TAMPA — Protesters were outraged Saturday when one of their own was arrested after clinging to the hood of a car that rolled through what had been a peaceful demonstration in Hyde Park. The protesters insisted that Tampa police arrested the wrong person and that the driver should have been taken to jail.
An arrest report obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through a public records request Monday provides details of the allegations against Jason Stuart Flores, a 35-year-old St. Petersburg activist charged with criminal mischief, unlawful assembly, obstructing a highway and resisting a law enforcement officer without violence.
According to the report, the male driver — referred to as “the victim” — was heading east on Swann Avenue just west of Albany Avenue “when he approached a group of protesters gathered in the roadway causing him to stop his vehicle,” the report says.
“As the victim attempted to turn away from the protesters, several blocked his path of movement by standing in (the) roadway causing him to stop his vehicle,” the report states. “Some of the protesters then began to hit and kick his vehicle at which time the defendant, Jason Flores, jumped on the hood of the victim’s vehicle and began to strike the windshield, causing it to shatter.”
Along with breaking the windshield of the Volkswagen sedan, Flores damaged the hood, causing about $2,000 in damage, according to the report.
“Upon contact with uniformed law enforcement officers, Flores physically resisted efforts by officers to take him into custody by bracing/tensing and pulling away,” the report says. He was taken into custody without further incident.
Flores is an activist with the organization Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality. In a statement to the Times on Monday, the group took issue with the police report.
“It is clear now, as it was when they immediately arrested Mr. Flores, the TPD conducted no investigation, spoke or interviewed no witnesses (and have) not reviewed video footage,” the statement said.
The report did get at least one thing wrong: The driver approached protesters as he was headed north on Albany Avenue, not around the corner on Swann, as the report says.
Part of the incident was captured on video and a Times reporter was present. In a news release Saturday, police said they were reviewing “various video clips” of the incident.
Protesters said they were having a moment of silence when the driver started edging toward them without stopping. The driver turned right onto Swann and drove away with one protester, later identified as Flores, still clinging to the hood.
The incident ended soon after outside Irish 31 Pub House & Eatery at Swann and Rome Avenue. Police vehicles sped to the area and as many as 20 officers, some in helmets, converged on the street.
The officers told the driver to leave the area and the driver complied. Demonstrators were irate. Police held them back for a time and left.
Protesters then headed to the Orient Road Jail, where they believed Flores had been taken. They demanded that he be freed, banging on the lobby’s locked doors and yelling at the jail staff inside the bail office.
The protesters later learned that Flores had been taken to a local hospital to be treated for minor injuries. He was booked into the jail about 10:45 p.m. that night and released about 8:30 a.m. Sunday after posting bail of $3,250, jail records show.
The criminal mischief charge is a third-degree felony because the damage to the car was greater than $1,000, the threshold set by Florida law, records show.
Representatives with Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality, or FIREE, said Flores was not available for an interview Monday and that a news conference will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa.
In its statement, the group said the police report “is materially and factually inconsistent with multiple videos taken of the incident by bystanders and media ... The driver made no effort to avoid protesters.”
He could have driven around them or pulled off into a nearby Winn-Dixie parking lot, according to the statement.
In addition, the statement said, the driver stopped for at least 30 seconds before “deciding to accelerate through Mr. Flores and at least two additional individuals.” This contention is not supported by videos that have surfaced so far.
The incident marked the second weekend in a row that contact between protesters and motorists near the Hyde Park Village restaurant and shopping area sent a protester to the hospital.
Tampa activist Jae Passmore was hospitalized June 21 after she was struck and injured during a protest near Hyde Park Village. Tampa police said they were investigating that incident.
Passmore was among the protesters who gathered at the jail Saturday to demand Flores’ release.
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Coverage of local and national protests from the Tampa Bay Times
WHAT PROTESTERS WANT: Protesters explain what changes would make them feel like the movement is successful.
WHAT ARE NON-LETHAL AND LESS-LETHAL WEAPONS? A guide to what’s used in local and national protests.
WHAT ARE ARRESTED PROTESTERS CHARGED WITH? About half the charges filed have included unlawful assembly.
CAN YOU BE FIRED FOR PROTESTING? In Florida, you can. Learn more.
HEADING TO A PROTEST? How to protect eyes from teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.