GREENSBORO, N.C. — Clean up is underway in downtown Greensboro after some businesses were damaged overnight.
Community members and small business owners are working to board up broken windows and make repairs together.
During a news conference Sunday afternoon Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Police Chief Brian James said the windows were broken by people outside of the Greensboro community.
“There were people in those groups yesterday that came to our community to start trouble, and that happened at the end of those events yesterday,” Mayor Vaughan said. “At the end of what was for most of the day a peaceful event, as it was breaking up, there were people who decided to act irresponsibly, and they started breaking windows out on South Elm Street. And as that was happening, I heard some of the protestors to say ‘stop that. That’s now what we are here for.'”
The 600 block of Elm Street is the most heavily damaged. Officers and crime scene investigators are documenting the damage and taking reports.
“A majority of the protest yesterday was peaceful and meaningful,” said Greensboro Police Chief Brian James. “A number of our local activists and organizers were in contact with us yesterday, working in cooperation to make sure the people had an opportunity to express their first amendment rights peacefully. That happened for the majority of the day.”
Greensboro police tell FOX8 that no injuries were reported, and police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd when rocks were being thrown at officers. A counter-protestor was arrested.
“I’m heartbroken for the business owners downtown. I think for many hours the protest was done peacefully. People came here to talk about George Floyd and other incidents of police abuse, and they were having their first amendments heard, and the event was just getting ready to break up, and we had a couple of bad actors decide to break out windows,” Mayor Vaughan said. “I think our police department acted exceedingly well yesterday. It was a long event, so now we just have to see about picking up the pieces, and what we can do moving forward so something like this doesn’t happen again.”
Broken windows were also seen at the Mellow Mushroom on South Elm Street.
“Right now our focus is on how we can assist these small businesses ,” Mayor Vaughan said.
A group of mayors in North Carolina, including Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, Raleigh Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, have released the following statement about the death of George Floyd and the protests in NC:
“As mayors of cities in North Carolina, we have come together to express our abhorrence of the horrific murder of George Floyd, an act of unspeakable violence, cold inhumanity, and racism. The photographic evidence of this act speaks for itself. Mr. Floyd was suffocated to death by a Minneapolis police officer while pleading for his life as three other officers knelt or stood by and did nothing to help him, even as he called out, “I can’t breathe.” As a society, we cannot tolerate this kind of police violence rooted in systemic racism. As mayors, we work closely with the police leadership in our cities, and we know that they also will not tolerate this kind of police violence and racism within their forces. Such acts not only harm innocent people, but they also deeply erode trust in our police forces, despite the good work of so many officers every day—officers who themselves abhor the racism and violence so evident in the death of George Floyd. Our hearts go out to Mr. Floyd and his family. We support Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis in his call for justice and accountability. We expect a full and fair trial of the police officers involved. We also support the rights of those who are peacefully protesting and honoring the memory of George Floyd and countless others that have been victims of systemic racism and police violence. Let’s work together to ensure that protests remain peaceful and stay focused on building equitable and just cities for all in North Carolina. And we pledge to make every effort within our power to fight systemic racism within our police forces, cities and this nation.”
Greensboro police tell FOX8 they deployed pepper spray on protestors downtown on Saturday night.
Officers could also be seen standing in front of protestors on Elm Street while wearing riot gear.
Earlier on Saturday through the afternoon and into the evening protestors gathered in Greensboro to protest the death of George Floyd.
“We have to do it in a city like Greensboro because we’re known for empowerment. We’re known for activism. We’re known for organizing,” a protestor in Greensboro told FOX8.
The protest in Greensboro follows other national protests across the US in New York, Detroit and Minneapolis.
“The problem is that there are individuals that are hurt, and the only way to capture that hurt is to see it in a very necessary, grassroots, organized method of protest…we literally are here because you got to take the pain off these pavements. Just the same way that George Floyd’s neck was on the pavement, we are taking the same pain on the pavement, and we’re trying to organize it,” a protestor in Greensboro said.
FOX8’s Michelle Wolf was downtown near the International Civil Rights Center & Museum where she says a group of protestors marched by. Police officers were standing in front of the building where the front window was shattered.
Greensboro police tell FOX8 they aren’t sure who broke the window.
Around 100 protestors chanted “black lives matter” at the Greensboro Police Department. They stayed there for about an hour around 6 p.m.
“When we say black lives matter, were uniting. We’re uniting as a whole, and we just want to be heard,” said Sarah Crowder, a protestor.
Protestors also held a rally at the intersection of East Friendly Avenue and North Davie Street.
Interstate 40 eastbound and westbound in Guilford County is now reopen in both directions, according to a Greensboro Police Department news release.
The interstate was shut down between Patterson Street and Randleman Road due to heavy traffic and protests in the area on Saturday night.
The interstate was closed around 7:39 p.m. and reopened at about 9:10 p.m., according to the NC Department of Transportation
The interstate was closed near West Gate City Boulevard in Greensboro at mile marker 217.