FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – What started off as a peaceful protest at the Allen County Courthouse green Friday evening turned into something drastically different.
The downtown Fort Wayne protest organized to demand justice for George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, started off with people chanting “I can’t breathe” at 5 p.m.
As the evening went on, protesters spilled into the streets and completely stopped traffic on Clinton Street.
ABC21 Camera crews saw protesters getting on top of a semi truck.
People then began sitting in the road at Clinton and Main Street.
That’s when Fort Wayne Police responded.
The FWPD formed a line of officers in riot gear telling people to get out of street.
Our cameras captured police spraying tear gas into the crowd.
When protesters approached the police riot line, our cameras also captured officers spraying pepper spray at them. Other ABC21 photographers showed people smashing windows of businesses nearby.
Fort Wayne Police Public Information Officer Sofia Rosales-Scatena asked the public to not come to downtown Fort Wayne and to stay home.
Just after 9:30 p.m. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry issued this statement:
Our country and community are hurting as a result of the passing of George Floyd. It’s a terrible tragedy for our society. Mr. Floyd’s death did not need to happen, and we pray tonight for his family and the many others who’ve faced injustices.
The City of Fort Wayne respects the rights of individuals to participate in peaceful demonstrations.
Tonight’s demonstration in downtown Fort Wayne began peacefully. As the demonstration moved along, it began to get more aggressive and the safety of the public was being put at risk.
The Fort Wayne Police Department ultimately had to respond in a manner to protect the public’s safety. It’s vital that we come together united as a city that cares about one another and supports each other.
That’s what we’ve been committed to in an effort to make Fort Wayne the best city possible.
Now more than ever we need to respectfully and peacefully engage in productive dialogue and understanding as we grieve together, knowing that we can have better days ahead of us.
Mayor Tom Henry
It appears police were able to disperse much of the crowd around 10 p.m. but police remain in the street.
Just before midnight, protesters and police moved down to E. Berry Street and Calhoun Street.
Authorities using a loud speaker told people to go home or be arrested.
ABC21 crews witnessed several people taken into custody.
Veo Ride, a bicycle and e-scooter ride share company that services Fort Wayne, said they are shutting down until Saturday morning at 8 a.m. due to the protests.
ABC21 Journalists say tear gas lingered in the air into the early morning hours.
Crews were boarding up shattered windows at several businesses while the cleanup had yet to start at others.
Among the damaged downtown businesses: The Hilton hotel, Forteeza Coffee, Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, Anthony Wayne Credit Adjustors, Practice Protection Inc. and DNB Commercial Real Estate.
This is a developing story. Check back in for updates.
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