A clip of the arrest was posted on the organization’s Twitter account in which two unmarked vehicles can be seen stopping a minivan outside of a gas station. An officer is depicted smashing a window with a baton to unlock doors, several others draw their guns and order passengers to get out.
Riot Kitchen HQ just learned that our bus crew was arrested in broad daylight in #Kenosha today – kidnapped by feds in unmarked vans.
We are currently trying to find our friends who were just there to feed people.
Please share and donate for bail via Venmo riotkitchen206 pic.twitter.com/o2TDbohvFl
— riotkitchen206 (@riotkitchen206) August 27, 2020
The group of volunteers was allegedly on their way to Washington D.C., to attend a march, but changed their plans following the Blake shooting, The Seattle Times reported. Scheurle said the group intended to feed protesters and stopped at a gas station to get fuel for their generators that are used for cooking, camping, and food production.
In a statement to Eater Seattle on Aug. 27, a day following the arrest, Riot Kitchen said:
“Riot Kitchen has been busy trying to free our volunteer crew members in Kenosha, Wisconsin after a violent arrest at a gas station where our people refueled vehicles and got gas for our generator. We reject all claims that our crew was there to incite violence or build explosives — our nonprofit organization has always been and will always be about feeding people. Our crew was arrested by officers who did not identify themselves with drawn guns. Our volunteers were thrown into holding cells and kept for hours without water or blankets and denied phone calls to their loved ones. Right now, we are focused on getting everyone out safe.”
But while Scheurle expressed the humanity the group intended to demonstrate, the Kenosha Police Department claimed officers acted on a tip of “suspicious vehicles with out-of-state plates.” According to a statement issued on the department’s Twitter account, officers assumed the volunteers were “preparing for criminal activity related to the civil unrest” after they saw them fueling their fuel cans. According to the department, officers allegedly found helmets, gas masks, protective vests, illegal fireworks, and “suspected controlled substances” in three vehicles. Kenosha police even defended their forced entry by claiming the decision was made after a minivan driver “attempted to drive away.”
According to NBC News, Police Chief Daniel Miskinis only generally spoke of the incident emphasizing the out-state-license plates that caused suspicion and the masks, he called “shields” found in the vehicles. “Protective gear found in the bus is just that—protection for working in large crowds, masks for COVID protection,” Riot Kitchen said in a statement.
Scheurle noted that the minivan driver in question was not trying to flee but was exiting the gas station at the time police arrived. She added that while she doubted illegal substances were found, “residual” marijuana could be present because it is legal in the nonprofits base state of Washington. Officers also mentioned a fireworks allegation that Scheurle told NBC News she was surprised to hear, saying, “We’ve never had fireworks anywhere.”
Riot Kitchen was founded following the brutal police killing of George Floyd, an incident which sparked worldwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Protests in Kenosha have been occurring for over a week after the disturbing shooting of 29-year-old Blake.
“While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times,” Wisconsin AG Kaul says of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. “Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back. No other officer fired their weapon.” pic.twitter.com/KJuEFlZpfH
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 26, 2020
Civil Rights organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are calling for the officers involved in the incident to resign in addition to investigations into police response towards protesters.
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