Police issue dispersal order amid heated abortion rights protest in Sioux Falls
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) UPDATE - Tensions rose between protesters and police in downtown Sioux Falls Wednesday after an abortion rights protest became heated.
The protest, which authorities are calling an “unlawful assembly,” escalated into police deploying smoke into the crowd after they began to block traffic.
A group of several hundred began protesting around 7 p.m. at Lyons Park in downtown Sioux Falls. Protesters at the scene told Dakota News Now they were protesting for women’s health rights and abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Police Chief Jon Thum said the protest did not receive a permit from the city ahead of time, but once police saw how large the crowd was, officers began clearing traffic as the group made its way down Philips Avenue.
The crowd grew in number during the march. Thum gave an estimated peak number of around 300 people.
Protesters eventually made their way to 14th Street on the southern edge of downtown Sioux Falls. A portion of the group sat down on the street, blocking traffic. Demonstrators were seen chanting and yelling at officers, some growing aggressive. Officers were wearing riot gear, including gas masks and batons.
Shortly before 9 p.m., police issued a dispersal order. Officers fired what Thum later confirmed was smoke into the crowd. Police never used chemical agents like tear gas in Wednesday night’s incident, according to police.
“I think what you saw tonight was incredibly restrained policing,” Thum said.
The crowd eventually dispersed, with only a few dozen protesters remaining in the downtown area around 10 p.m.
Police made several arrests, according to Thum, but did not have a specific number Wednesday night.
Thum expressed frustration over the confusion and lack of organization of protesters, saying police were aware of a number of rumors about the extent of the protest circling on social media.
“We have a really tough time protecting people expressing their First Amendment Rights when we don’t know what their plan is,” Thum said.
Watch a full briefing on the event from Sioux Falls police below
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Portions of downtown Sioux Falls were closed down Wednesday night as a large group of protesters took to the streets.
Many taking part in the demonstration tell Dakota News Now they were protesting for women’s health rights and abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Sioux Falls Police officers were seen managing traffic downtown as the crowd spilled into the streets of Philips Avenue and 14th Street.
Stay with Dakota News Now for updates on this developing story.
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