knew somebody that had a really bad experience with abortion," she said. "You have to remember birth control was coming out at the same time. All of these young people have no idea what it was like for people."
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This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Sioux Falls protests led to a 'couple' of arrests, police say