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Protest at Sudley Road in Prince William County Grew Violent, Injuring Officers, Damaging Property, Said Police

| May 31, 2020 | 0 Comments | News

Scene from Sudley Road, after midnight, May 31, showing a small fire. Photo captured by VDOT live video road camera.

Prince William County police declared an unlawful assembly, May 30 at 8:11 p.m., in the area of Sudley Road and Sudley Manor Drive in Manassas (20109) in response to a protest that became unruly and violent.

According to police, the demonstration, which reportedly began around 5 p.m., started peacefully as protesters exercised their right to assemble uninhibited by police. 

The purpose of the original protest was a response to police brutality in the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police Officer on May 25. People gathered first near the Bull Run Plaza, carrying signs declaring “Black Lives Matters,” and other messages against Police violence towards civilians.

However, as the evening progressed, the crowd grew and some engaged in destructive and violent behavior.

“The crowds increased significantly and became violent as some of the protesters proceeded into Sudley Road, stopping traffic, and throwing objects at passing motorists and officers,” Prince William spokesperson Sgt. Perok said. 

“Some of the protesters were also observed standing on top of motorist’s vehicles that were stopped as a result of the obstruction and atop businesses in the area.”

As the protest transitioned to become unruly, police declared it an “unlawful assembly.” Police asked residents to avoid the area. 

Prince William County Officers, with assistance from the Virginia State Police, attempted to regain order as crowds were estimated at approximately 250 during its peak police said. As a result, Sudley Road was closed from the I-66 interchange to Sudley Manor Drive. 

“At several points during the incident, the unlawful assembly declaration was repeated, and the crowds were given the opportunity to disperse peacefully,” Perok said. 

Citizen video shows officers standing shoulder to shoulder wearing shields around 10:30 p.m., May 30 at the Sudley Road assembly.

Additional officers from the Sheriff’s Office, Manassas City Police, Fairfax County Police, and Haymarket police were also called to assist in a support capacity during the unrest. 

On May 31 at approximately 1 a.m., crowds dispersed, and order was restored in the area. 

“During the protests, multiple businesses along the Sudley Road corridor sustained damage and two small fires were reported to shrubbery and a trash receptacle,” said Perok. “Numerous police vehicles were also reportedly damaged throughout the evening.” 

Citizen photos show that some businesses along Sudley Road had their windows broken.

Four Prince William County police officers were injured during the unrest, according to Perok, “one sustaining a significant head injury requiring treatment at an area hospital.”

“In total, five arrests were made, including the driver of a vehicle charged with DUI and other offenses for driving through a police perimeter, nearly striking officers posted at the location.”

The other charges placed as a result of the disturbance included unlawful assembly and obstruction of justice. A significant number of officers assisted during the approximate five-hour unrest period following the unlawful assembly declaration.

Virginia State Police released a statement saying Troopers had used pepper spray and powder to disperse crowds after people were repeatedly told to leave. Two state troopers were injured during the unlawful assembly according to spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

The incident happened on the same night that people all over the country took to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd. Many of those protests also turned violent, and some were described as “riots.” Violent incidents occurred in Washington, D.C., Richmond and Charlottesville, Saturday night.

Businesses along Sudley Road that sustained damage. Photos courtesy of David Kinsella

The incident took place shortly after Northern Virginia entered the Governor’s Phase I of the COVID-19 transition to “Safer-at-Home.” This was the first weekend people in Prince William and the City of Manassas were able to eat outside at restaurants that had patios or received special permits for outdoor seating. Retail stores were also able to open at 50% capacity.

People said they witnessed destructive behaviors from their seats at restaurants along Sudley Road.

But as Virginia had begun to open up, people were still supposed to continue to distance themselves. The Governor said that people would have to wear masks when in public places, not gather in groups larger than 10 people and social distance six feet when possible.

Gathering, even peaceful protests, violate the 10 person gathering rule, but the Governor said last week that many of the issues would become a health department matter and not a police matter. Police did not respond to protests because it was a large gathering, but because it became violent and blocked the road.

This article contains information provided by the Prince William Police. Bristow Beat may update upon receiving more information. 

© 2020, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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