UPDATED 10:55 p.m.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — 200-300 people gathered for what started as a peaceful protest in downtown Sioux Falls Wednesday evening.
The event later turned into an unlawful gathering, Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum said in a news conference that followed the event.
While police were never officially told of the protest, Thum said the police had heard talk of the protest over the weekend but could not find a “sustainable source.”
Thum said protestors did not use social media to organize and asked people not to share about the protest online and instead use other methods to reach out to people. Word of the event was spread by email, direct message and Snapchat.
Below is an example of what was shared about the gathering:
Silent Protest on Wednesday June 29th @7pm
We are gathering at Lyon’s Park (14th and Phillips) at 7pm this Wednesday and then silently marching down Phillips Ave. Please no chanting and wear red. Can be red tshirt and jeans or the full handmaid look, whatever red you have and/or are comfortable with.
This is for all uterus or previous uterus owners and supporters.
There will not be a public social media event and is by word of mouth only. This is being done without a permit. We refuse to ask the government that just stripped us of our body autonomy to give us a permit to protest them and exercise our First Amendment. A potential detainment and disrupting the peace violation is expected but unlikely.
This will be a chant free, violent free, PEACEFUL March. If the authorities do show up and ask us to move off the middle of the street, please move silently to the sidewalks, but the street is where we are starting and plan to stay if unchallenged.
We want to join together as a sea of red and show them that after all of the years of being told we should be smaller and quieter, that our silence can be deafening.
Feel free to invite any current or previous uterus owners as long as its not by social media and you tell them the same. Signs are allowed but not needed
For basic safety reasons, remember not to wear contacts if you can, cover tattoos if possible, and comfortable running shoes
Initially, Thum said the march was a lot of families, kids and strollers and they had received some good cooperation at first.
The majority of those in attendance were there to advocate for women following the release of the Dobbs decision from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
“I’m here today to basically show my support for women in South Dakota who are now under the trigger law that South Dakota has created to not have the ability to choose the health care they need by being able to achieve an abortion if one is needed for them,” Kari Fransen said.
“Personally, I wouldn’t have an abortion, but I think every situation, every woman has to make the decision themselves and I think it’s wrong for them to go back and reverse the decision that was made several years ago,” Melaney Sohm said.
The protestors moved north from Lyon Park along Phillips Avenue. But once the group reached 9th Street and Phillips Avenue, protestors turned back. Thum said police assumed that meant protestors were heading back to Lyon Park, where the protest began.
As it moved, Thum said some people sat down in the street on Phillips. Police tried to direct protestors onto the sidewalk and out of the street as the group moved east on 14th, trying to get them back into the park. That’s when it became a stalemate, Thum said.
Some people began sitting in the street and that is what caused the dispersal notice to be read, Thum said.
Smoke was used by the police in an attempt to disperse the crowd, but no chemical agents were released, Thum said.
KELOLAND News coverage of the scene along 14th Street
Thum said there was no organization or plan for the gathering and that may have contributed to the protests escalating as there was no cooperation with police.
Thum said sometimes bad actors influence protests and escalate things.
When asked about relations between police and the public after Wednesday Thum says this: “I think you saw incredibly restrained police.”
Thum says Sioux Falls has a history of successful peaceful protests.
“We want to facilitate these events safely and peacefully,” Thum said.
Thum said a “couple arrests were made.”
Thum says unlawful assembly and other misdemeanor charges are being brought against those arrested with details on specific statues to come later.
No curfew will be in place Wednesday night Thum said besides the normal 11 p.m. curfew for minors.
Thum says more information will come at Thursday’s police briefing. You can watch that live on KELOLAND.com and KELO-TV at 10:30 a.m.