Peaceful protest ended in chaos, tear gas, and arrests

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- Up to 1,500 people marched in Greenville over the weekend, protesting racial inequality in a nationwide movement that was sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Greenville’s mayor, local activists, and law enforcement leaders met Monday to discuss the situation. They all praised the spirit of cooperation among the city and protesters and organizers that allowed people to make their voices heard.

“[Protesters] expressed their views so strongly and sent their message and make sure their voices were heard and did so peaceably,” said Greenville Mayor Knox White.

Greenville County Council member Ennis Fant said demonstrations are about more than what happened in Minneapolis.

“The anger and outrage that we have seen is not just about the death of one man, but it is about decades of building frustration inflicted on a people whose voices are still not heard or respected,” Fant said.

During the day, protests remained peaceful, but Sunday night police and a different group of protesters came to a head, according to the interim Greenville Police Chief Howie Thompson.

“The sheriff and I both met with the leaders, trying to get us to help them,” Thompson said. “They tried to get the group to leave and disperse. They couldn’t do it, so the leaders themselves then left. They said we can’t control it, we’ve lost it and in fact most of these people are not our group. We don’t know who they are.”

Up to 200 people gathered in and around main street, blocking off roads, making the gathering unlawful, according to the police chief. That’s when police donned riot gear.

Police also deployed tear gas and shot pepper balls at the ground– not at people, according to the chief– to create a line.

“But we held,” Thompson said. “We were hoping they were going to break up.”

According to a spokesperson for the police department, 15 people were arrested throughout the course of the weekend.

“The way it ended last night, that’s not the way we wanted it to end,” Thompson said. “We wanted it to end like the other previous events where everybody leaves peacefully and goes on home.”

The police chief said no one was hurt and no property was damaged at the protests this weekend.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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