On Saturday, the death of George Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis Police custody, inspired hundreds of peaceful protesters to gather in Reno at the Bruce R. Thompson Courthouse and Federal Building and Reno City Hall. The peaceful event turned violent as evening approached.
Sometime around 6:30 p.m., the First Street door of Reno City Hall was smashed. A fire had reportedly been started. Graffiti was spray painted around the door. Reno Police and Washoe County Sheriffs in riot gear established a barricade around City Hall at the intersection of First and Virginia streets.
Rioters would encroach on the line of police. Some taunted the officers with shouts of “killer,” “murderer,” and “racist” among other unsavory insults. The police remained silent and immovable, and seemingly, when protesters got too close, too boisterous, or too large in number, they would deploy pepper gas and concussion grenades that reverberated off downtown buildings.
People ran, gagging on the biting white smoke. Some protesters were prepared and had gallons of milk on hand as an antidote to the pepper gas.
When the gas cleared, protesters would once again congregate near the line of police. A woman’s voice on a bullhorn repeatedly instructed the rioters to disperse.
Protesters, largely wearing masks, threw water bottles and fireworks at police and chanted “I can’t breathe … I can’t breath …”
By 11:00 p.m., the Nevada National Guard had been deployed in support of Reno PD and officers from the Washoe County Sheriff’ Office. The Nevada Highway Patrol, Sparks Police, the Washoe County School District Police Department, and the Douglas County SWAT officers assisted.
More audio and images are forthcoming.
The cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County have issued a mandatory curfew for tonight, May 30, effective immediately. Residents are asked to please avoid the downtown area, and to adhere to the curfew to “help protect the safety of our community,” according to a press release. “As a precaution, there will be a heavy police presence in downtown Reno throughout the night.”
In addition the City of Reno has released the following statements regarding the protests that occurred in Reno, Nevada today, May 30:
Hillary Schieve, Reno Mayor:
“Like so many, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the death of Mr. Floyd. While a reaction of outrage is understandable, I believe peaceful protest and constructive conversation is the best path forward for our great city and nation. Emotions are high and many in our community are in pain. But I implore our citizens — our neighbors — to channel this energy into the true fight: social justice, equality, and accountability. We love our city and all who live here.
I want our citizens to understand that the City of Reno will not tolerate any excessive use of force by our police department, or anyone else for that matter. I want to make that abundantly clear. We absolutely support peaceful protesting in the City of Reno.
I also want to make it clear we will not tolerate any violence during this time. We will also not condone any illegal activity happening that is not part of a peaceful protest we need to keep our community safe. With safety in mind, we are implementing a mandatory curfew this evening. The City of Reno thanks our many citizens who have, and will, come together to peacefully assemble.”
Jason Soto, Reno Police Chief and Acting City Manager:
“We fully support and will protect every citizen’s right to peacefully protest and exercise their Constitutional rights here in Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately, today we’ve seen the actions of a few overshadow what was otherwise a peaceful day of demonstration in The Biggest Little City. We will remain vigilant and focused on effectively serving the public safety needs of our Reno and Washoe County residents.
The Reno Police Department follows a community-policing model that includes regular community outreach to address concerns. The relationships we’ve built with community groups and faith-based organizations are critical to facilitating trust, understanding and community safety. We will use this as an opportunity to further strengthen those important relationships and community connections.
I speak for our entire police department when I say that we are all deeply disturbed and saddened by what occurred in Minneapolis. We spend hundreds of hours training over the course of our career to avoid such actions, and to maintain trust with all of our citizens. There are times when those of us in law enforcement must recognize and be critical of unjust actions by those who are given ultimate arrest authority.”