Updated at 8:34 a.m.
More than 1,000 protesters walked through downtown Raleigh Saturday evening to denounce the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some carried signs that said "I can't breathe" and "Racism is not patriotism." Others chanted "No justice, No peace."
It was one of several protests across North Carolina and dozens around the country in response to the death Monday of Floyd, who was black. His arrest was caught on camera and he could be heard saying "I can't breathe" while a white officer, Derek Chauvin, held his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Protests in Raleigh started peacefully Saturday but by 8 p.m. police had fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, following tense interactions. Protesters could be seen throwing bricks through windows. Tensions escalated further after 8:30, as police in riot gear advanced to further remove protestors. Fayetteville Street was the focus of most of the vandalism with multiple buildings along the street having windows broken out.
— Peyton Sickles (@PeytonSickles) May 31, 2020
By 9:45 p.m., there were enough protesters in critical mass in various areas of downtown Raleigh. A bus with SWAT Team members had also made its way to the area.
Earlier in the afternoon, about 250 protesters chanted the names of victims of police violence while marching through downtown Durham. The group moved from Five Points to the Durham County Jail to the plaza. Unmarked and marked City of Durham police cars followed the protest, and redirected traffic while officers remained in their vehicles.
In Fayetteville, protestors set fire to the iconic Market House in the city center, before they were dispersed. Windows were smashed in the upper floor. Mayor Mitch Colvin told WRAL-TV that the building's sprinklers were activated, but the extent of the damage was unknown.
In Charlotte, protesters broke into stores, kicked and stomped on police cars and engaged in confrontations that led to multiple arrests.
News outlets report that protests in the city Friday evening began peacefully but turned violent as the night wore on. A grocery store and a cellphone store were looted, and protesters threw rocks at police, smashed a police bicycle, slashed the tires of a police car and stomped on other police vehicles.
Officers responded by deploying tear gas canisters. Police said Saturday that they arrested 16 people, mostly for failing to disperse. One person was charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
Three officers suffered minor injuries: two of the three were treated and released from the hospital by Saturday afternoon, police said.
On Saturday, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles declared a state of emergency which she said will allow the city to call in state resources to respond to protests if necessary. Lyles said she hoped not to do that.
"We want people to protest safely and we want people to be heard." she said.
One of those arrested and charged with failure to disperse was City Council member Braxton Winston. He was released several hours later.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney told WBTV in Charlotte that protests began peacefully and police were prepared to accommodate that, "and then it turned on us."
"We have to have order, and we're going to," Putney said. "You should be proud of your CMPD police officers. They showed restraint, but they took care of business."
— Mayor Steve Schewel (@MayorSchewel) May 30, 2020
On Saturday, Lyles and 15 other mayors from across North Carolina signed a letter condemning the actions by police in Minneapolis and pledging to work to fight systemic racism within police forces in North Carolina.
“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.”
Editor Dave DeWitt and the Associated Press contributed to this report.