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Protesters critical of jail conditions & police use of force

Posted at 10:55 PM, Jul 26, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Saturday night protesters in Midtown called for justice for James Scurlock and stood in solidarity with protesters in Portland, OR. The night ended with multiple people lined up along the Farnam Street bridge in handcuffs.

Mark Vondrasek was one of the protesters at the scene. He says he was trying to leave the scene of the Saturday night event when police shot him with pepper balls and tackled him before the arrest.

"The police chose to be violent, it was their decision," said Vondrasek.

He was one of the many who were arrested and thinks OPD used excessive force.

"Every single thing that they charged us with, they could have easily just had us line up and issued us tickets and let us all walk away," said Vondrasek.

He says they were planning to walk away when police intervened. In an emailed response to Saturday night's incident, OPD says they made "Announcements requesting protesters clear the streets" and that the arrests were made due to "Obstructing traffic and failure to disperse."

"They were not adequately once again announcing that to people," said Cole Christensen, another protester.

Christensen says he was shot with pepper balls before being arrested and didn't agree with the force.

"They are intentionally using these weapons in ways they are not meant to be used," said Christensen.

Many cheered as protesters were released, but complaints came about the conditions at the Douglas County Department of Corrections, where the protesters were held.

"42 people in a room that's typically for ten people we were melting in there," said Jordan Corbin, a protester arrested and held in DCC.

Corbin says there was no air conditioning in the holding cell he was in, that had too many people, he also says he heard about toilets overflowing in another holding cell where protesters were.

"We were considered like zoo animals almost," said Corbin.

Many were also concerned about how long the process to release those who were arrested was taking. We spoke with one man who came to bail out his daughter. He said that he posted bail at 3:00 pm Sunday and said it could take up to 12 hours for her to be released.

Computer issues were causing the delays to release protesters who posted bail, according to DCC.

They say they had to turn to a paper process, which took much longer.

Omaha Police expect to release more information about the arrests by Monday.