RICHMOND — A kind of miracle happened here Sunday at Waller & Company Jewelers, just hours after the historic black-owned business was looted during protests that gripped cities across the country over police killings of unarmed African Americans.

As word got out that the 120-year-old jeweler had been hit, some of its most loyal customers began showing up to help.

Around them, protests continued in downtown Richmond, but with none of the violence and destruction that had left windows broken, walls spray-painted and dumpsters smoldering for blocks around the state Capitol the night before. Instead, local activists staged a peaceful rally and horn-honking demonstrations at several street corners during the day, police looking on warily but doing little beyond directing traffic.

But by evening, a defiant crowd gathered around the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and began a march down Monument Avenue and wove their way through the city.

Mayor Levar Stoney (D) had asked the state for permission to set a curfew for 8 p.m., and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) responded by declaring a state of emergency and offering to send the National Guard if needed.

At least 30 or 40 officers stretched across Broad Street, on foot and in riot gear, in police cars, vans and an armored vehicle. Around 9 p.m., the two sides were in a standoff, about two blocks apart. Then came loud banging noises as police fired tear gas canisters. They arced high in the air, then came down amid the protesters, who scattered in all directions.

Police later apprehended about two dozen demonstrators a few blocks away. Police could be seen talking to the demonstrators, who sat on the curb, their hands zip-tied behind them. When they spotted an approaching group, the protesters began yelling: "Run! Turn around and run!" That group fled, with several officers pursuing them on foot and in vehicles.

Earlier in the day, shopkeepers weren't taking chances, nailing up plywood over downtown windows as if a hurricane was coming. Police Chief William C. Smith attributed much of the worst violence to "outside actors," and said authorities were scrambling to identify "who's pulling their strings."

Though dozens of storefronts were trashed along Broad Street, even other shopkeepers were appalled that Waller had been targeted. The jeweler is one of the oldest black-owned businesses in Richmond, founded in 1900 by the grandfather of the current owner, Richard Waller Jr., 82, who rushed to the downtown shop when the burglar alarm went off around 2 a.m.

Thieves had emptied several display cases full of watches and jewelry. They hadn't touched the merchandise Waller is most known for: panhellenic gear with symbols of the Divine Nine, historic black sororities and fraternities.

Members of the Greek-letter groups began arriving at the shop later Sunday, drawn by the thought that Waller needed help. By midmorning, 100 or more men and women from the service groups were on the sidewalk outside, hoping to clean up glass, nail boards or do anything else. But Waller didn't have plywood yet, and there wasn't much for them to do.

So they got out their wallets. "They were like, 'Okay, we're going to buy you out,' " said Leonetty Gray, 39, Waller's niece and a local schoolteacher who grew up helping at the store.

Five at a time, the masked fraternity brothers and sorority sisters entered the shop and loaded up on purchases: T-shirts, flip-flops, hats — whatever Panhellenic memorabilia they could find.

"Oh, oh, oh, I tell you!" Waller said, as the rush continued into the afternoon. "It turned out it was a blessing."

Much of the looting and vandalism had taken place outside on Broad Street in Jackson Ward, a historically African American neighborhood. Nearly every window was smashed in some blocks.

Dozens had stormed a state liquor store, grabbing as much as they could carry. Bottles crashed onto the sidewalk, and people set the spilled alcohol on fire. The shelves were stripped bare at Monument, an athletic shoe store.

A bare-chested man burst out of Ledbury, a men's clothier that had recently started making masks to protect against the coronavirus, carrying a dozen or more dress shirts, still on their hangers.

Charm School Social Club, an ice cream shop, was the rare unscathed establishment, a good fortune that co-owner Alex Zavaleta credited to a strategy borrowed from Ben's Chili Bowl. The landmark District eatery survived the 1968 riots by staying open past curfew to feed black activists, firefighters and police alike.

"Growing up in the D.C. area, that's something you knew about, and it stuck with me," said Zavaleta, a Springfield native

So Zavaleta stood at the door with friends, offering protesters cups of water and amateur first aid. They sprayed watered-down Maalox into the eyes of demonstrators overcome by tear gas.

Brandee Leftridge, 26, was one of 20 to 30 demonstrators who stumbled into the ice cream shop for help, tears streaming down her face. She said a woman in the crowd had sprayed her with mace amid looting at a shoe store.

As Zavaleta and his team began tending to her, loud pops that they took to be gunfire rang outside. Everyone ran or crawled to a backroom, where they crouched for a few minutes, until they figured it was safe to come out.

"They were protecting me the whole time, telling me what to do," Leftridge said a few minutes later, after her eyes had cleared. As she left, she told Zavaleta: "If it wasn't for the coronavirus, I would hug you so much." They settled for an elbow bump.

Throughout Richmond, police and community members speculated that some of the violence had been instigated by outsiders.

"It's clear from their tactics they are infiltrating other protesters to hide themselves and using that as a jumping-off point for their actions," Smith, the police chief, said during a morning news conference.

He pointed to the fact that so many minority-owned businesses were targeted. "I think we can all understand attacking symbols of the past and of the racist past," Smith said. But setting fires at occupied houses, or burning a dorm at Virginia Commonwealth University "or the stores we rely on every day, . . . those things don't correlate at all."

Police said they made two arrests during Saturday's protest; one person was charged with breaking and entering, another on a firearms charge. One person was injured in a shooting.

Protesters tagged most of the famous Confederate statues on Monument Avenue with graffiti, draped a noose over the figure of Jefferson Davis and set a fire inside the headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy — the group that erected most of the statues a century ago.

Next door to the scorched UDC building on Arthur Ashe Boulevard, the Kehinde Wiley statue of a black man on a horse that was unveiled last year was left unmarked.

The Facebook page for the Virginia Flaggers, a Confederate heritage group, posted multiple pictures of the damage and of a man who showed up with a rifle to stand guard at the UDC headquarters. "It's getting time to form a militia to protect these places and our people," one person commented. "I believe this is only going to get worse. This is an attempt to take over this country."

Social media was rife with claims that some of the white protesters were advocating a far-right ideology of "boogaloo" or race war. And several people who had been on the streets overnight described being shocked by groups who showed up bent on violence or thievery.

"There were definitely people not from here who came out to break [stuff]," said Black Liquid, 37, a local hip-hop personality who had been hosting a radio show early Sunday morning and went outside to guard the studio. Several people carried hammers, he said; "there was a group called Ninjas who had crowbars."

BlackLiq, as he is also known, was among several community activists who spoke at a rally Sunday in the Shockoe Bottom section of downtown that drew hundreds.

Police stood at a distance, even though the rally seemed to violate Northam's order against mass gatherings. Most attendees wore masks, and each time a speaker handed off the bullhorn — often shouting "f--- the police!" or "power to the f---ing people!" — they would pause for a few careful squirts of hand sanitizer.

A spokesman for Northam said the mass gatherings are a health concern and violate the ban on groups of more than 10. "But people are hurting, and they want and deserve to be heard," said spokesman Grant Neely. "Police officers are under tremendous pressure right now, and everyone is looking to them to demonstrate good judgment in enforcing the law."

A few blocks away, Leonetty Gray took a break outside her uncle's jewelry shop. She had stayed to guard it until after midnight. At one point, she said, several white people began hurling racial insults at her. "Baiting me," she said. She was determined not to respond, fearful for the business.

Shortly after she left, it was looted.

"I'm definitely a supporter of Black Lives Matter," she said, noting that one of her middle school students died of gun violence just a month ago. "But tearing down what your own people built up — that does not make sense. My mother marched in the March on Washington. For this." She gestured at the shop's broken windows.