No discipline for union president, LMPD chief says after protest blocks street

No discipline for union president, LMPD chief says after protest blocks street
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad (Source: WAVE 3 News)
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad (Source: WAVE 3 News)
River City Fraternal Order of Police President Dave Mutchler (Source: WAVE 3 News)
River City Fraternal Order of Police President Dave Mutchler (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After Louisville Metro Police locked the doors to their headquarters Monday afternoon, several dozen protesters shut off a downtown street to demand that the police union's president be fired.

Police Chief Steve Conrad said he made the decision to lock the doors out of safety to the Metro Police employees, including civilians, who work inside. Protesters them moved onto West Jefferson Street and blocked traffic for about 30 minutes.

"We had received information that the protesters planned to come into the headquarters building and occupy the building," Conrad said in an interview. "We had additional intelligence that indicated that there was at least the potential for violence."

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The protests come after River City Fraternal Order of Police President Dave Mutchler last week wrote a controversial letter that called out "sensationalists, liars and race-baiters" and told them, "We are done with you."

Mutchler's letter came several days after a Metro Police officer shot and killed Sudanese refugee Deng Manyoun in Old Louisville. Surveillance video shows Manyoun waving a flag pole and running at Officer Nathan Blanford before being shot.

Community activists questioned why Blanford resorted to deadly force. Mutchler has said his letter was in response to the larger protest movement since the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Monday's protesters called on Conrad to fire Mutchler, who is also a Metro Police sergeant, by Friday.

"He will not be disciplined for exercising his First Amendment rights," Conrad said in response. "The truth is, he has a constitutional right to say what he said. I am not at all happy with what he said, his choice of words."

Protesters, with their arms linked in solidarity, chanted "Move Mutchler, get out the way." Their gathering took place just below Conrad's office.

"I hope to God it says something to our city officials and those who wear the badge," said one woman, shouting through a bullhorn.

Initially, there was confusion among Metro Police officers what to do about the protest. Some tried to ask the event's leaders to move before word came to begin rerouting traffic around the gathering.

While protesters chanted, drivers blared their horns, at times drowning them out.

"I support what they're out here for but this is not good," said Alandra Coleman, a driver who was stuck in the traffic jam caused by the protest. "There are other ways to get your voice heard than standing out here, blocking traffic."

Protesters lingered at Seventh and Jefferson streets after the event, and some called it a success.

"It let LMPD know that we're not going to take these threats," protester Chanelle Helm said. "You can't threaten people's rights."

Yet some onlookers said the protest was a poor tactical move by the activists.

"I that what we have are a few people engaging in copycat protest movements and simply doing what they know to do at this point," said Dr. Ricky Jones, a University of Louisville professor. "A constructive way to go about this would've been to come out and have a political rally, rather than a chanting protest."

Greg Belzley, a Louisville civil rights attorney, said it was the first street protest he'd ever attended. Belzley called on city leaders to have a conversation with protesters to move past Mutchler's letter.

"We could've had one (a conversation) today, but apparently the police department is so frightened of everyone here that they closed it down," Belzley said.

There were no arrests and police re-opened the street within about an hour.

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