Accusations of racism and police brutality at a Central Florida block party attended by 3,000 people has led a police department to deny that several arrests made were due to the race of the partygoers, according to CNN.
The event took place last weekend in DeLand, FL, about 22 miles from Daytona Beach. There were complaints from people at the party who said law enforcement’s response to the gathering was an instance of racial bias and disproportionate policing of black communities.
Although the party was promoted on social media, neither the city of DeLand nor the county of Volusia issued a permit for the block party as it started on private property, DeLand Police Chief Jason Umberger said in a news conference Monday.
In a written statement posted on the Volusia County Sheriff website, it states:
“Starting Saturday afternoon and into early Sunday, an estimated 3,000 people gathered across DeLand for a party or parties that spanned several locations. While the daytime was relatively uneventful, things started getting out of hand as day turned to night.
Volusia Sheriff’s Office deputies working alongside DeLand PD encountered several issues: A long gun pointed out of the passenger window of a passing vehicle, a loaded gun handed off from one convicted felon to another, agitated crowds of bystanders and bottles, jars, and bar stools used against law enforcement as weapons or projectiles.”
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood posted this video on Facebook along with a statement:
“Where else in Volusia County does a mob of thousands of people pack the streets? Where else are people throwing glass bottles at law enforcement and sucker-punching deputies? How are we supposed to turn a blind eye to someone pointing a gun at a crowd, or two convicted felons exchanging a loaded gun right in front of our face? Our response to last night’s events in DeLand was not about race. It’s about public safety, and I can’t believe the slant I’m reading today in The West Volusia Beacon.”
In a Twitter post earlier this week, Chitwood said, “I don’t accept the accusations that we’re racists, or that our actions Saturday were racially motivated. It’s not true, and it’s not a fair conclusion from the video.”
Because the majority of the crowd were black & the deputies/police were white, we have to face the issues.
I don’t accept the accusations that we’re racists, or that our actions Saturday were racially motivated. It’s not true, and it’s not a fair conclusion from the video.
— Mike Chitwood (@SheriffChitwood) May 18, 2020
The sheriff also released a more detailed statement on Facebook regarding the incident and denying the allegations of racism.