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Kansas City imposes curfew after protests turn violent

May 31, 2020 GMT
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Protesters march on South Florissant Road in front of the Ferguson police station on Saturday, May 30, 2020, demonstrating against the death of George Floyd in custody of Minneapolis police officers. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
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Protesters march on South Florissant Road in front of the Ferguson police station on Saturday, May 30, 2020, demonstrating against the death of George Floyd in custody of Minneapolis police officers. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials imposed a partial curfew and pleaded for calm on Sunday after overnight protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and law enforcement’s treatment of blacks devolved into violence that left several businesses damaged and at least 10 people injured.

Mayor Quinton Lucas said the curfew would last from 8 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday for city parks, downtown, the Westport entertainment district and the County Club Plaza, where officers responded with tear gas Saturday night after protesters smashed windows, burned a police car and threw rocks and bottles at police. People will be subject to arrest if they violate the curfew, which has not been extended beyond Monday morning.

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More than 1,000 people participated in Saturday’s protest and hundreds more, including U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, gathered Sunday afternoon for another protest.

Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith vowed to protect peaceful participants, but they said local police, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri National Guard would be on hand to try to prevent further violence.

“Peaceful demonstration is not breaking a bunch of windows at a cupcake shop, or raiding through a Gucci store,” Lucas said, adding that he had talked to a black businessman who was among owners trying to assess damage to their businesses on Sunday. “That’s not what this is about. What this is about is making sure we can find justice and finding a way to build justice in our community.”

Police arrested 85 people and at least 10 people were injured, including two officers who remained hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries Sunday. Smith said every officer on the front lines during the violence was struck by some type of object. A spokesperson for the city’s municipal court said 22 citations involving 19 people were issued between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday near the Country Club Plaza.

Oluwatoyin Keji Akinmoladun, 22, of Grandview, an organizer of the protests, said she urged people in the crowds to remain peaceful Saturday but some protesters began throwing objects when police began using tear gas. She also claimed police arrested people who weren’t throwing objects, including a man playing a trumpet and another person who was not part of the protest.

“I blame police for the damage,” she said. “No one wants to damage Kansas City, damage a beautiful spot like the Country Club Plaza. But (police) cared a lot more about the Plaza than they do about black people. They didn’t want to let us have our First Amendment rights, just worried about getting us off the street. I really wanted a peaceful protest but I can’t control everyone.”

Police spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said flash bangs were used, but he could not confirm reports from some protesters that rubber bullets also were used.

Gov. Mike Parson called up the National Guard on Saturday to respond to violence throughout the state, if needed. Smith said he asked for National Guard troops for Kansas City to help officers who are stretched thin by the protests.

Violence also erupted overnight Saturday in Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb that’s name has been synonymous with the police treatment of blacks since the 2014 fatal shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer. Seven officers were injured after being hit with rocks, bottles or fireworks and at least 11 police and fire vehicles were damaged, as was the Ferguson police headquarters and many businesses, said Sgt. Benjamin Granda of the St. Louis County police department.

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A “significant amount” of gunfire was heard in the area of the protests throughout the night, but no arrests were made, Granda said.

Protests were held Sunday in Springfield, Columbia and Boonville, with no immediate reports of violence.

The Missouri cities joined dozens around the country where protests were held over the death Monday of Floyd, who was black and handcuffed when a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground during an arrest as Floyd pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving. The officer, Derek Chauvin, and three others who took part in the arrest were fired, and Chauvin was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The other three officers haven’t been charged.

Akinmoladun said many black residents believe Kansas City police wrongfully shot and killed three black men in recent months and they want such shootings to end.

“We want (police) to understand that we will keep protesting,” she said. “We are here and we are watching and if these shootings continue, we will be back.”

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