Protests against racial injustice continued around the nation Saturday with tense situations unfolding in cities including Austin, Texas, Louisville, Kentucky, Seattle, Washington, Aurora, Colorado, Oakland, California, and Chicago, Illinois.
In Louisville two opposing, heavily armed militia groups came within a few dozen yards of each of other, but avoided violence. In Seattle, the city’s police declared a riot, citing “ongoing damage and public safety risks.” In Austin, authorities say one person was shot to death at a downtown protest. And in Chicago, pro-police and anti-police groups yelled at each other, but parted peacefully following a “Back the Blue” protest.
The ongoing protests come as federal agents deploy to major cities in a “surge” President Donald Trump says is aimed at curbing gun violence. That involvement is sparking backlash from both protesters and local officials.
In some areas of the country, marches were held in support of police. Among them: In San Angelo, Texas, hundreds of people showed up Saturday to participate in the Back the Blue walk in a show of support for law enforcement officers.
Two opposing, heavily armed militia groups came within a few dozen yards of each of other in downtown Louisville on Saturday in a tense standoff that ended without violence, but marked an escalation after two months of ongoing protests over the police shooting of a Black woman.
More than 300 members of the Atlanta-based Black militia NFAC, or “Not F**king Around Coalition” came to Louisville demanding justice for 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, an ER technician who was fatally shot by officers in March.
The group came close to 50 far-right “Three Percenter” militia members, who were also heavily armed. Police kept the sides apart and tensions eventually dissipated. Both militias had said they wanted to avoid violence.
Cries of “Black lives matter” were heard through downtown. One man yelled “Don’t fire unless you’re fired upon.”
Police confirmed three members of the NFAC were struck by gunfire when someone’s gun discharged while participating in a demonstration Saturday. All three victims went to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. There are no suspects at this time, police said.
The demonstrations follow a Friday protest where 76 people were arrested after setting up an impromptu block part and blocking off Market Street downtown. The protest had been organized as a March for Freedom, and activists listed demands for business owners, including hiring a more proportionate number of Black workers.
The protests come as pressure builds on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron as his office investigates the killing of Taylor, who was unarmed in her apartment when Louisville police shot her one night in March. Black Lives Matter activists are among those demanding that the officers be charged in the death.
Days after Trump announced the deployment of additional federal agents to Chicago, several protests took place there Saturday.
On the city’s West Side, dozens of people joined a youth-led “Love March” to remember victims of gun violence and call for the defunding of the Chicago Police Department.
Downtown, dozens of pro-police protesters — many not wearing face masks — gathered for a “Back the Blue” rally at the former site of one of the city’s two Christopher Columbus statues, which were temporarily taken down early Friday following a violent encounter between police and protesters there the week before.
Counter-protesters gathered across the street as dozens of officers on bikes stood between the groups, who occasionally clashed in brief scuffles.
Saturday evening, a youth-led protest against ICE merged with a Black Lives Matter rally calling for the defunding of police.
Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef, an activist and South Side resident who organized the Black Lives Matter protest, said the protesters were calling on the city to decrease the police department’s $1.8 billion budget and instead invest in mental health services, public schools, housing and small businesses.
The hundreds of protesters marched through downtown Chicago — under El train tracks and through cars — for several hours, holding signs that said “DHS agents not welcome” and chanting the names “Breonna Taylor” and “George Floyd.”
One of Chicago’s bridges, along Michigan Avenue, was seen lifted Saturday night — reminiscent of when bridges were lifted at the end of May amid protests and looting downtown. The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why it was lifted.
By 10 p.m. CDT Saturday, about a hundred remaining protesters gathered back at the site of the former Columbus statue, where the pro-police rally had taken place earlier in the day.
“We don’t have to fight to be heard,” said Lamar Whitfield, a South Side resident, after five hours of peaceful marching. “It’s easy to get in a fight, but that’s not the way we will be heard. We have to speak.”
At least one person was killed in a shooting in downtown Austin, Texas, on Saturday night in the midst of a Black Lives Matter protest, according to Austin-Travis County EMS.
According to a Facebook Live video recorded by a protester during the hours-long march, car honking could be heard before eight gunshots were unleashed. Several screaming protesters immediately took cover.
Police said the suspect is in custody and cooperating with officials.
A fire was ignited inside the Alameda County Superior Courthouse late Saturday as hundreds in Oakland gathered to protest racial injustice.
Oakland Police tweeted that agitators at the demonstration broke down barricades, vandalized the police station and assaulted officers with “fireworks and dangerous projectiles.”
