Protestors and others took to the streets in downtown Miami Saturday night, set cars on fire, looted stores and blocked I-95.
In response, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, issued a dispersal order for crowds around Government Center and arrested dozens.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a curfew order and announced it would again be in force tonight at 8 p.m.
The protest and response echoed events in cities across America, which started as peaceful gatherings against the brutal killing of a 46-year-old man named George Floyd in Minneapolis, but soon developed into looting and in several cases violence and death.
Miami’s protests were organized by grass-roots organizations including Save The Kids. They started peacefully but by night had escalated into police shooting tear gas at the protestors. The organization provided face masks for those attending the protest.
The Miami walk started at 3 p.m. from the Torch of Friendship on Biscayne Boulevard. Protestors made their way through downtown and finished on I-95, where traffic was stopped. Protesters walked through the city with signs reading “Justice 4 George Floyd” and “No justice, No peace,”.
“The cops put their shields up first and that’s when they started to tear gas us,” said Camila Diaz, a student at FIU who attended the protest.
She mentioned that the protest was well organized and peaceful until three boys were found on top of a police car in front of police headquarters. A moment of prayer was held before things got ugly.
“We told them this is a peaceful protest. Please stop,” said Diaz. “We don’t want this to escalate.”
A few moments later, Miami cops started to fire rubber bullets as protestors chanted “take a knee” and “no justice, no peace!”
Joshua Ceballos, an FIU graduate who is currently reporting for Miami New Times was also at the scene of the protest. He found the protest well monitored and overall peaceful as people voiced their frustrations with this tragedy.
“The police were in close quarters with the people and there was no violence,” said Ceballos.
As the hours passed, though, the protest led to several fires breaking out and cars set ablaze. More police officers started to show up with shields scattering the protestors across the streets.
#Update: Our Rapid Deployment Force, Special Response, & Priority Response Teams made a total of 44 arrests throughout the protests in downtown Miami last night. Our Units responded to looting at @BaysideMktplace, crowds at the Miami-Dade Government Center… pic.twitter.com/jfQXZu3hCm
— Miami-Dade Police (@MiamiDadePD) May 31, 2020
David Michael. chapter director of Save the Kids, was happy with the turnout but disappointed by the violence. “These actions were not backed up by our organization,” he said. “We wanted to make this the most peaceful protest that we could. My whole vision was for Miami to be the example of a peaceful protest.”
A lengthy Twitter video posted by a Miami native named Joel Franco told the story well.
Here’s my video of the peaceful protest that escalated into cars on fire, tear gas being deployed and looting in Downtown Miami tonight. pic.twitter.com/a1zUUzDI3x
— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) May 31, 2020
Curfews were set in Miami as well as cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia after violence erupted. There were deaths in Indianapolis and Oakland, according to the Washington Post.
In Miami, Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered a 10 p.m. curfew.
We have implemented a curfew beginning at 10pm to 6am. Beginning tomorrow the curfew hours will be 8pm to 6am. Anyone in violation is subject to arrest.
— Miami PD (@MiamiPD) May 31, 2020