Police Confront Hundreds Of Protesters On Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge In Dallas | KERA News

Police Confront Hundreds Of Protesters On Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge In Dallas

Protests continued around North Texas for a fourth day Monday, with one in Dallas resulting in police firing smoke bombs at a crowd on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. 

A young black woman was laying on the ground as police pulled her hands behind her back and used zip ties to handcuff her. 

“Let me go!” she said. “You’ve done this to my daddy! You’ve done this to my grandmother! You’ve done this!”

Hundreds of protesters had marched peacefully onto the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. But they found themselves surrounded by police, who ordered them to lie down. They shot smoke bombs at them, even after many were kneeling. 

“Don’t shoot!” the protesters said.

People were already gathered outside Dallas Police Headquarters shortly after 5 p.m. Monday.
Credit Kent Barker / Special To KERA News

The demonstration was organized by a coalition of activist groups, but spearheaded by the Next Generation Action Network. It started at the Dallas police headquarters, but protesters moved to the Dallas County Frank Crowley Courthouse, just outside the area of the city under curfew.   

At the courthouse, protesters took turns at the microphone. Brandon Reed told the crowd he loved them. But he also asked them to be smart. 

“Don’t put yourselves in harm's way, because you have loved ones to go home to,” he said. “You still have a voice that needs to be heard. So do it peacefully. Do it strategically. And do it with love.”

Soon after the speeches, the march began. The route appeared to be planned. 

Police watched as people passed them, chanting. Protesters were allowed to march onto the bridge, then police later moved on them from front and back, shutting things down. Officers fired smoke bombs at the crowd and ordering everyone to lie on the ground. 

Many people were detained, shuttled off the bridge in vehicles. But late Monday, it wasn’t clear if they’d be given tickets, and some people were being released.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson told WFAA-TV: “I have serious concerns about what happened on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge tonight, but I will not have further comment until I hear a full explanation from the city manager and police commanders.”

Next Generation says they’ll protest every day until policing is better in all of North Texas. 

The death of George Floyd, a black man killed by police in Minneapolis, has sparked protests in North Texas and nationwide. Dominique Alexander, who leads Next Generation, said Floyd's death hits close to home for Dallas residents.

“To all of the people that say, ‘Why are you protesting when George Floyd was in Minnesota?' Well, Dallas has known it’s share of George Floyds! And we’re one second away from a new hashtag creation,” Alexander said. “We're tired of them new hashtags!”

Other protests took place across North Texas on Monday.

In Frisco, hundreds gathered for a “peaceful protest march” at the Warren Sports Complex Pavilion off Eldorado Parkway.

Daniel Rentie, a college minister in Frisco helped organize the event.

“We want to speak against the injustices and the social inequities throughout our country but we want to do it a peaceful and a loving way,” Rentie said. “The only way that we can solve these issues is if we’re all involved in doing it together.”

Rentie said organizers talked with the Frisco Police Department about safety measures – they picked a route that isn’t near many businesses. He said some officers offered to march with the protesters.

People also marched in downtown Fort Worth Monday night, disregarding the 8 p.m. curfew. That created a tense stand-off that ended when Police Chief Ed Kraus knelt with the crowd, and protesters and police agreed to disperse.

Curfews Around North Texas

Fort Worth joined Dallas, Denton and cities around the nation by setting a curfew after days of anti-police brutality protests sparked by the killing of Floyd.

Fort Worth's curfew began Monday at 8 p.m. and will lift at 6 a.m., according to the emergency order. It will expire on Thursday at 5 p.m., unless the City Council decides to renew it.

The curfew was in response to a Sunday night standoff between protesters and police on the West 7th Street bridge near downtown. It ended with police using tear gas and making about 50 arrests, according to Police Chief Ed Kraus.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price condemned the killing of Floyd at a press conference on Monday.

"I wanted to acknowledge firsthand the injustice and the tragic death of George Floyd and the mourning that this nation and this community are a part of. Everyone is experiencing that tragic loss," she said.

She also acknowledged the curfew comes just as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifting.

"It's a difficult decision to make, as we have just begun reopening businesses after the many restrictions from COVID. However, we must prioritize the safety and health of our community," she said.

The curfew requires people to stay home from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., unless they are going to work or school. No form of transportation is allowed, including walking, biking or driving. Violating the curfew is a misdemeanor and can carry a fine of up to $500.

Trinity Metro announced it would cease all opperations in order to comply with the curfew.

Dallas' curfew is in place from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Denton's is in place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Critiquing Policing Practices

Next Generation Action Network's Dominique Alexander was part of a coalition of activists that met with Dallas city leaders Monday morning to discuss policing policies, the new city-wide curfew and strategies for peaceful protest.

At that meeting, attorney Jasmine Crockett voiced her displeasure with policing during the protests.

She said it isn’t fair that white people can assemble and protest while armed, while people of color are singled out for voicing their pain.

“These people are protesting because they’re hurting and they’re asking somebody to do what’s right for once!” Crockett said. “Instead you double down and you treat them wrongly again by falsely imprisoning them. And then you treat them wrongly again by shooting them with rubber bullets. And then you treat them wrongly again by not even giving them a bond in a timely fashion, so that they can get out!”

KERA has reached out to the city manager and mayor for comment, but has received no response yet.

The Dallas Police Department issued a statement Monday afternoon saying they are aware of and are investigating “two use-of-force incidents” Sunday possibly involving Dallas police officers that left two people seriously injured, requiring hospitalization and surgery. 

Both incidents happened on Main Street in downtown Dallas — near the Pagasus Plaza around 4 p.m., and the other near the Bank of America Financial Center around 7 p.m. 

“We are currently waiting for the victims to recover in order to garner all the facts surrounding these incidents,” police said in a statement. 

Museums in Dallas’ Arts District were damaged over the weekend. Three of them — the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Crow Museum of Asian Art — all face each other along Flora Street.

Amy Lewis Hofland, executive director of the Crow Museum, said she believes the museum suffered as much broken glass as it did because vandals were attracted by the window displays of the museum's gift shop, called the Lotus.

“We did have some theft in the Lotus shop.” she said. “I would say we also had quite a bit of damage to products, probably coming from the chairs that were thrown through the window onto the display of ceramics.” 

Much of the plywood covering the museums' windows and doors has been put up to protect them. None of the museums has reported a loss to its collections.

Leaders from around the region and the state have accused demonstrators visiting from outside the region or the state of being responsible for violence, theft and property damage.

Monday afternoon Gov. Greg Abbott, along with all four United States Attorneys in Texas, announced that anyone who come to Texas from out of state to engage in looting or violence will be subject to federal prosecution. A statement from the governor’s office said anyone arrested and charged with such offenses will be transferred to federal custody.

KERA's Jerome Weeks contributed to this report, which has been updated.

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