Fort Worth Police Drop Rioting Charges Against Protesters

Tuesday, Fort Worth Police tweeted:

@chiefkraus to drop all charges for rioting that resulted from protests in . Each individual will be notified by letter that their charges have been dropped.

NPR reports Police in Fort Worth, Texas, are dropping criminal charges against dozens of people who were arrested and accused of rioting during protests against racism and police brutality. Chief Ed Kraus says the move is part of his reply to calls for police to change how they operate.

“On May 31st, Fort Worth Police arrested several dozen people for rioting during a protest,” Kraus said in a statement. “Since that time, the protests in the City have been peaceful. The protestors have expressed their anger over police misconduct and have demanded changes.”

The shift in Fort Worth is part of a national debate over how police and prosecutors should handle charges of curfew violations and rioting that in many cases were levied as police tried to curb looting and vandalism that stemmed from nearly two weeks of widespread protests. In many cities, demonstrators are calling for such charges to be dropped — adding it to a list of demands for changing police practices, or even disbanding police agencies altogether.

The cry to reform the police profession “is echoing across our nation,” Kraus said, adding that his department will improve how it works.

Online, the reaction to Kraus’ statement was mixed, with some accusing the police chief of issuing a “free pass for those that willfully and knowingly engaged in riots and the destruction” of property. But others said they were proud of the city’s stance — including people who said that aggressive police actions had escalated the situation and propelled violence.

Massive and dynamic protests against the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., have put a new spotlight on police actions in dozens of cities. And, in some cases, they have exposed law enforcement to criticisms that the use of strong-arm tactics, mass arrests and tear gas against peaceful protesters are a violation of First Amendment rights.

On Monday, city and county officials in Los Angeles cited the First Amendment and the sanctity of free speech in saying they won’t prosecute cases against thousands of protesters who were arrested for allegedly violating curfew or failing to disperse.