14 protesters arrested in downtown Raleigh overnight after memorial, Wake Co. building was vandalized :: WRAL.com

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    Published: 2020-08-28 17:16:00
    Updated: 2020-08-29 07:23:20

    Posted August 28, 2020 5:16 p.m. EDTUpdated August 29, 2020 7:23 a.m. EDT

    Raleigh, N.C. — Protesters gathered in downtown Raleigh on Friday night to speak out against police shootings and violence. Overnight, 14 people were arrested for violating a curfew and one person was arrested for assault on a law enforcement officer.

    The protests started out peaceful, but as the night went on, people vandalized a memorial and a Wake County government building. People smashed the windows of the Wake County Justice Center, threw red paint on the building and sprayed graffiti. A memorial to fallen deputies was also vandalized in protest against the police.

    The protests began escalating at about 9 p.m., when people pulled down barricades that had been put up outside the Wake County Justice Center and threw them in nearby bushes and streets. After that, according to Raleigh police, someone started a fire in the middle of Salisbury Street and set off fireworks.

    At around 9:45 p.m., Raleigh police tweeted that the protest was « no longer peaceful. »  The vandalism at the Wake County building occurred right around 10 p.m.,  and Raleigh police started ordering the crowd to disperse as the curfew approached.

    Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin set a curfew for 10 p.m. ahead of the planned protests for this weekend. Some protesters were prepared to remain out past the curfew. Raleigh police tweeted that protesters who were in the streets past the 10 p.m. curfew were putting on gas masks and passing out frozen water bottles in preparation for tear gas.

    Police officers in small jeeps blared a message for people to disperse over loudspeakers as they followed crowds through downtown streets. The crowd steadily thinned out over time and was down to about 100 people by 11 p.m.

    « The thing that concerns us as law enforcement are those individuals who blend into the peaceful protests and marches and their sole intent and their sole purpose is to come down and cause damage and be unlawful, » Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said.

    Before the vandalism began, at about 7 p.m. an estimated 1,000 people marched through downtown Raleigh, up Fayetteville Street from the Wake County Justice Center to the State Capitol, where they jeered police who manned barricades that ringed the grounds. The protesters then marched past the Executive Mansion and the legislative complex before heading back down Fayetteville Street, chanting « Black lives matter » and « no justice, no peace. »

    At one point, someone set a U.S. flag on fire outside the Legislative Building, but someone else stepped in minutes later to stomp out the fire.

    Activists who spoke at the protest earlier in the night called for Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman to resign, saying she’s part of institutional racism.

    Freeman on Thursday cleared a Raleigh police officer of wrongdoing following the January shooting death of a Black man.

    The protest comes days after Jacob Blake, a Black man in Wisconsin, was left paralyzed after a police officer shot him from behind seven times.

    « These are protests in response to structural racism, systemic problems in our country to law enforcement, to other parts of institutions, » said Faisal Khan, founder and director of Carolina Peace Center.

    Khan helped organize a protest in Raleigh in late May following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota. But the peaceful march turned violent, with people vandalizing and looting businesses downtown and setting several fires. Law enforcement responded by deploying tear gas and firing rubber bullets into crowds to disperse people.

    « Protesting is a fundamental American right, » Khan said. « [But] nobody should be going out damaging property or personal property or government property. »

    To head off the potential for a similar riot this time, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin put a curfew in place Friday and Saturday nights. The citywide curfew runs from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. both nights.

    In addition to the barricades outside the Justice Center, Fayetteville Street between Morgan and Davie streets, as well as both Hargett and Martin streets between Salisbury and Wilmington streets, were blocked to traffic. Those barricades will remain in place until 5 p.m. Sunday.

    « It happened there, but its effect is all over the country, » Baker said of Blake’s shooting. « We are going to be there to see just how the people of Wake County and Raleigh feel about it through their marching and their protests. »

    The sheriff’s office had deputies on standby in case violence started, including its Civil Unrest Unit and tactical teams, he said.

    « We are here just to make sure things are going to be safe. That’s our whole goal, our whole objective. That’s our purpose, » he said.

    Baker was criticized for the use of tear gas on protesters in May. He said he and his staff are applying lessons learned from those incidents to their response Friday night.

    « We are just going to have really watch and pay attention to be able to separate those who are marching and protesting from the ones who are here to have a desire to cause problems and damage, » he said.

    Both Khan and Baker said they are happy a curfew is in place and hope it keeps the focus of the protest on what happened to Blake.

    « We always want people to exercise their right to march and protest and be heard, but we’d love to know and pray to know that it’s being done without any unlawfulness, » Baker said.

    « Anybody that thinks they can use force or violence to get their message across is completely on the wrong side of the aisle, » Khan said.

    Copyright 2020 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


    SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com

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