We’ve been writing about the amped-up nature of political rallies and demonstrations in the 24/680 and the Walnut Creek Police Department posted information about an incident in their city on October 23, 2020. This incident led to two bystanders being surrounded by a group while in their car and the arrest of one protestor after police fired a non-lethal foam baton round in an effort to break things up.
Police say the incident occurred at 9:37 p.m. at N. Broadway near Lincoln Avenue, with protestors in the street at that location. Officers saw an uninvolved SUV traveling northbound on N. Broadway when a portion of the protestors walked in front of the vehicle and surrounded it, police said, prompting the driver to stop in the roadway.
Two to three protesters allegedly attempted to open the front driver side door to the SUV, police reported, while others from the group yelled at the car’s occupants and kicked their car. Officers activated the lights and sirens on their patrol cars in an attempt to disperse the crowd, but to no avail.
Police said part of the group then walked towards officers while others remained around the SUV, preventing it from moving. Officers gave repeated orders to move away from the SUV over a loudspeaker; however, the protesters did not move. The officers feared for their safety and the safety of the occupants inside the SUV so one officer fired a 40mm foam baton round at one protester, who had previously attempted to open the SUV’s car door and who refused to move out of the officer’s pathway to the SUV.
The foam round struck the male protester, later identified as Michael Chapman, in the upper torso. A second 40 mm foam baton round was fired at the ground near the group that still surrounded the SUV, according to police, the round glancing off the ground and not striking anyone.
Police said the group left the area after the second foam round was fired.
Officers checked on the occupants in the SUV and learned they were not injured but were scared by the incident. No officers were injured during the confrontation.
Police said Michael Chapman was later arrested for false imprisonment and obstructing an officer. Police reportedly recognized Chapman as an agitator and counter-protester at a rally supporting Donald Trump earlier in the day. At this rally, officers witnessed Chapman exposing a ballistic vest that he had on under his jacket.
Officers transported Chapman to the Martinez Detention Facility. The investigation into this incident is still active. Detectives are working to identify the other protestors who attempted to open the SUV’s car door and who prevented its movement.
The Police Department continues to balance the First Amendment right to protest with the public safety needs of the community. When demonstrators begin to violate the law and create unsafe conditions for the public, police department personnel will continue to take appropriate enforcement action.
Chief Jay Hill commented, “The Walnut Creek Police Department is committed to ensuring individuals can exercise their First Amendment rights to protest peacefully, but we will not stand by and allow unlawful activity that puts public safety at risk.”