Press conference about Sunday protest

Jessica Lopez, one of three protesters who was arrested on Aug. 5, speaks to media on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. Lopez talked about the planned protest for Sunday at 5 a.m.

When Lancaster police arrested Jessica Lopez at a protest last year, it wasn’t because of her activism, or that she was suing a city officer, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office.

Instead, police arrested her because she caused a “tumult” by blocking traffic, a prosecutor wrote.

Assistant District Attorney Cody Wade made the assertion in a court filing Friday in response to Lopez’s efforts to get traffic obstruction and disorderly conduct charges dismissed.

Lopez’s attorney, Christopher Patterson, argued last month she was the victim of selective and vindictive prosecution. Police arrested her, he claimed, “to punish her for being an activist and to send a message to other protesters.”

And more a year after arrests last summer related to protests stemming from George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer and the Lancaster fatal police shooting of Ricardo Muñoz -- which was deemed justified -- criminal cases are still pending for about a dozen people.

Cases for a few people who were arrested have been resolved. Most have been postponed several times, which is common, and some aren’t expected to be resolved at least until March.

Lopez, 33, of Lancaster, is one of the highest-profile arrests, given her criticism of police and her now-resolved lawsuit. Earlier this year, she became a committeewoman for the Lancaster City Democratic Committee.

Wade denied Lopez’s defense arguments that she was targeted. Instead, he wrote, Lopez refused to move after multiple warnings. And two other people were also charged with blocking traffic, he wrote.

Lopez was protesting with a group on the sidewalk near the police station on Aug. 5, 2020.

She then moved into one of two eastbound lanes of West Chestnut Street and stood for a couple minutes holding a sign that read, “Tired of being (expletives) by your system,” then sat for nearly five minutes.

That made it difficult for traffic to pass, which was exacerbated by other people joining Lopez, Wade wrote. She refused to move, so officers had to carry her away.

“The decision to sit in the road was an invitation to this confusion and disorder and incited a tumult” -- part of the definition of disorderly conduct, Wade wrote.

It is one of two protest-related cases Lopez is awaiting resolution of in county court. She’s also charged with riot and related crimes during protests after last September’s police shooting death of Ricardo Muñoz.

As for Lopez’s 2019 civil rights lawsuit against Lt. Nathan Nickel, a jury in Philadelphia last week found he did not use excessive force during an arrest at a traffic stop four years ago. 

Lopez testified that Nickel “slammed” her into a car. Nickel testified he used a “controlled push” to place her against the car while other officers handcuffed her. She later pleaded guilty to drug possession.

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