More than one thousand protestors took to the streets in Flagstaff in Sunnyside and the historic downtown area to decry police violence against George Floyd and other people of color Tuesday.
The protest hit a turning point when an unidentified person threw a brick or rock through the Flagstaff Police Department’s Fourth Street substation window.
Many of the protestors turned on the person as they ran away from the scene, yelling at them to stop the violence and to leave the area. A small group of the protestors instead used their bodies to block the station from further property damage until police arrived.
The broken window came after hundreds of protestors had marched in the streets from the intersection at Route 66 and Fourth Street, conducting sit-ins and blocking intersections, walking down Fourth Street and taking a moment to speak in front of the substation. Before the window was broken, protestors tried to talk about solutions to end police violence, but loud arguments erupted over the question of whether to reform or abolish the police.
The brick was thrown soon after. No protestors were arrested Tuesday, according to Charles Hernandez, spokesman of the Flagstaff Police Department, and there have been no arrests since demonstrations began on Friday.
Countrywide protests have erupted over the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minnesota after he placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while he was in custody. The officer has since been arrested.
In Arizona, earlier protests caused Gov. Doug Ducey to implement a curfew starting at 8 p.m. through June 8. Mayor Coral Evans said even though she has her disagreements with the governor, in a call with him, she did not accept any state police to help manage protestors.
Despite the fact that protestors used their First Amendment right to protest until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, there was only one other case of property damage where "Black Lives Matter" was spray painted onto the Flagstaff City Hall lawn. Protestors in the area of downtown also marched on Birch Avenue, and held sit-ins on Birch and Route 66.
Earlier in the day, Hernandez explained that the police will assess the protests in the coming days on a case-by-case basis. He said the department wants to straddle the line between protecting people’s life and property and protecting people’s right to protest.
“We’re trying to prevent any of that unlawful behavior,” Hernandez said. “We are allocating resources to protect the rights of individuals exercising constitutional rights, but also implementing personnel to preserve the safety and order of the community.”
Jermaine Barkley, a Flagstaff resident for 8 years, was among the hundreds protesting in the downtown area and near Flagstaff City Hall. Barkley wrote the names and last words of people of color from around the country who he felt died unjustly. The words included “I can’t breathe,” from George Floyd; “Please don’t let me die,” from Kimani Gray; and "I wasn't reaching for it" from Philando Castile.
“These aren’t the words of somebody arguing, or someone combative, or someone fighting with the police or robbing a bank. These are the last words of some people who were scared, or who were confused, and who didn’t understand why this was happening,” Barkley said. “It just points out the senselessness of what’s going on. I think that’s why so many people mobilized today.”
At Flagstaff City Hall, a person spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” in black spray paint on the grass. But nearly everyone protested peacefully without defacing property and marched from city hall to the Coconino County Superior Courthouse lawn and then to Heritage Square.
A few men drinking a beer on the Hops on Birch patio began clapping for protestors at the courthouse. The men said they expected to see protestors around the city during their first time to a bar since COVID-19 began, but didn’t expect to see them to show up at the courthouse.
“Maybe my life should be disrupted,” Nelson Voldeng said.
Khalil Brown, an NAU student who was one of hundreds on the courthouse lawns, felt he had a duty as a person of color to be among protestors.
“It’s our duty to do this,” Brown said. “This is for our ancestors. This is for our future kids. This is for the people who can’t be here now.”
Many protestors called for justice for those impacted by police violence. One hoped to make it easier to charge police officers who act with malice or negligence.
Levalle Billie joined the protests because she felt that Native American people needed to be present in the fight for the rights of all minorities. At the same time, she said she sees the mistreatment of Native Americans as a large issue that needs more attention.
“It’s not just [people who are black]. It’s Hispanics. It’s Arabs. It’s anyone with a color that’s not just white,” Billie said. “I’m here to protest that."
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