Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell, AP
DALLAS (AP) — Texas cities braced Sunday for the possibility of another night of unrest, as officials instated a curfew and readied reinforcements to try to prevent a repeat of the violence that broke out at weekend protests over the death of George Floyd and the treatment of black people by police.
Thousands of people took to the streets in cities throughout the country Friday and Saturday to protest Floyd’s death after a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck down for several minutes as Floyd pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving. Floyd grew up in Houston and his body is set to be returned to the city for burial.
In Texas, protesters vented their anger peacefully for hours Saturday in Dallas, Houston and Austin before the demonstrations got violent. Protesters set fires, damaged police cars and broke into and robbed stores, and people got hurt. The police used tear gas to disperse some of the crowds and said they arrested more than 300 people combined in the three cities.
Much of Dallas’ core will be under a curfew from 7 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday and the restriction will remain in force “for the next several days,” Police Chief U. Renee Hall said at a news conference. ” Several suburban police departments have volunteered officers and resources to help Dallas, she said.
“We will not tolerate any more damage to our city,” Hall said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a statewide disaster on Sunday, which allows him to designate federal agents to do the work of local police. These moves come as some Texas organizers are calling off demonstrations and others said they planned to proceed.
“Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement. “However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive. As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss.
In Austin, the state Capitol grounds were closed Sunday after it was vandalized Saturday. Protesters still gathered outside the Capitol, and marched on city hall and police headquarters.
Some protesters also walked onto an Austin highway and blocked traffic Sunday afternoon. Smoke billowed over the roadway as police cleared out the protests and then formed a line to stop them from re-entering. Some protesters told KVUE-TV that the smoke was tear gas, but police said on Twitter that they did not use tear gas.
One Austin group cancelled a rally that had been planned for Sunday at the state Capitol because they felt they couldn’t ensure the safety of African American protesters.
In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner thanked most of the protesters for remaining peaceful Saturday. He encouraged people to stay home Sunday night said he hopes a curfew is not necessary.
“We didn’t have a riot a last night,” Turner said at a Sunday news conference. “What you saw in the other major cities did not occur at that level at all in the city of Houston.”
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo reportedly said that his department would like to give George Floyd’s funeral a police escort. “Give us that honor,” Acevedo said at a Sunday rally, according to KTRK-TV.
Police in Dallas arrested nearly 90 people Saturday after businesses were broken into and one man was badly beaten. Before the curfew was announced, local activists Dominiue Alexander said demonstrations were still planned outside the police station and county jail during the afternoon and evening..
“The majority of the looters were not protesters,” Alexander said. “You have people taking advantage.”
Associated Press writer Jim Vertuno in Austin contributed to this report.