After Governor Ron DeSantis loosened lockdown measures recently, expressly advising against gatherings of 10-plus people, Floridians are exiting their homesteads and getting outdoors as society adapts to life while maintaining vigilant about COVID-19.
Although it is understandable to crave some relative relaxation outdoors, a massively attended block party in Deland, Florida aggregated 1000s of revelers imbibing on booze and brandishing firearms. When contingents of law enforcement from the Deland Police Department and Volusia County Sheriff’s Office attempted to sparse the crowd and unclog streets blocked by hundreds of cars, things got ugly.
The phalanx of partiers outright ignored the lawful orders of cops trying to clear the streets and thin the crowds to tolerable degrees; it was a futile effort for a while. As police personnel were trying to maintain order and safety, various party attendees threw rocks, bottles, a bar stool, and cups filled with alcohol at police officers and sheriff’s deputies roaming the area on foot and in police cruisers.
At the outset of this near-riotous event, some kids on the block found themselves in county jail. One Deland policeman can be heard recapping this melee, counting on his fingers the instances of partiers assailing: “I’ve been hit in the head with a beer bottle, I’ve had a rifle flagged at me, uum…it’s going great,” he explained faciteously.
From the initial minutes into the following 12-plus-minute video, a Volusia County Sheriff’s Office aviation unit pilot can be heard analyzing the throngs from above, providing specific activities for the law enforcement officers on the ground—including sighting someone with a rifle. Moments later, it sounds as if one of the deputies walking among the congested streets can be heard exchanging dialogue as to when/if officials should shut down the out-of-control anti-social distancing gathering. A response chimes in, conveying something to the effect of I believe they have until 10:00, so let’s se how they behave—signaling that this may have been a sanctioned block party allowed via a permit.
With the governor’s explicit social distancing protocol of no more than ten folks together at any time, it is evident many people blatantly shunned that self-sustaining protocol.
Whether legally authorized or not, this block party went way over the top, eliciting multiple police personnel, all of whom are being castigated as the bad guys. Seems the local paper took the side of the revelers over the cops, and the race card was thrown all over on social media.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood summed it up in a social media post: “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.”
The “slant” to which Sheriff Chitwood is referring is The West Volusia Beacon‘s article titled “Police, citizens clash after peaceful Memorial Day block party.” Read what they have to say. Judge for yourself as you watch and listen to the footage of a so-called “peaceful” block party. Warning: the video released by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is a collage of aviation unit recording and ground cops’ body-cam footage containing graphic language and imagery:
So much for social distancing protocols and a minimized “peaceful” get together. Reading Sheriff Chitwood’s account of what transpired here emphasizes details not otherwise seen in the footage. Speaking of footage, note the many revelers opposing police: Those folks are actually recording evidence underscoring the exact reason why law enforcement had to show presence and actionably disperse the crowd.
One thing is certain: the head-count is exorbitantly beyond ten.