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Police fire tear gas as crowd gathers in Raleigh for a second night of protests

The (Raleigh) News & Observer logo The (Raleigh) News & Observer 6/1/2020 By Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, Lucille Sherman, Jonas Pope IV, and Ashad Hajela, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

The night after a peaceful protest over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis ended with rioting and looting in Raleigh, downtown streets again filled with protesters and tear gas.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Wake County Courthouse Sunday with more filling the streets around the Capitol. Confrontations between police and protesters began early in the evening as police fired tear gas to scatter a crowd, and continued well into the night.

At one point a large crowd swarmed around the 75-foot Confederate Monument at the State Capitol, only to be rapidly dispersed by a large cloud of tear gas and a massive show of police force. Hours later, protesters again gathered at the monument held at bay by a large circle of police in riot gear.

Around downtown, windows were broken in more businesses, but as of 10:30 p.m., the damage was not approaching the level seen at Saturday night’s protests.

Instead, crowds gathered, dispersed, then regathered blocks away.

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin, who earlier in the day had urged people to stay home Sunday night, told WRAL she was considering ordering a curfew for Monday.

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Jason Butler, pastor of Open Table United Methodist Church, saw what happened Saturday night and figured as a white clergyman he could be a peacemaker on Sunday. “That’s what I’ve tried to be tonight,” he said, “a person of peace.”

Butler thinks the police have overreacted, and if they would back off and let people protest, it would remain peaceful. “The police are like a trigger,” he said. Around the country, “where protesters feel the police are with them, there’s no violence.”

Hundreds chant “black lives matter”

Shortly before 7 p.m., hundreds of people gathered at the intersection of Morgan and Fayetteville streets. Protesters of all races and a wide age range, chanted “no justice, no peace,” as well as “black lives matter.”

They also chanted the names of victims from across the nation who have been killed by police officers. About two dozen people laid on the sidewalk to perform a “die-in” a silent protest to represent victims from the U.S. killed by police.

As the die-in was getting underway, several people walked through the crowd, warning them that the police were on the way. About five minutes later, the riot police arrived, marching up in full gear.

Some protesters walked right up to law enforcement, shouting “I can’t breathe” with their hands raised. The demonstration didn’t last long as one of the members of the police riot team tossed a canister towards the group, releasing tear gas and sending the crowd scattering, clearing the intersection for just a brief moment.

While several onlookers decided they had seen enough, other protesters remained.

Reggie Edwards approached Raleigh police with two bottles of VooDoo Ranger imperial IPA at the corner of Morgan and Salisbury streets.

“Can we sit down and talk?” he asked them. “These people need help,” he said, gesturing to the protesters around him. “Are you good to sit down and drink with us? The only weapon I’ve got is right here.“

He reached out to give one of the officers a forearm bump, and the officer reciprocated. “I touched one of them,” Edwards said afterward. “Not just physically but in the heart.”

Also, some doves, which are symbols of peace, have been released during the protest.

Protesters then moved from the Capitol to the Executive Mansion a few blocks away, where three state troopers stood guard behind the mansion’s gate.

Outside the mansion, the protest continued. Protesters threw water bottles and paper airplanes. Police used tear gas and green smoke at James and Blount streets, shouting “Get back” to protesters as a police helicopter flew overhead.

Throughout the evening, protesters diffused confrontations and de-escalated situations amongst themselves. Some protesters knocked down a metal barrier outside the governor’s mansion, others put it back upright.

Conrad James said the paper airplanes thrown over the Executive Mansion wall were an attempt to deliver a letter of demands.

“We needed Roy Cooper to stop acting like Pat McCrory and start acting like himself,” James said.

“He is kind of hand-tied right now in our state because it is locked, but he can still make executive orders, he can still do things, he can still veto things and he can still make his own decisions. And he needs to make decisions about the oversight of our law enforcement and our [judicial] system because it is really messed up,” James said.

James said police don’t go through “prejudice testing.”

“But there does need to be a red flag, yellow flag, orange flag system that, you know, this officer might have some issues psychologically,” he said.

Quinton Gales was born and raised in Raleigh. He’s 25. He said he was at the protest Saturday night and left when he was tear-gassed, but came out again Sunday. He feels like he hasn’t been treated fairly by law enforcement, and said police officers choose to treat black people differently. He said he was protesting to bring awareness to oppression by police officers and to black bodies “being used as a weapon.”

Romeo McAlister was carrying a baseball bat. He said it was for his own protection. “This makes me feel safe,” he said. Police carry bats and guns, he said, and he wanted to be able to protect himself.

“I feel like I have a voice doing this,” he said about his decision to join the protest. “Something’s got to give.”

Lauren Jensen, 15, of Raleigh was at the protest all day Sunday, and was out Saturday night until it turned violent.

“I’m out here mainly because of how this world is. I want it to change and I know I can’t do that by myself,” Jensen said.

“I’m just out here hoping that maybe we can get it through somebody’s head that we need change, we want it. … I worry about my life. Anytime we get stopped by the police, I’m scared.”

Back to the Capitol

Protesters moved from the Executive Mansion back to the state Capitol grounds, where police dispersed protesters at one of the Confederate monuments with a large cloud of tear gas.

Some protesters then headed down Wilmington Street.

Mayor says curfew announcement Monday

Earlier Sunday, Mayor Baldwin had encouraged people to stay home.

“We still have the coronavirus to deal with. People staying at home is the best solution,” Baldwin told The News & Observer Sunday evening.

Baldwin told the N&O late Sunday night that she will make an announcement between 10 and 11 a.m. Monday about a curfew.

“I was hoping for the best tonight and didn’t want to automatically jump to that response,” Baldwin said. “For the safety of our residents, I feel we need to impose a curfew starting tomorrow.”

Raleigh City Council member Saige Martin told reporters Sunday night at Moore Square that he thought the Raleigh Police Department escalated the protest on Saturday night.

“Peaceful protests are an important part of social change, as are demonstrations that cause destruction. But I feel obligated to bring to light the fact that right-wing groups were likely present in Raleigh last night and they worked tirelessly to discredit the labor of black organizations and the Black Lives Matter movement in order to advance white supremacist goals,” Martin told reporters. “We can clean up and repair broken windows, restore lost inventory, but we can never restore the lives taken from us by police violence.”

Martin, who attended the protest Saturday, said he will ask City Manager Ruffin Hall to investigate what he called mishandling by Raleigh Police at Saturday night’s protest.

“Reopen protesters and Second Amendment rights activists came to Raleigh fully armed in military grade weaponry week after week, and our police did not behave in the manner that they did yesterday,” he said.

On Sunday afternoon, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said the National Guard has been requested for Raleigh and Charlotte, which also had peaceful protests that ended in violence on Saturday night.

“Some of these guardsmen are trained in how to protect public structures. That is how they will be used,” Cooper told reporters in a news conference Sunday.

Cooper said mayors have different strategies to maintain order but that he wanted to make sure officers use their de-escalation training to make sure violence is stopped.

“This is such an important issue right now in our state and country, and those voices must be heard,” Cooper said. “But we are all worried about violence and destruction overshadowing that message and anything that police can do to de-escalate is something that we want,” he said.

Reporters, Kate Murphy, Richard Stradling, Anna Johnson and Lynn Bonner also contributed to this story.


©2020 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

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