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Crime: Residents of Phoenix neighborhood say police, not protesters, were problem on Sunday

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a tattoo on his head: Elizabeth Lemay has bruises after being arrested by Phoenix police on her property in the Garfield Neighborhood in downtown Phoenix on May 31, 2020. She was not participating in the protest. © Elizabeth Lamay's her night went from quiet to traumatic when an officer took her to the ground and ... Elizabeth Lemay has bruises after being arrested by Phoenix police on her property in the Garfield Neighborhood in downtown Phoenix on May 31, 2020. She was not participating in the protest.

Corrections & Clarifications: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported the location of the Garfield neighborhood. It is east of downtown Phoenix.

Elizabeth Lamay, 33, her boyfriend and her dogs were spending a quiet Sunday night on their porch in the Garfield neighborhood, just east of downtown Phoenix where hundreds of people had gathered for a protest denouncing police violence. 

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But her night went from quiet to traumatic when an officer took her to the ground and arrested her, claiming she violated Gov. Doug Ducey's 8 p.m. curfew — even though she was not part of the protesters and she was standing in front of her own house.

a group of people crossing a street at night: Police form a line on Ninth Street as they arrest protesters in downtown Phoenix on May 31, 2020. © Michael Chow/The Republic Police form a line on Ninth Street as they arrest protesters in downtown Phoenix on May 31, 2020.

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“I’m just so angry," Lamay told The Arizona Republic in a phone interview on Monday. “I feel silly being upset. People of color are actually dying.”

While the protest started downtown, it ended with police and protesters moving into the Garfield neighborhood. Lamay began recording with her phone.

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As they watched some of the interactions between police and protesters down the street, Lamay and other neighbors began yelling at police, telling them they should leave the neighborhood, the video shows.

At the time, they were standing on the sidewalk next to their front grass.

When the police told them they could be arrested for violating curfew, Lamay responded that she was on her property. 

An officer is heard in the video telling Lamay and her boyfriend: "You guys think you know. You think you know everything."

For Lamay, the statement was infuriating, she said, because ultimately she was released without being cited. 

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She said another officer apologized to her and other officers drove her back home after she was detained at a Phoenix police office for about four hours.

"There was no reason to treat somebody that way," she said. "We were standing there. We weren't running at them."

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Overreach or protection?

Some Garfield residents denounced the officers' actions, saying they feel that police overreached their power.

Sgt. Maggie Cox, a spokesperson for Phoenix police, said the Phoenix Police Department was trying to protect the neighborhood.

"Our priority is the safety of the community members," Cox said in a statement to The Republic. "Last night, as the protestors entered the residential area and remained after the curfew, police officers responded to disperse those crowds with the intent to protect and prevent our neighborhoods from criminal activity."

She suggested that if Lamay was concerned about how she was treated, she could contact the Professional Standards Bureau, which can conduct an internal investigation.

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The Phoenix Police Department arrested 200 adults and 10 minors "for crimes involving Curfew, Disorderly Conduct, Rioting and Unlawful Assembly.  Vehicles were also towed during last night's civil unrest."

"I have not received information about property damage or locations at this time," Cox said in a previous news release.

The protests have been inspired by the death of George Floyd, a black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer, and 28-year-old Dion Johnson, who was shot and killed by an Arizona state trooper on Memorial Day.

Police arrest protesters on Ninth and Garfield streets in downtown Phoenix on May 31, 2020. © Michael Chow/The Republic Police arrest protesters on Ninth and Garfield streets in downtown Phoenix on May 31, 2020.

After the organizers of a protest downtown told people to go home at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday because of the governor's 8 p.m. curfew, several hundred people continued to march.

As police tried to disperse the crowd, lines of officers closed off several streets in downtown, eventually herding the demonstrators into the Garfield neighborhood.

Sometime after 9 p.m., Lamay and other neighbors said, police swarmed the neighborhood "hunting" for protesters.

"I don’t think anyone was scared of the protesters. But the police that followed them in, that was getting people anxious," said Andrew Raub, 36, who has lived in the historic neighborhood for the past 10 years.

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Ernesto Lopez, 33, who was part of the protesters, said that after the curfew, demonstrators marched to Seventh and Roosevelt streets, where some officers fired off what he believed were smoke bombs or pepper spray.

Lopez said officers had already blocked streets, so instead of people standing in the cloud of smoke, they ran toward the Garfield neighborhood.

It was either go into "Garfield and hide or stay on Roosevelt and get gassed," Lopez said.

He ran into Garfield, separated himself from the crowd and found an empty lot on Sixth Street near Roosevelt where he lay on the ground and pretended to be sleeping and homeless in case police found him.

After 10 minutes, he got up and walked to his friend's house in the neighborhood and got a ride home.

Anjuli Morse, 35, who has lived in the neighborhood for a year after moving from Scottsdale, said she heard helicopters circling her neighborhood at about 9 p.m. At some point, she walked out of her house, hearing sirens.

She inhaled pepper spray, which made her cough and her eyes tear up, she said.

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At one point, she found about five people who were at the protest in front of her yard, trying to hide from police.

She gave them water and milk so they could treat themselves from the pepper spray, she said. She waited with the protesters in her front yard for about 20 minutes until the officers had cleared her block.

"Everyone was so cordial, so polite," she said. "Everyone was well-behaved except for the police."

Joanna Repucci, 36, who also lives in the neighborhood, said she was doing yard work at about 9 p.m. in her backyard when she heard popping sounds. She didn't know that it was police firing off pepper spray, she said. 

If she had known, she would have walked back inside because she has asthma.

She went to close the gate to her property and collapsed because of the smoke she inhaled, she said. She woke up to police lights and an officer handcuffing her, she said. A neighbor intervened and told the officer she lived on the property. 

"I'm glad I still have my freedom," she said.

Raub, a board member of the Garfield Neighborhood Association, started a Google document collecting neighbors' experiences.

As of Monday evening, the document was eight pages long with statements from nearly 30 people who live or were in the neighborhood.

Ultimately, he wants the police chief and the mayor to know how the police handled the situation, and that non-protesters also were affected by police officers' actions.

"It turned into anyone that is out right now is not on the police's side," he said. "That’s unfortunate because a lot of people in our neighborhood were just observing."

Uriel Garcia covers public-safety issues in Arizona. Reach him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ujohnnyg.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Residents of Phoenix neighborhood say police, not protesters, were problem on Sunday

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