Protester claims St. Pete police arrested her as she tried to leave demonstration

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Hailey Ostwalt couldn’t believe it. At 19-years old, she’d never been in trouble, she’d never been arrested.

Yet, Wednesday morning, she found herself walking out of the Pinellas County Jail. She now has a record and a mugshot. Why? She says, because she stood up for what she believes in.

“It was the scariest experience of my life,” said Ostwalt. “Like they were actively shooting at us as we were running away.”

Ostwalt was one of 23 protesters arrested in St. Petersburg. Police explain, when the demonstrators refused to leave the police headquarters, they were forced to use smoke bombs to force the crowd to disperse after one of the protesters lobbed a large mortar firework at the officers.

Ostwalt believes the officers were shooting more than smoke bombs.

“They started shooting gas bombs at us, they started shooting rubber bullets at us,” said Ostwalt. “We started running away and they continued shooting at us. I have it all on video so we’ll be hearing about that. “

Ostwalt says she was trying to get to her car, but it was blocked in. Officers told her she had to leave right away. But how? They told her to call an Uber.

“I stopped at a St. Pete cop and started talking with him and he was being really helpful, and telling me how I could get an Uber,” said Ostwalt. “And then I realize the county police (deputies) who told me to leave were following me and while I was talking to the city police they arrested me.”

Ostwalt told 8 On Your side, she now has an order from the court to stay away from the victim (police) and stay away from the location where she was arrested, which was a block south of police headquarters. She wants to continue protesting and supporting the cause, but now she’ll have to do it a bit differently.

“Guess I’ll just have to stay in the back,” said Ostwalt.

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