Crowds in Las Vegas gather near the Casino Center May 30, 2020 to protest the death of George Floyd. Reno Gazette Journal
LAS VEGAS – Police formed a barricade in downtown Las Vegas Saturday night and slowly advanced on crowds of protesters there to protest the death of George Floyd.
Shortly after 10 p.m., there was the sound of a loud bang, followed by a stampede of protesters running from tear gas in the area. One woman said she was hit in the neck by a rubber bullet after hours of peaceful protest.
“Hands up! Don’t shoot! Hands up! Don’t shoot!” chanted several dozen Black Lives Matter protesters earlin the evening while raising signs at Downtown Las Vegas’ Container Park.
The chants emanated from the second wave of Las Vegas protests in the wake of Floyd’s death.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer kept his knee pressed into his neck for more than eight minutes. Across the country, protesters took to the streets for a fourth day to express their anger of his death.
One woman had the phrase “I can’t breathe” and the shape of a hand painted on her neck as she shouted into a bullhorn.
Protesters also held signs with messages such as “Police the Police” and “Enough is Enough.” As a smoke bomb spewed red smoke, protesters began marching to the Fremont Street canopy.
The crowd then began to head to the nearby courthouse. More than a dozen Las Vegas police officers stood near The Venue at 6th and Fremont, helmets at their sides.
Police blocked the access to the Casino Center as the growing crowd of protesters appeared to begin heading toward Las Vegas City Hall before returning to Fremont Street.
Tension began escalating shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday as protesters began throwing objects at the police barricade on Fremont Street. On two occasions, the crowds stampeded in retreat from advancing officers.
Some protesters shouted “Stop killing black people!” and “You’re not with us!” at officers.
Earlier in the day an organizer gave the Black Lives Matter protesters in Las Vegas advice: Do not get arrested. That’s not the point of this gathering. Stay out of the streets. Do not give police an excuse to arrest you.
The RGJ will update this story with dispatches and images from the scene.
A man carrying an AR-15 and a sign that reads “I can’t breathe” came to the protest and hugged a protest leader, saying he was there to protect them. The other side of his sign read “Message to police You must condemn those who wear the badge for the abuse of power!”
More than 400 protesters had crowded the Strip Friday in a tense confrontation with Las Vegas police. There were no immediate reports of injuries to protesters or property damage in nearby resorts or stores Friday.
But two police officers were injured, including one hospitalized with a wrist injury, and one police vehicle was vandalized by graffiti, said Officer Larry Hadfield, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department spokesman.
More than 400 demonstrators — racially diverse and predominantly young adults — answered social media calls for action in memory of Floyd.
Some in the Las Vegas crowd led chants of “I Can’t Breathe” and “No justice, no peace!” One homemade sign read: “Covid Shut Down Everything but Racism.”
Supporters cheered marchers from vehicles driving slowly alongside, honking on the otherwise quiet Las Vegas Boulevard before police shut down the road to traffic.
Contributing: Associated Press.
Ed Komenda writes about Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? Then support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here.
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