SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Police are trained to deal with all sorts of situations, but crowd control can be complicated and unpredictable. Sioux Falls police followed certain protocols with the primary goal of keeping people safe during last night’s protest against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Last night’s protest downtown wasn’t organized. There wasn’t anyone in charge. In fact, police Chief Jon Thum says it appears the protest might have been two separate gatherings that merged into one.
Thum says dealing with a crowd with no clear leadership is doable but complicated. At first, he says they tried to guide the crowd and stop traffic to keep them safe. All along police were hoping to keep the group away from traffic, out of the street, and on the sidewalk. But at one point police decided to take the next step, a dispersal order.

“It’s one of the necessary elements of a lawful order is that dispersal order is provided, so we were reading that dispersal order throughout because we want to give due notice we even brought in better megaphones so it was louder,” said Thum.

For about the first hour the officers on scene were in their patrol uniforms, it wasn’t until later that officers in riot gear were introduced. Thum says that was his decision because of the tone of the crowd and because protestors were sitting in the middle of the streets.

“We needed to present a new look on what was happening and that’s when the escalation, the mobile field force cops come out, and that immediately created a different response for people went back the other direction,” said Thum.

Thum says the crowd was just meandering and their goal was to get them to go back to the safety of Lyon Park.

“Escalate but restrain because this was declared an unlawful assembly not a riot. Chemical agents were not used, it’s not a cookie-cutter response each was had to be judged as it unfolds,” said Thum.

The smoke, a few arrests and a healthy police presence finally had the intended impact. The crowd began to break up around 10:30. Chief Thum says when the event started protestors and police were communicating but as events unfolded others joined in and the group and became more agitated.