INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Crowds angered by the Minneapolis death of George Floyd clashed with police in downtown Indianapolis overnight, prompting officers to fire multiple volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds that shattered storefronts and damaged more than two dozen businesses, the city's police chief said Saturday.
Friday's protest over Floyd's death Monday after a white police officer pushed his knee into the handcuffed black man's neck for several minutes began peacefully. It turned violent Friday night, though, with some demonstrators smashing windows and glass doors on many businesses, including Circle Centre Mall, and lingering into the early morning hours of Saturday.
Fires were set in trash cans and a CVS store was set ablaze after protesters broke in and stole what was on the shelves. Protesters also ransacked a jewelry store, cellphone store and other businesses, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Chief Randal Taylor of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said Saturday that at least 30 businesses were damaged and 27 people were arrested during demonstrations that continued through at least 4 a.m.
“There was an immediate escalation from a peaceful protest to vandalism and other violent acts,” Taylor said during an online news conference Saturday afternoon.
He said three police officers were injured, as were three civilians, including one who sustained what he characterized as “severe lacerations” while kicking glass. Five IMPD vehicles were also damaged.
Indiana's second largest city, Fort Wayne, also saw overnight violence that followed a peaceful demonstration over Floyd's death. Police said more than 50 windows were shattered in the northeastern Indiana city's downtown area. No injuries were reported, but 29 protesters were arrested, The Journal Gazette reported.
The violence in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and many other cities was sparked by anger over over Floyd's death in Minneapolis on Monday, which was captured on cellphone video. It led to the firing Tuesday of the four police officers who were arresting Floyd for suspicion of passing a counterfeit bill and to third-degree murder and manslaughter charges being filed Friday against the officer who used his knee to pin Floyd down for more than eight minutes, even as Floyd pleaded for air and went limp.
At one point Friday night, Indianapolis police stood in riot gear as groups of protesters moved through clouds of tear gas chanting “I can’t breathe!” and “Black lives matter.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a statement Saturday that he, like many people, “was horrified by the needless killing of George Floyd,” but urged protesters to refrain from violence.
Hours later, the mayor said he had asked the organizers of demonstrations planned for Saturday evening to instruct those involved to return to their homes at 7 p.m.
“I will not deny your anger, for it is fairly earned,” Hogsett said. “But it is my sincere belief that in moments of anger, we all as humans have a fundamental choice: the choice between love or hate. Indianapolis, it is my hope that as you gather in anger, you will leave your peaceful protest and return home by choosing love.”
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb urged demonstrators Saturday to avoid violence in protests expressing anger over Floyd's death. He said he's asked Indiana State Police “to fully support and make resources available to local communities across our state to ensure our citizens and their property remain safe."
“In the days ahead, peaceful assembly and clear voices will be important if we are to make progress. Violence and vandalism will set us back in our shared desire to resolve differences," Holcomb said.