UPDATE 1: No more peace now. KATV, Channel 7, is reporting that some people are now breaking windows of a bank and other buildings, and that the police are not on the scene yet. At 10 p.m., when the curfew was to have begun, Mayor Frank Scott led protesters east down Capitol holding aloft a Black Lives Matter sign.
UPDATE 2: The mayor led the crowd down Capitol to Broadway, where he told folks it was time to go home. But the march continued east, someone set off an enormous firework, and then someone started trying to break out the windows of Bank of the Ozarks at Capitol and Spring streets. Chilson said people then started running away from whoever it was who’d tried to knock out the windows. Police were not on the scene, but as people ran back to the Capitol, Chilson saw many blue lights, and police moved in with tear gas just before 11 p.m.
Governor Hutchinson today declined to take seriously the president of the United States’ attack on governors as weak for not putting down — “dominating” — protesters and for his suggesting the U.S. military should be called in to quell the anger of Americans. So while the president is pouring gasoline on the fire — requiring the D.C. police tonight to use tear gas and flash bangs on a peaceful gathering to clear his way to a church so he could preen for the cameras — Arkansas’s leadership shrugs. I get it, Trump’s a fool, Hutchinson knows it, but like all lily-livered Republicans today, the gov won’t acknowledge that the president’s words are a threat to peace in Arkansas. Trump’s gorilla-like breast-beating is hugely dangerous, as if 2020 needed one more disaster.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey were at tonight’s protest against the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police. Scott is still there: About 45 minutes ago, he took the bullhorn to ask that people move away from a man on Capitol Avenue who was shouting about Jesus and sin and so forth and distracting the crowd. Ignore him and concentrate on the cause of the protest, the mayor said in not so many words. People did as he urged. He then ceded the bullhorn to another speaker.
An early speaker, Kipp Brown, and others urged the crowd of several hundred to abide by the curfew and be peaceful. Brown urged unity, saying, “I want to talk to the black folks here. None of these white folks have ever had slaves, are not massa. Now, I want to talk to the white folks here. None of these black folks have ever had a living wage in your lifetime. Unless you’re old.”
People are reciting the names of black people killed by police and, in the case of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a white supremacist assassin’s bullet. Other chants: No justice, no peace.
There is plenty of water and pizza being passed around. There are also medics in the crowd wearing red crosses, and one said that they are also looking out for bad actors who might be there to make protesters look bad. They hadn’t run anyone off by the time I left except for an extremely inebriated man with bandages on one hand.
A rumor was going around that the governor had given his OK to the use of water cannons on protesters. At a press conference on the protests earlier today, State Police Director William Bryant defended the use of tear gas and flashbangs, saying it was necessary because people weren’t obeying orders to disperse, and a couple of blocks away someone had broken into a building. That leaves unanswered why police would fire tear gas directly into a peaceful group of people — including a reporter for KATV — standing on the Capitol steps, unconnected with the disturbance a distance away, which was being handled by Little Rock police. Who did more damage?
The police have blocked several blocks east of Capitol and positioned police cars there. As I was leaving, a half-hour ago, a woman was asking people in front of the Capitol to part to give organizers on the steps a view of the police presence should they approach.