Several people were arrested, according to police.
On Friday, thousands of people gathered in the streets hours after a U.S. judge denied Oregon’s request to restrict federal agents’ actions when they arrest people during protests that have roiled the city and pitted local officials against the Trump administration.
A persistent crowd of protesters remained outside the federal courthouse into the early hours of Saturday as fireworks were shot at the building and plumes of tear gas, dispensed by U.S. agents, lingered above. One person was stabbed and taken to the hospital, police said. A suspect is in custody.
Also Friday, the District of Oregon U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that 18 protesters will face federal charges, including assaulting federal officers and failing to comply with a lawful order.
For two months since the death of George Floyd, protests in Portland have been ongoing and tensions have recently escalated after unnamed federal agents in unmarked vehicles began arresting protesters. Recently on Wednesday, Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed by federal officers along with a large crowd after he tried for hours to calm angry activists demanding police reform.
The Seattle Police Department declared a riot Saturday, reporting crowds throwing rocks at officers, multiple fires and damage to businesses.
“Due to the ongoing damage and public safety risks associated with this incident, SPD is declaring it a riot,” the department tweeted late Saturday afternoon.
Seattle’s protesters had begun the rally and march over racial injustices Saturday afternoon peacefully. Thousands of protesters gathered near downtown Seattle in a show of solidarity with fellow demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, where tensions with federal law enforcement have boiled over.
Initially there was no sign of law enforcement near the march. Later, Seattle Police said via Twitter that about a dozen people breached the construction site for the King County youth detention facility. Also, police said protesters broke out windows at a King County court facility.
The Department of Homeland Security has dispatched a team of officers to Seattle as a precaution against a new round of protests expected this weekend, as the federal government’s law enforcement footprint continues to expand in major U.S. cities.
Authorities said the number of officers, about a dozen, does not compare with the more than 100 dispatched to Portland, where demonstrations against police brutality have continued since the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
With additional demonstrations planned Saturday and Sunday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan appealed for protesters to reject the violence and destruction that marred public displays Sunday and Wednesday.
Richmond Police declared an unlawful assembly late Saturday night, after protesters gathered outside of its headquarters downtown.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, after the declaration was announced, some protesters smashed windows of dump trucks that had been used to block off the area near police headquarters. One protester set one of the dump trucks on fire, police said.
According to the Times-Dispatch, police used chemical agents and flashbang grenades to force the crowd of more than 200 to disperse.
Police later said that the Richmond Fire Department extinguished the dump truck blaze. Virginia State Police indicated that it also helped secure the area.
Richmond Fire responded to a Chipotle Mexican Grill that had been set on fire in the Fan District, according to the Times-Dispatch. The windows of the restaurant, as well as those of almost all surrounding businesses were shattered, the newspaper reported.
Richmond Police tweeted an image showing chunks of asphalt, rocks and D batteries that they said protesters threw at officers. They also tweeted a video of an officer putting out a fire that had been set on a mattress in the middle of Cary Street, also in the Fan District.
State police said there were no injuries reported.
A car drove through a crowd and a protester was shot Saturday in the suburban Denver suburb of Aurora during demonstrations against racial injustice.
The Aurora Police Department said on Twitter that protesters were walking on Interstate 225 Saturday when a vehicle drove through.
Police said a protester fired a weapon, striking at least one person who was taken to a hospital in stable condition.
Authorities said the vehicle was towed and they are investigating. Protesters also broke windows to the courthouse and a fire was started in an office, police said. An unlawful assembly was declared and police ordered protesters to leave the area, authorities said.
Tensions have been heightened at recent protests against racial injustice since federal officials were sent to quell demonstrations in Portland, Oregon. Police declared a riot in Seattle on Saturday.
Protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota who died after a white officer held him to the ground with a knee to his neck, have also highlighted other cases of fatal police violence.
In Colorado, protesters have been drawing attention to the death of Elijah McClain, who was stopped by police while walking down an Aurora street in August 2019 after a 911 caller reported him as suspicious. Police placed him in a choke hold, and paramedics administered 500 milligrams of ketamine, a sedative, to calm him down. He went into cardiac arrest, was later declared brain dead and taken off life support.
Contributing: Chris Kenning, Hayes Gardner and Ben Tobin, Louisville Courier Journal; Colin Murphey, San Angelo Standard-Times; Grace Hauck, Trevor Hughes, Kevin Johnson and Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY; Statesman; The Associated Press