Protests in Washington state, California and Virginia devolved into riots that sparked fires and property damage.
A protest through the streets of downtown Oakland, California, in support of racial justice and police reform turned violent when “agitators” among the demonstrators set fire to a courthouse, vandalized a police station and shot fireworks at officers, authorities said.
About 700 demonstrators participated in what started as a peaceful march Saturday night but then some broke from the larger group and smashed windows, spray-painted graffiti and pointed lasers at officers, the Oakland Police Department said on Twitter. Several tweets called for peace and asked organizers to “help us provide safe spaces and safe places for demonstrators.”
Several fires were set in the downtown area, including one at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse that was quickly contained. Police said protesters at one point were “breaking windows and chanting racial slurs at residents.” Photos tweeted by the department showed broken glass and paint splattered on the police headquarters building.
Video posted by police showed a man kicking down barricades in front of the building after an “unlawful assembly” was declared by police around 11:30 p.m. and officers asked the crowd to disperse. Police said they made several arrests but did not provide details. There were no immediate reports of injuries to protesters or officers.
The protest began earlier Saturday evening with groups such as the “Wall of Moms,” similar to a group that formed in Portland, Oregon, as protesters faced off with U.S. agents deployed to that city to guard a federal courthouse. President Donald Trump had sent the federal agents to clamp down on protests that have occurred nightly since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
Protesters in Seattle broke through a fence Saturday where a youth detention facility was being built, with some people setting a fire and damaging a portable trailer, authorities said.
Thousands of protesters ad gathered near downtown Seattle on Saturday in a show of solidarity with fellow demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, where tensions with federal law enforcement have boiled over.
Initially there was no sign of law enforcement near the march. Later, Seattle Police said via Twitter that about a dozen people breached the construction site for the King County youth detention facility. Also, police said protesters broke out windows at a King County court facility.
Police said they were trying to secure the construction site so fire crews could move in. Earlier this week King County Executive Dow Constantine, in response to long-standing demands by community activists, said he would work to eliminate youth detention centers in the county by 2025.
Seattle’s protesters had begun the rally and march over racial injustices Saturday afternoon peacefully.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best had announced officers would be armed with pepper spray and other weapons in a statement Saturday morning, promising officers would not use tear gas and urging demonstrators to remain peaceful.
“In the spirit of offering trust and full transparency, I want to advise you that SPD officers will be carrying pepper spray and blast balls today, as would be typical for events that carry potential to include violence,” Best said.
At an emergency hearing on Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request from the federal government to block Seattle’s new law prohibiting police from using pepper spray, blast balls and similar weapons.
The temporary restraining order now halts the law that the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month after protests confrontations that have largely been peaceful but were occasionally marked by violence, looting and highway shutdowns. The law intended to de-escalate tensions between police and demonstrators was set to take effect on Sunday.
But the U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle’s longstanding police consent decree, successfully argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons.
Robart, who is presiding over a 2012 consent decree requiring the city to address allegations of excessive force and biased policing, said the issue needed more discussion between the city and the Justice Department before that law could go into effect.
Best said Robart’s order allows officers to use the less-lethal crowd management tools.
In Richmond, Virginia, a city dump truck was set on fire as protesters faced off with police in Virginia’s capital during a demonstration in support of protesters on the other side of the country in Portland, Oregon.
Virginia State Police and Richmond police worked to clear the crowd of a several hundred demonstrators late Saturday. City police declared an “unlawful assembly” around 11 p.m., and what appeared to be tear gas was deployed to disperse the group.
Protesters had been planning for days the demonstration that was called “Richmond Stands with Portland,” news outlets reported, in an apparent reaction to ongoing tensions between protesters and U.S. agents at the federal courthouse in Oregon’s largest city.
Weeks of nationwide unrest have struck several U.S. cities since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
Saturday’s protest in Richmond started at a park and then demonstrators marched to police headquarters, according to news outlets.
Police tweeted a photo of rocks, batteries and other items the department said were thrown at its officers during the protest. A video also showed an officer extinguishing a mattress on fire in the middle of a road.
Glass windows were also shattered at a Chipotle restaurant and a Virginia Commonwealth University dorm, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
About the photo: A Citibank is vandalized during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
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