WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Late Monday evening, protests in downtown Wilmington began escalating leading to a curfew going into effect at 11:30 p.m.
Mayor Bill Saffo put a curfew in effect until 6:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, after a mostly peaceful protest became unruly before midnight resulting in several arrests.
After conferring with law enforcement, Saffo instituted a curfew starting at 11:30 p.m. Monday night. New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office deputies showed up in riot gear to clear the streets, after reports of people in the crowd throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks at law enforcement.
Sheriff Ed McMahon said his deputies dispersed tear gas around themselves when a crowd of people began moving toward them. The sheriff said the gas was not fired toward anyone in the crowd of protestors.
Demonstrators gathered for a third day of protests in Wilmington to mark the death of George Floyd, the African-American man seen on video shouting “I can’t breathe’ while a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer kneeled on his neck. It began on the steps of City Hall late in the afternoon and grew in size throughout the evening with police officers and sheriff’s deputies monitoring the activity. After sundown, the group marched from Third Street to Market Street and eventually made its way back to the courthouse steps, chanting George Floyd’s name along with ‘No Justice, No Peace’ and ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’, a reference to the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
The group obtained a permit for Monday’s event, working to prove that it could be done peacefully. McMahon said many members of the group that organized the protest had left the scene when the problems began.
“Overall, until about the last hour, it was a successful, in my opinion, demonstration and people got to express their feelings in an orderly and lawful manner,” Sheriff McMahon said. He added that the number of arrests were fewer than law enforcement officers made when a protest Sunday escalated and resulted in several businesses being damaged.