A Pennsylvania police officer caught on video roughly kicking a female protester after she was sprayed with mace at a Black Lives Matter demonstration will not face charges.
Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri also said the protester, 21-year-old Hannah Silbaugh, will not face charges stemming from the disturbing May 30 incident, which was caught on camera.
Footage begins with several Erie Bureau of Police officers attempting to clear an intersection of demonstrators, who were protesting against police brutality and systematic racism in Erie.
Officers can be seen spraying mace at protesters, including Silbaugh, who sits on the ground and refuses to move after being sprayed.
‘They’re macing innocent people right now,’ one witness who recorded the incident says.
That’s when the officer is seen walking towards Silbaugh, before kicking her in the shoulder.
Video of the kick was shared to social media, where it amassed more than 7million views and caught the attention of Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis.
‘This is criminal,’ she wrote.
Since protests began after the death of George Floyd, 46, Omar has repeatedly called for law enforcement to be defunded due to a history of excessive force and overly aggressive policing tactics.
An unidentified Erie Bureau of Police officer was caught on camera kicking a women in the shoulder after she was maced in Erie, Pennsylvania (pictured)
The incident took place near Erie’s City Hall and followed a peaceful protest that became volatile after it ended earlier in the day
Authorities initially said they were ‘not aware of any civilian injuries’ during the demonstration or afterwards.
Speaking at a news conference, Daneri said the officer’s actions did not warrant prosecution.
He added that the officer, who has not been identified by city officials, had the right to use that kind of force under the circumstances.
Daneri also mentioned that at the time that Silbaugh was kicked, police and a law enforcement vehicle needed to get past a line of protesters to attend to more serious violence in the area.
Daneri said the protesters could have been charged with failure to disperse, but his office declined to file those charges because of the facts and in the interest of moving forward.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar called the action ‘criminal’ on Twitter after footage of the kick went viral
Erie Mayor Joe Schember had announced June 15 that the officer would be suspended for three days without pay and would remain on desk duty until he completed sensitivity training.
Schember and Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny have both said the investigation had concluded that the officer followed approved procedures and his use of force was technically justified
But Schember said ‘the that the manner in which it was applied by the officer was inappropriate’ and warranted discipline.
On that night, police said several hundred people descended on City Hall at night and began spray painting the building, breaking windows, pulling parking meters out of the ground, vandalizing shops and restaurants and throwing objects at police.
Police reportedly believed there was an active shooter near the scene.
Silbaugh, a manager at retail store, had participated in the demonstration as an ally and supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘The point of the movement was against police brutality. And they responded in the exact way that we were protesting against,’ she told Go Erie.
The peaceful demonstration that took place at Perry Square that weekend reportedly turned volatile when several people not involved in the protest arrived.
The officer who kicked Sillsbaugh (center) was suspended for three days without pay and will remain on desk duty until he completes sensitivity training
Officers used tear gas and tried to disperse the crowd around 9:30pm, but residents still lingered outside in the street.
An hour later, a SWAT team was dispatched to the front of City Hall to clear out the protesters.
Silbaugh said she went to the demonstration to ‘to the protest by myself’ and didn’t arrive until around 8pm.
She said the crowd was ‘rowdy but not violent.’
‘I was peacefully protesting and I was doing a non-compliant but nonviolent protest,’ she said.
Sillbaugh eventually ended up sitting in an intersection with her hands up in the air when the SWAT team moved in.
‘They decided that they wanted to push us back further. This (was) the second time that they they tried to push us back,’ said Sillbaugh.
‘They were telling the entire crowd to disperse. And we did not.’
She said the macing began after she and a handful of other people stood between demonstrators and police.
‘When I started sitting on the ground, that’s when they started to Mace me. When I wouldn’t move, that’s when the cops kicked me.
‘I fell to the ground (from a seated position). They used that opportunity when my hands were away from my eyes to continue to Mace me directly in the face.’
Silbaugh said the incident threatened to get more intense after officers reportedly indicated they could taze her.
Hannah Sillbaugh (pictured): ‘When I started sitting on the ground, that’s when they started to Mace me. When I wouldn’t move, that’s when the cops kicked me’
Sillbaugh (center): ‘I think that the police need to be held accountable for their actions. They were being too aggressive with people who were protesting peacefully’
‘They finally stopped Macing me to tell me that they were going to taze me. Then I got up and ran away. I was being sprayed and bombarded,’ she said.
‘I ran down the nearest side street, looking for water. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe.’
Sillbaugh said she did not seek medical care, but did call poison control when she still suffered reactions from the mace hours after was discharged.
‘My body is very sore, especially where I hit the ground and where I was kicked,’ she said.
She said she originally felt safe protesting in Erie, but the behavior of local officers changed her mind.
‘I think that the police need to be held accountable for their actions,’ said Sillbaugh. ‘They were being too aggressive with people who were protesting peacefully.’
Her lawyer, Timothy McNair, has taken legal steps toward filing a lawsuit and has filed for a write summons.
McNair also requested that the involved officer’s name be, which city officials have refused to do.
Other instances of police brutality and excessive for have been caught on camera during demonstrations over the last few months.
Gugino, a longtime peace activist from Amherst, had been at a protest at Niagara Square near Buffalo City Hall when he was pushed. He hit his head on the ground causing it to bleed
In one instance, 75-year-old peace activist Martin Gugino was shoved by two Buffalo Police Department officers in June.
Gugino hit his head on the concrete ground during his fall and blood began to leak from his ear.
The officers, Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, have pleaded not guilty to allegations of assault.
They each face up to seven years in prison if convicted of the class D felony. They were released without bail and will appear back in court on July 20.