Las Vegas Public Defenders Lead Monday Demonstrations Outside of Courthouse

Posted on: June 9, 2020, 06:04h. 

Last updated on: June 9, 2020, 10:38h.

Several Clark County public defenders joined with some 200 other protesters at Las Vegas’s Regional Justice Center Monday evening to decry the death of George Floyd and related, violent police misconduct. Public defenders nationwide took part in similar protests on Monday night.

courthouse steps protest
A couple hundred protesters, including local public defenders, sat on the Regional Justice Center steps in Las Vegas Monday evening for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time George Floyd had a police officer’s knee on his neck. Floyd’s death has led to global protests. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Las Vegas peaceful demonstration included an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence outside of the courthouse, located on Lewis Avenue. Many protesters also sat and knelt on the courthouse steps for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

The time is the same amount of time Floyd had a Minneapolis police officer’s knee on his neck, despite pleas he could not breathe. Floyd’s death has led to protests globally and calls for major reform of police departments.

I just want people of color to know that they do have white allies, and that many of us are ready to listen and to learn,” Austin Barnum, a former extern for the public defender’s office who now works in the Nevada Attorney General’s office, told those assembled, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

John Piro, chief deputy public defender for the Clark County public defender’s office, further told the crowd, “We are the ones who stand with them in the courtrooms and try to make judges see the humanity of our clients. It’s important for us to say that we see you and we are here with you.”

Belinda Harris, another chief deputy public defender who is now a candidate for Justice of the Peace in North Las Vegas Department 3 Justice Court, additionally explained how public defenders argue in courtrooms daily that black lives matter.

“We are done hashtagging. We are now planning,” Harris said. “Not only are we protesting in the streets, but we are taking over these political seats.”

Also, Monday night, the lights at Las Vegas City Hall were lit in crimson and gold in recognition of George Floyd. The colors are those of the Houston secondary school, Jack Yates High School, where Floyd graduated from and where he also played football.

The Clark County public defender’s office includes the attorneys now representing Edgar Samaniego, 20, who is charged with attempted murder and several other counts. His case is in connection with the shooting of Las Vegas Metro Police Officer Shay Mikalonis near the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino last week during the conclusion of a Black Lives Matter-organized protest. Mikalonis and other officers were taking unruly protesters into custody. Mikalonis remains in critical condition at University Medical Center after undergoing surgery.

Defendants in Police Vehicle Arson Face Charges

Also on Monday, Nevada Chief US District Court Judge Miranda Du ordered Tyree Walker, 23, to reside with an uncle after Walker was released from custody in connection with charges he allegedly set fire to a Las Vegas police vehicle near the Ninth Street and Carson Avenue intersection in Las Vegas during a May 31 Black Lives Matter demonstration. He also was ordered not to participate in protests for a month, the Review-Journal reported.

In addition, US Magistrate Brenda Weksler ordered the release of Devarian Haynes, 24, who allegedly poured a flammable liquid from a gas can into the police vehicle. A third defendant, Ricardo Densmore, 24, remains in federal custody pending a review of his case.

Agitators who are using the camouflage of lawful protests to commit violence against law enforcement will be prosecuted,” Nevada US Attorney Nicholas Trutanich said in a recent statement about the case. “Violence places protesters, first responders, and bystanders in danger, and steals focus away from the messages that peaceful protesters are striving to deliver.”

Densmore allegedly filmed the arson. The video was posted on social media, the Review-Journal said.

Each of the trio, who all reside in Las Vegas, is charged with a count of conspiracy to commit arson and a count of arson. If convicted, the defendants could receive prison sentences between five and 20 years. They could also be ordered to pay up to $250,000 in fines.

Mayor Goodman Praises Las Vegas Diversity

Last week, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said Las Vegas needs to “stand as a symbol for what acceptance, equality, and family really means.”

The mayor also asked that Las Vegas be a model for the world, noting the city’s diversity. “This is our home …. Peaceful protest has to take place.”

On Monday, Goodman added she was “cautiously pleased” about the recent reopening of Nevada casinos last Thursday.

“While I’m pleased that we’re reopening gradually … it’s going to be a slow crawl back here [economically],” Goodman told the Review-Journal.