According to CNN, a 3,000-person block party was broken up over the weekend by Florida deputies. The event that started on Saturday afternoon and went into the early-morning hours on Sunday led to at least seven arrests, and claims from partygoers that law enforcement was acting with racial bias. Volusia County officials have denied the claims.
Attendees who spoke to local news outlets say law enforcement’s presence at the event thrown in honor of a man who was murdered in 2008 is an example of overpolicing in Black communities. But the local sheriff’s office says the participants of the block party that was advertised on social media were in violation of the governor’s large crowd ban and did not retain a permit to host the event. Though they allowed activities to go on as scheduled during the day, police say the event started to lose control by Saturday night.
*WARNING: Strong language and intense footage*Starting Saturday afternoon and into early Sunday, an estimated 3,000 people gathered across DeLand for a party or parties that spanned several locations. While the daytime was relatively uneventful, things started getting out of hand as day turned to night. Volusia Sheriff’s Office deputies working alongside DeLand PD encountered several issues: A long gun pointed out of the passenger window of a passing vehicle, a loaded gun handed off from one convicted felon to another, agitated crowds of bystanders and bottles, jars and bar stools used against law enforcement as weapons or projectiles. Many in the crowd recorded video of their perspective of events. Today, in a story headlined "Police, citizens clash after peaceful DeLand memorial block party," The West Volusia Beacon published quotes from some members of the crowd:“This is what they do to black people,” one party participant said. “Have a block party Downtown and see what happens. … It’s not fair; it’s not fair.”“Can we enjoy ourselves? No,” one woman said, adding, “We are human too — black lives matter. Every life matters.”She asked, “Why do they try to take our humanity? Our pride? It’s not fair to us — we’re all human. We all bleed the same blood. When he us, he made y’all.”***Sheriff Mike Chitwood responded today by releasing video footage of the events and defending the deputies and police officers who were surrounded by agitated crowds and hit by glass bottles and other objects.Around 10:30 p.m., a passenger in a vehicle pointed a rifle or shotgun out of an open window, in the direction of a deputy and pedestrians gathered at a gas station at Beresford and Spring Garden avenues. The vehicle continued northbound on Spring Garden at a high rate of speed. Deputies and police searched for the vehicle with negative results.As crowds grew in multiple locations, impeding traffic flow and causing safety hazards, deputies and DeLand police officers began ordering vehicles out of certain areas. As crowds dissipated in one location, new problem areas would arise.One of those areas was the 1200 block of South Delaware Avenue, where a crowd of about 1,500 pedestrians and vehicles formed on the street. Shortly after midnight, deputies were walking southbound on Delaware and observed two men (Alphonso Parker and Charles Turner) exchanging a firearm. A deputy approached giving commands to drop the gun, and Turner ran away. The deputy ran after him; Turner threw the gun and kept running, but he was taken to the ground nearby. Deputies recovered the firearm (Ruger 9mm, 15 rounds with one round in the chamber and the hammer cocked). Several other deputies responded to help secure Turner, who was resisting. He was charged with two counts of possession of a weapon/ammunition by a convicted felon, tampering with evidence, inciting a riot and resisting an officer without violence. Turner, who was already out on bond on other charges, has a criminal history that includes 25 felony charges with 5 convictions and 28 misdemeanor charges with 13 convictions. Parker was arrested on many of the same charges as Turner, with the exception of tampering with evidence. He was also charged with possession of a concealed firearm.After securing Turner and Parker, two deputies were hit with a cup of alcohol. While the person who threw it was being taken into custody, one of the deputies was sucker punched by another male subject who immediately fled the area. Another deputy and DeLand PD officer were hit with a bar stool and mason jar by other members of the crowd who immediately fled. Glass bottles were also being thrown at patrol vehicles in the street while arrests were being made.One deputy sustained a minor knee injury and a DeLand PD officer had a minor head injury when he was hit with the jar.The behavior that occurred here overnight was dangerous, senseless, unacceptable and an embarrassment to our community.None of it will deter law enforcement from coming back when we’re needed.***UPDATE: We learned this afternoon (Sunday) that an Orlando man who attended the block party in DeLand was admitted to a hospital in Altamonte Springs with a gunshot wound to the foot.The victim, 34, told Altamonte Springs police he “was drinking with friends and pretty inebriated when someone started shooting,” according to an incident report. “He was unsure of the exact location of the shooting. He started running with everyone else when he felt pain in his foot. He left the area with friends and went back towards Orlando. He got home and put peroxide on his foot, wrapped it up and went to bed. When he woke up he went to AdventHealth Altamonte Springs Hospital for treatment.”The victim said he would not cooperate with an investigation and didn’t want to pursue charges.
Posted by Volusia Sheriff's Office on Sunday, May 17, 2020
At a press conference, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood alleged that pedestrians were blocking roads, people were inciting a riot and bottles and chairs were being thrown at law enforcement. Another officer added that a deputy had a rifle pointed at him, which led to them breaking up the block party. Two men were arrested for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, tampering with evidence, inciting a riot and resisting arrest without violence.
Partygoers saw the events leading up to the dismissal of the block party differently, telling the West Volusia Beacon that there wasn’t trouble until officers attempted to break up the gathering. “Can we enjoy ourselves? No,” one woman told the Beacon, adding, “We are human too—Black lives matter. Every life matters.”
In a statement shared with NBC News, Chitwood said, “Because the majority of those in the crowd were Black and the deputies and police were White, we are now having…hard conversations about race, racism and inequality.” He added, “I don’t accept the accusations that our deputies and police are racists or that their actions Saturday were racially motivated. It’s not true, and it’s not a fair conclusion from the video.”