Peaceful protesting in Conway escalates to tear gas Sunday night

CONWAY, Arkansas — Eight hours of protesting in Conway on Sunday remained peaceful, but it took a turn when the sun went down. 

Some protesters came back on Monday because they said they feel their message wasn’t heard. 

Protesters came to the intersection of Harkrider and Oak Street in Conway around 4 p.m. They remained peaceful, held signs and chanted things like “Who are we doing this for? George Floyd?”

Earlier that day, people in the community reflected on what took place the night before. 

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If you put the tear gas deployed aside, everyone said it was peaceful with powerful conversations had and moving moments made. 

“To see that on national TV for eight minutes, someone actually dying. I think that was the tipping point of everything,” Conway City Council member Theodore James, said. 

Protesters filled the streets and made their voices heard while having powerful moments in this cry heard around our country, according to Conway Police Department Public Information Officer LaTresha Woodruff.

“They were able to embrace some people, hug some people and just talk to people and let them know we are not here to be against them. We were here to make sure they were safe,” she said. 

This peaceful protest put together by community members, city officials and monitored by police officers took a turn for the worse when day turned to night, according to Mayor Bart Castleberry, who was at the protest. 

“Unfortunately, there were a few folks involved in it that were bent on causing some problems,” he said.

Woodruff said things got riled up when counter-protesters came along. 

“We had a few instances where people were running into the street and into traffic, so we started telling people that you have to get out of the streets. It’s okay if you continue to protest, but you have to get out of the street,” she said. 

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While some complied, others didn’t and when the Arkansas State Police came to assist as things escalated, they made several warnings before having to deploy tear gas twice. 

“I really think it was the influx of some outsiders that were just bent on causing issues,” Castleberry said.

Despite six arrests being made, city officials said they stand proud while members of the community stand together. 

“We stand with them and want justice, peace and equality for all of our neighbors,” Tricia O’Connor said. 

Woodruff said there was no destruction of property to buildings or the surrounding area from yesterday’s protests, but one patrol car’s window got smashed.