Amid public outcry, judge lowers ridiculous $1 million bond for Pennsylvania protesters

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Following nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice calls for reform continue. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, residents once again took to the streets after an officer shot and killed a 27-year-old Latino man on Sunday while responding to a 911 call. Community members shared that the man, identified as Ricardo Muñoz, had mental health issues. At least 13 people, including one juvenile, were arrested during these protests Sunday for allegedly causing damage to the police station, a parked vehicle, and a U.S. Post Office building, police said.

Officers arrested the individuals under charges including arson, institutional vandalism, riot, failure to disperse, and obstructing public passages, CNN reported. At least seven of them were held on $1 million bail, according to police. Following national outrage and criticism from the state’s lieutenant governor, a Lancaster County judge modified bail for nine of the arrested individuals. No changes were made to the charges, CBS News21 reported. The ages of those arrested ranged from 16-43.

The initial bail was set by Magisterial District Judge Bruce Roth on Monday, petitions to modify the bail were heard Thursday. Lancaster County Judge Dennis Reinaker reviewed some of the petitions and noted that the amount was set in “the spur of the moment.” While the bail was lowered for some, conditions restricting each person from being near the police station were put in place. “This was a mass event. A lot of people contributed to the alleged bad things that happened,” First Deputy District Attorney Travis Anderson said. “Some contributed more than others, that will be factored into our specified recommendations.”

According to Lancaster police, demonstrators set fire to dumpsters and piled street signs, among other “disruptive” activities. As a result, the department said they used a “public address system to provide several warnings that if the group did not move from the ramp that chemical munitions would be deployed.” When demonstrators failed to listen, police said they used chemical agents and pepper spray to control the crowd.

The father of one of the protesters arrested, Kathryn Patterson, said he has not been able to reach his daughter since her arrest and called the initial $1 million bail “obscene.”

“Everything that I know so far, which is not a lot, indicates that Kat is not guilty of those charges. But then again, we’ll have to wait and see,” Chip Patterson told the Associated Press. Patterson said his daughter attended the protest as a medic. “I cannot tell you how long this night has been,” he added Tuesday. “I think regardless of what these people did or didn’t do, the bail amount is just outrageous and clearly against the Eighth Amendment.”

The parents of the individuals arrested are not the only ones who believe the bail amount is outrageously high. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania also chimed in calling the amount “exorbitantly high,” USA Today reported. “The $1 million cash bail orders for several young Black Lives Matter protesters last night is an egregious and unacceptable abuse of the bail system,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “Cash bail should never be used to deter demonstrators and chill speech.”

Protests erupted on Sunday following the brutal murder of Muñoz, whose sister called authorities hoping to have him involuntarily committed for mental health treatment, USA Today reported. According to the outlet, Muñoz was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. But instead of arresting him, an officer shot Munoz multiple times because he approached the officer appearing to hold a knife in a suspicious manner, police said. Bodycam footage, made public, depicted Muñoz with the knife. According to the AP, Muñoz was awaiting trial for allegedly stabbing four people last year, and he was out on bond.

According to CBS News21, those who were arrested and had their bail changed to $50,000 by Reinaker include Patterson, Taylor Enterline, Lee A. Wise, and Dylan Davis. Reinaker also set Joshua Montague’s bail to $100,000 adding that, if posted, 23-year-old Montague must abide by house arrest. Montague was charged with carrying a firearm without a license. Others including Barry Jones, Talia Gessner, T. Jay Fry and Jamal S. Newman had their bail set by Roth.

Detectives are reviewing several hours of video footage through social media and surveillance in efforts to identify additional suspects, police said.

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