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Seven arrested after gathering outside OPOA property

Posted at 12:19 PM, May 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 15:55:57-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) —

Seven people were arrested on Saturday night following a protest outside the Omaha Police Officers Association. Activists gathered there to address issues they had, including a flyer put out during the recent city elections many considered racist.

Police said around 40 to 50 people entered the parking lot of the Omaha Police Officers Association on Cryer Avenue just before 9 p.m. and left three severed pig heads wearing costume police hats.

According to police, members of the crowd spoke through megaphones for about 20 minutes.

"A police commander on scene then used a PA to advise that the property was private and that the crowd was trespassing. Multiple announcements urging the crowd to disperse were made over a 10 minute period," police said in a release on Sunday morning.

Police said they declared the gathering an unlawful assembly at 9:10 p.m.

"Numerous additional announcements were made, yet the crowd refused to disperse," police said. "As officers moved to begin making arrests the crowd fled into the street to the west."

The seven people arrested face various charges, including trespassing, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, obstructing law enforcement, littering and unlawful assembly.

Local activist Bear Alexander was one of the people arrested Saturday night.

"[The police were] invoking fear, invoking intimidation, showing a sign of power, showing a sign of strength," he said. "That’s one thing about a protest, they must be provocative and if they’re not provocative then nobody is going to give attention, no one's going to hear this."

Alexander said one thing the group took issue with was a mailer that was sent out by the Omaha Police Officers Association. The mailer was sent out ahead of city elections earlier this month. The ad stated “In Cammy Watkins' Omaha, no one is safe,” with a fiery riot in the background.

Watkins, who is Black, ended up falling short in a bid for a city council seat.

"We were there because we were explaining our exasperation with the Omaha Police Officers Association and how hard they perpetuate racism and sexism and then these racial provocations that causes division within our communities," Alexander said. "For decades they’ve been doing this and the public has had two options or they’ve only given themselves two options. The first option is to regurgitate it and the second option is to try to ignore it. Black and brown people, we don’t have the luxury to ignore it. The people who do ignore it are the white people, the affluent, the apathetic people in West Omaha so now is the time to seize this and put people on notice. Cammy Watkins, this is the straw that broke the conspicuous camels back."

Police said the crowd had originally been assembled at Montclair Park at 135th and Montclair Drive for an event advertised as a "Pig Roast."

Anthony Conner, the president of the Omaha Police Officers Association, issued a statement condemning the gathering.

“This act is among the worst examples of the radical violence and vitriol now directed at the law enforcement community. The vast majority of Omahans support our police and reject [these acts] of ignorant hatred. We call on our civic and political leaders to immediately condemn these acts," Conner said.

Rep. Don Bacon also released remarks on Sunday denouncing the gathering.

"Whether Republican or Democrat, all officials should condemn the attacks on Tony Conner and on our police that seek to dehumanize those who protect us every day in our community," said Bacon. "We are seeing a record number of police being murdered on our streets, and we should be clear where we stand. Those who show beheaded pigs wearing police hats deserve our condemnation."

The Omaha Young Republicans issued comments in the wake of Saturday's events as well:

The Omaha Young Republicans unequivocally condemn the disgusting display by radical leftist activists at the Omaha Police Officer's Association building on Saturday evening. The appalling scene of severed pig heads covered with police hats is sickening. This display from an organization that includes current and former staff of Kara Eastman and other prominent Omaha Democrats is the latest in the series of radical "defund the police" stunts that seek to make Omaha less safe. We will always support our law enforcement officers and fight to protect our communities.

On Monday, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert issued a statement in response to the protest:

"The citizens of Omaha are fed up with hateful and divisive acts.

Less than a week ago, the Omaha City Council and I unanimously supported a resolution to condemn hateful speech and bias-motivated actions.

The disgusting incident at the Omaha Police Officers Association headquarters Saturday night was intended to provoke conflict. The responding officers acted professionally and responsibly after repeated attempts to peacefully clear private property.

I am confident that our citizens share my support for the Omaha Police Department."

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