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Curfew enforced after volatile protests in Salt Lake City

May 31, 2020 GMT
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A protester looks on as a flipped over police vehicle burns Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Salt Lake City. People converged on downtown Salt Lake City, Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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A protester looks on as a flipped over police vehicle burns Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Salt Lake City. People converged on downtown Salt Lake City, Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Police enforcing a curfew largely cleared the streets of downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday night after a volatile day of protests over the death of George Floyd, while demonstrators who refused to leave were arrested.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall enacted the curfew — which lasts until 6 a.m. Monday — and Gov. Gary Herbert activated the Utah National Guard after thousands converged on the downtown area Saturday afternoon.

Most people peacefully marched, chanted or blew their horns from vehicles. But some protesters turned to violence and vandalism, setting two cars on fire and attacking police officers, who responded with tear gas.

“The safe space we offered for today’s protest ... is no longer safe for anybody,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

Authorities broadcast over a loudspeaker that the 8 p.m. curfew had taken effect, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said. Police were prepared to give people time to voluntarily leave, but they planned to arrest people who refused to comply, Brown said.

“It is time to go home,” he said in a news conference after the curfew took effect.

Police officers from across Utah and up to 200 Guard troops were deployed to rein in what Gov. Gary Herbert called an “escalating situation.”

“We condemn violence and looting,” Herbert wrote, adding, “I once again call on all who are protesting to do so peacefully.”

Many protesters departed about an hour after the curfew, when the order to leave was played over a loudspeaker. But some sat defiantly in a plaza outside the state Capitol.

Dozens were arrested downtown as hundreds of police officers advanced to enforce the curfew, and two were arrested at the Capitol after refusing to leave, the Deseret News reported.

One police officer was injured after a protester struck the officer on the back of the head with a baseball bat, and two other officers have been hospitalized because of heat exhaustion, he said.

The police chief said he didn’t have any reports of protester injuries.

What was billed as a “car caravan for justice” began with people in vehicles circling the Salt Lake City Police Department with signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for George Floyd.”

People on foot smashed eggs against the windows of the police station. Messages were written on the building that said, “We can’t breathe” along with expletives directed at police.

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Graffiti was also written on the state Capitol.

Later in the afternoon, protesters flipped over a police vehicle and set it on fire. Men carrying rifles stood on top of the wreckage.

Elsewhere, a man aimed a bow and arrow at a group of protesters before he was tackled. People then flipped over the man’s car and set it on fire, the Deseret News reported.

During the day, protesters marched through downtown Salt Lake City to the state Capitol chanting, “We can’t breathe,” which Floyd said while he was in police custody.

Floyd died after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air, leading to protests in cities across the U.S.

A separate rally in Ogden drew about 1,000 people, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“(We want to do) anything we can do as a people to stop the systematic bias and racism against people of color in our nation that’s gone on for 400 years,” Ogden resident Keyvin VanDyke said.