Police used teargas to disperse people in downtown San Antonio after incidents of vandalism that followed a peaceful protest to condemn the death of George Floyd.
Shortly after the Saturday evening protest, a tense standoff erupted between a splinter group of the protestors and armed self-described protectors of the Alamo. After police in riot gear tried to break up deadlock, smaller groups appeared to move through downtown hurling rocks and breaking windows.
Around 10 p.m. police deployed tear gas on Houston Street and near the Alamo. Twitter users also reported that police were firing rubber bullets.
San Antonio PD using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protestors pic.twitter.com/BOEQ8zZqvh— connor (@cnrray) May 31, 2020
In a news release, city officials said they have declared a local disaster and issued a temporary curfew effective that will run until 6 a.m. Sunday and from 10 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. on Monday.
“The planned demonstrations from earlier today were peaceful and the organizations did exactly what they said they would do to keep others safe," San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said in an emailed statement. "The situation was escalated by some bad actors whose only intent was to incite violence and cause destruction. The actions of a few do not represent the majority of those who came out to peacefully demonstrate.”
Police were not available for immediate comment on the tactics used to clear crowds out of downtown.
Earlier Saturday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he had deployed more than 1,500 Department of Public Safety officers to San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Houston to ensure that "order is maintained and private property is protected.”
Similar scenes of unrest erupted in cities from New York to Los Angeles, where police cars have been set on fire and stores have been looted following protests decrying the death of a Floyd, a black man, while in custody of Minneapolis police. Disturbing video showed Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck while he screamed that he couldn't breathe.
San Antonio's protest began in Travis Park around 5:30 p.m. A diverse crowd of more than 1,000 people, most wearing masks due to the pandemic, listened to speakers as volunteers moved through the crowd handing out bottled water.
As the march got underway in Travis Park, organizers urged the crowd not to engage in confrontations with bystanders.
"If you see someone antagonizing, do not engage with them," one organizer urged the participants over the sound system. "That is what they want."
The march, organized by the Autonomous Brown Berets de San Antonio, proceeded to police headquarters, then made its way back to the park. The crowd's conduct appeared orderly the entire way there and back.
However, after 8 p.m., a much smaller splinter group made its way to Alamo Plaza, where a group called This Is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF) had assembled to "guard" the Alamo Cenotaph after someone tagged it earlier this week with graffiti. Members of TITFF, which opposes the redevelopment of the Alamo, were carrying long guns and military gear.
A standoff between the groups ensued, eventually boiling over into a shoving match. Eventually, police in riot gear assembled at the site. At one point, a TITFF protestor appeared to be struck in the face with a hurled bottle.
Posts on the Autonomous Brown Berets' Facebook event immediately following the protest thanked the group for organizing a peaceful and meaningful event.
"Thank you for organizing such a nice, peaceful event allowing people to speak their minds and air their frustrations," one person posted. "I was there about three hours and I did not witness any negative action from our side."
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