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'Dallas Today Is Hurting': Protests Spread Across City For A Second Day

Protests over the police killings of black Americans continued for a second day in Dallas. Saturday's events started peacefully, but police later used tear gas to disperse protesters in downtown, while other demonstrators briefly shut down highways and damaged businesses. 

As of 11 p.m., Dallas police had made 74 arrests, including 10 arrests involving people on freeways. Those arrested will be charged with inciting a riot.

The day started with a rally outside City Hall. The crowd included people of all races and ages, many wearing facemasks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“It’s not just about George Floyd,” said Jennifer Miller, co-chair of the Dallas Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. “It’s about every single victim of police brutality and vigilantes, like the vigilantes down in Georgia who killed Ahmaud.”

Floyd, a Houston native, was killed in Minneapolis police custody. Ahmaud Arbery was recently killed while he was jogging in Satilla Shores, Georgia. Two white men, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, have been charged with murder and aggravated assault.

'Hate here is steep and deep'

Speakers used a megaphone to address the crowd.

“This is the same city that blew JFK’s cap off. So what you think they won’t do to us?” said Olinka Green of Dallas. “The hate here is steep and deep. So if we’re [going to] break this curse, and bring down these walls of hate, we got to start working on it right now. Because if not, I hate to be the one that said, ‘I warned you’ like John Brown," an abolitionist in the 19th century who believed in taking up arms to oppose slavery.

Green implored white people in the crowd to enlist other white people to join the effort to combat racism and discrimination.

“So if you’re standing next to a white person, look at them and say ‘Get your white folks,’” she said.

After the rally, the crowd marched past the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

Kevin Anderson of Plano said he agreed with calls by the Dallas mayor and police chief not to damage property during the protests.

“The only destruction that needs to be taken place is the destruction of the systematic racism that is going on in this country," Anderson said. "The industrial prison complex, the injustices that are [taking] place upon citizens of this nation daily. Those are the things that need to be destroyed.”

Anderson says the city should take on reforms -- and that when the city settles an abuse of force lawsuit, damages should come out of the police union pension.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for that,” he said.

Dallas 'is hurting,' mayor says

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and Police Chief Renee Hall held a press conference Saturday afternoon to address the protests that took place Friday night.

"Dallas today is hurting," Johnson said in an emotional address.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson
Credit Bret Jaspers / KERA News
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson

The mayor said he respects the protesters calling for justice forFloyd.

“Those protests gave voice to the many people of color in this country who have long felt frustration … that I not only understand but that I share," Johnson said.

But the mayor also called out the violence carried out by a small group of people "whose agendas had nothing to do with human rights or civil rights."

"We will not tolerate selfish lawlessness in the city of Dallas," Johnson said. "We will not bow to chaos or fear in this city."

Hall said she understood the anger protestors felt over Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

“There’s no excuse,” she said. “It was murder. And it was intolerable.”

And she backed up the mayor's comments: "Last night, a peaceful protest began. That is not how it ended. ... this police department will not tolerate rogue vandalism, will not tolerate tearing up our city by individuals who are protesting."

Malls, stores close in advance of protests

Other protests were planned for Saturday, and Hall vowed that police officers would be out in full force. A car caravan protest was expected at NorthPark Center and the Galleria, but the event did not attract many participants. Both malls closed early Saturday, citing concerns for pubic safety and security. Highland Park Village is also closed.

The protests led Target to announce it was temporarily closing at least six of its Dallas stores, as well as two in Austin. Dallas locations include Cityplace Market; Love Field (Marsh Lane); Medallion (Northwest Highway); North Dallas (Montfort Drive); Northeast Skillman and Preston Center.

By Saturday evening, a protest continued through downtown Dallas. At one point, the Dallas Police Department said it deployed tear gas to "disperse unruly protesters." Shortly before 8 p.m., dozens of protesters made their way onto Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

"This is extremely dangerous for protesters, motorists and officers," the police department said on Twitter.

Several people damaged a Whole Foods grocery store on McKinney Avenue.

Fort Worth mayor: Pain is 'raw, real and deep'

Hundreds of protesters had also gathered in Dallas and Fort Worth Friday night in response to the deaths of Floyd, Atatiana Jefferson and Breonna Taylor, black Americans recently killed by police officers. White officers in both Dallas and Fort Worth have recently shot and killed black people -- Botham Jean was shot to death while sitting in his Dallas apartment in 2018; Jefferson was shot to death while inside her Fort Worth apartment last October.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price released a statementSaturday, recallingJefferson's death.

"As our nation mourns over injustice and the tragic death of George Floyd, Fort Worth is still healing from its own tragedy that took place only seven months ago," Price wrote. "For those instances that don't gain notoriety, we know the pain for black and brown families is just as raw, real and deep."

A protest also took place in downtown Fort Worth late Saturday night. Several hundred demonstrators gathered, shouting “no justice; no peace” as police officers rode bikes nearby. Passing motorists honked their horns in solidarity. 

At least two people were arrested.

Carol Harrison-Lafayette, one of the protest organizers, said the law enforcement presence Saturday night was unnecessary.

“They’re not needed," she said. "I felt like the police was an intimidation. It got the crowd aggressive."

Jinohn Temple of Arlington said it’s been exhausting seeing incident after incident of police violence against black people.

“I think that across the whole United States, everybody’s just tired. I would say white people are tired, black people are tired, Hispanic people are tired, Asian people are tired,” she said. “We’re just tired of seeing the same things over and over again and it not changing at all.”

Protests across Texas

Protests took place in major cities across Texas on Saturday. More than 1,500 Texas Department of Public Safety officers were spread across the state to help police departments in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

“Texas and America mourn the senseless loss of George Floyd and the actions that led to his death are reprehensible and should be condemned in the strongest terms possible,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “As Texans exercise their 1st Amendment rights, it is imperative that order is maintained and private property is protected.”

On Saturday evening, Abbott activated the Texas National Guard, saying that "violence and looting will not be tolerated."  

Protests took place in Austin where protesters gathered outside police headquarters for a second day to protest racism and police violence after Floyd, an unarmed black man, died when a Minneapolis officer kneeled on his neck. They also demanded justice for Mike Ramos, a 42-year-old black and Hispanic man who was killed by an Austin police officer last month. Demonstrators also walked onto Interstate 35, stopping traffic.

In San Antonio, the Autonomous Brown Berets de San Antonio planned to hold a rally at Travis Park to demand justice for Floyd, who was from Houston.

Sunday morning Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in response to the demonstrations. Abbott's proclamation states that the related threats and incidents of violence constitute "an imminent threat of disaster."

The Associated Press and KERA's Miranda Suarez, Miguel Perez, Domini Davis and Eric Aasen contributed to this report, which has been updated. 

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Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.