A Fort Lauderdale police officer captured on video pushing over a kneeling protester who had her hands up has been charged with battery, authorities said.
Charging documents filed in Broward County circuit court, Florida, state that officer, Steven Pohorence, 29, intentionally struck or touched the 19-year-old protester on May 31 during a Black Lives Matter protest.
A statement made by the office of state attorney, Michael Satz, said the charge - a first-degree misdemeanor - was filed against the officer after an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
According to NBC Miami the demonstration against police brutality and racism held in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis started on a Sunday afternoon with hundreds of protesters peacefully gathering at a park in Fort Lauderdale.
Officials blamed “agitators” after tensions erupted between authorities and demonstrators, despite a video showing Officer Pohorence yelling at protesters who were kneeling around him just before the event escalated, the station reported.
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After Mr Pohorence pushed the young woman, a black fellow officer could be seen yelling and pushing him away from protesters.
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione commended the second officer, Krystle Smith, and said she did “what you are supposed to do.”
“When you see either adrenaline or emotion or some kind of interaction going south ... that is our job” to intervene, Maglione said, according to the station.
The protester’s mother, Danielle Casey, told NBC Miami that her daughter had gone to the demonstration because she “felt that her voice needed to be heard.”
“She needed to belong to something positive, to stand up for something that is right,” Ms Casey said.
After the announcement of Tuesday's charges, Cheif Maglione said officer Pohorence — who was suspended after the May 31 incident — will be placed on administrative leave without pay.
After the criminal proceedings finish, an administrative investigation will determine if he violated departmental policies, Maglione said.
Neither Pohorence’s lawyer nor the Broward County Police Benevolent Association immediately responded to requests for comment.