UPDATE (June 15) -- Las Vegas police released a brief statement on Monday in response to the arrests on Saturday.
When officers issue dispersal orders, as was the case during Saturday’s protest, people who choose not clear the area are subject to being detained, cited or arrested.
Currently, the LVMPD is reviewing the actions taken by both protestors and law enforcement.
Police said more details will be released at a press conference "when we have a more complete picture."
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Local officials and political groups expressed concern and outrage — and called for action — after Las Vegas police arrested several legal observers along with protesters on June 13.
The Las Vegas National Lawyers Guild Chapter said seven of their legal observers, five of which are practicing attorneys and two who are law clerks, were arrested in the protest. Two of them remained in custody until about 1 a.m.
Per the group, legal observers are volunteer attorneys, law students and legal workers who are neutral observers in the protests. The observers note and record any improper or illegal activity.
Gov. Steve Sisolak called for any action against the legal observers to be fully investigated in a statement released on Sunday.
Legal observers provide a valuable service as part of our system of justice by informing protesters about how to lawfully express their rights and answering questions about what conduct is lawful. Any reports of police action against legal observers should be fully investigated and reviewed so a full understanding of what happened can be determined. That information should be used to develop long-term solution to avoid a similar re-occurrence in the future. - Gov. Sisolak
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford echoed the governor's statement, saying the observers play a "pivotal role in our justice system, and they reserve the right to cover what's going on in our community."
Ford said any actions against them "must be investigated so we can better understand what took place and avoid the same actions in the future."
Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones called the arrests "unacceptable" late Saturday. "If the legal observers are still in custody, release them immediately. And don’t do it again," he wrote.
Jones later tweeted he had spoken with Sheriff Joe Lombardo and reviewed video footage of the arrests.
John Piro, Deputy Public Defender, was one of the legal observers arrested.
"As a legal observer, I was not a protester but an independent and objective witness. The police snatched Belinda T. Harris and I off the sidewalk, zip tied us, and arrested us for nothing," he wrote on Twitter.
"We were observing people exercising their First Amendment rights. We were obeying the law—that didn’t matter to police. We were following officers’ orders—that didn’t matter," Piro wrote. "It was an overt display of power—a statement by the police that they can snatch you up anytime for anything, and do whatever they want to you even when you are following the law and obeying their orders. Even if you are out there to protect other people’s rights."
This is not the first time that Metro was informed legal observers would be present during the protests. This is not the first time the police have seen us observing the protests in bright red and clearly identified shirts.— John Piro (@JohnPiroNV) June 14, 2020
The ACLU of Nevada Legal Director Sherrie Royster said the organization stands in solidarity with protesters.
Here in Las Vegas, instead of de-escalating tense situations, police are shooting pepper balls indiscriminately into peaceful crowds and using chemical weapons such as tear gas to disperse protesters. On June 1, a protester was fatally shot by police and the officers weren’t wearing body cameras. These aggressive tactics are shameful and dangerously escalate these situations, putting protesters, journalists, bystanders, and the police themselves at great risk of injury and death. It is also irresponsible to use chemical irritants that affect the respiratory system and cause fits of coughing during a highly contagious and lethal pandemic.
ACLU's statement referenced recent arrests of peaceful protesters, neutral legal observers and journalists.
“They give arbitrary and random orders to disperse, allowing crowds only minutes to comply before police start to detain demonstrators," the statement from Royster said in part. “Pepper balls, gas, and arrests should not be taken lightly when used against protestors exercising their First Amendment rights. What we have seen over the past weeks is officers using these tactics as a quick way to wrap up when they decide the protests should end."
The protest against police brutality gathered on the Strip on Saturday evening.
Traffic on the Las Vegas Strip was temporarily affected as demonstrators blocked lanes of the Boulevard. Prior to that, about 150 people had gathered near the Bellagio with signage supporting Black Lives Matter, chanting and dancing.
By 8 p.m. on June 13, the protest had shrunk in size, and had moved to Russell Road near Frank Sinatra Drive. The protesters originally planned to march to the Las Vegas sign, but were moved off-Strip by police in tactical gear. The march came to an end at Frank Sinatra Drive as videos from those in the demonstration showed police using what appeared to be pepper spray on the crowd.
Several arrests were made after the order to disperse, including the legal observers; however it was unclear how many people were arrested in total.
Multiple requests for comment to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department were not returned on Sunday. More information was expected when the department's public information office opens on Monday.
This is a developing story. Check back for details.