RALEIGH — More than 1,000 people marched in downtown Raleigh on Saturday night, breaking windows as police in riot gear released tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds.
WRAL-TV showed video of throngs of people in front of the Wake County Courthouse, some walking with signs, others on bikes and skateboards to protest the killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck.
Protesters gathered in the late afternoon marching peacefully north from the courthouse chanting, “No Justice, No Peace.” But tension grew after nightfall as some people threw rocks at windows and spray-painted anti-police slogans on walls.
Fayetteville Street was the focus of most of the vandalism with multiple buildings along the street having windows broken out.
“In all my years, I’ve never quite seen anything like this,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said during a Sunday morning downtown press conference in the middle of a closed-to-traffic Fayetteville Street. “Last night, it wasn’t about building bridges; it was about burning bridges.”
Baldwin announced a state of emergency for the city and Raleigh’s police chief, Cassandra Decker-Brown, said a total of five officers were treated for injuries.
The demonstration came a day after protesters in Charlotte — in addition to other cities across the nation — broke into stores, kicked and stomped on police cars and engaged in confrontations that led to multiple arrests.
News outlets report that protests in Charlotte on Friday evening began peacefully but turned violent as the night wore on. A grocery store and a cellphone store were looted, and protesters threw rocks at police, smashed a police bicycle, slashed the tires of a police car, and stomped on other police vehicles.
Officers responded by deploying tear gas canisters. Police said Saturday that they arrested 16 people, mostly for failing to disperse. One person was charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
Three officers suffered minor injuries: two of the three were treated and released from the hospital by Saturday afternoon, police said.
On Saturday, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles declared a state of emergency which she said will allow the city to call in state resources to respond to protests if necessary. Lyles said she hoped not to do that.
“We want people to protest safely and we want people to be heard,” she said.
One of those arrested and charged with failure to disperse was City Council member Braxton Winston. He was released several hours later.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney told WBTV in Charlotte that protests began peacefully and police were prepared to accommodate that, “and then it turned on us.”
“We have to have order, and we’re going to,” Putney said. “You should be proud of your CMPD police officers. They showed restraint, but they took care of business.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.