Gunfire broke out in multiple cities, including Louisville, where police say seven people were injured in a shooting that sent dozens scattering. Several hundred people there were protesting the March fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor in her apartment, which police entered while she was asleep.
Six or seven shots were also fired near a crowd in Denver on Thursday evening, but a police spokesman said no one was injured.
Late into the night, officials pleaded with protesters to remain peaceful.
“I certainly understand everyone’s frustration and sense of pain and disgust following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis,” Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock (D) said in a video message Thursday night. “But I want to plead to everyone, let’s demonstrate, but let’s demonstrate peacefully. Leave the weapons home, and let’s march together in unity and let’s have our voices heard, but keep everyone safe. That’s the way we need to do this.”
Thursday marked the third night of protests after Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was captured on video digging his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck as Floyd cried, “I can’t breathe!” before he died.
In Louisville, multiple protests had also broken out since Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was shot and killed by police. When narcotics detectives broke down her door after midnight, her boyfriend fired a gun, thinking armed intruders had entered the home. Police shot Taylor eight times when they returned fire. They found no drugs.
The Louisville protests appeared to reach a fever pitch Thursday night.
Protesters blocked buses, broke an arm off a statue of King Louis XVI outside City Hall and threw fireworks at police officers, WFPL reported. Then, around 11:30 p.m., gunfire erupted from within the crowd, police said.
Of the seven people shot, at least two were in surgery and five were in good condition as of early Friday morning, said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D), adding that no police officers fired their weapons. Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said officers made multiple arrests but said she was unable to elaborate on how many or whether the arrests were connected to the shooting.
Fischer said, “I feel the community’s frustration, but tonight’s violence and destruction is not the way to solve it.” He shared a video message from Taylor’s sister, Juniyah Palmer, urging everyone to be peaceful.
“Louisville, thank you so much for saying Breonna’s name tonight,” she said. “We are not going to stop until we get justice, but we should stop tonight before people get hurt. Please go home, be safe and be ready to keep fighting.”
More than 1,000 miles away, in Denver, shots rang out at about 5:30 p.m., close enough to the state capitol building to alarm lawmakers inside.
“I did not see who shot. … They shot into a crowd of people protesting police brutality,” state Rep. Leslie Herod (D) told the Denver Post, adding that police inside the building instructed people to take cover. “It’s an act of violence against our community.”
Protesters spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” and Floyd’s name on the capitol steps, footage from CBS Denver shows, while some smashed vehicles parked in the building’s parking lot. Hundreds of others blocked traffic on Interstate 25 and marched down one busy street against traffic.
A viral video soon emerged showing one protester on the hood of a car before jumping off. The driver then circled back around to ram into the protester, who fell to the pavement before getting back up. Denver police spokesman Kurt Barnes said no arrests have been made in either the shooting or the apparent hit-and-run.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said he was “absolutely shocked” by the video of the driver apparently attempting to run over the protester.
“Coloradans are better than this,” he wrote on Twitter. “I share the immense anguish we all feel about the unjust murder of George Floyd. But let me be clear, senseless violence will never be healed by more violence.”
Elsewhere, police in New York arrested at least 70 protesters at Union Square, NBC New York reported. In Columbus, protesters reportedly breached the Ohio Statehouse, breaking windows and running inside, according to WCMH. Police SWAT teams showed up to secure the area, declaring an emergency on megaphones and ordering people to clear the area, WCMH reported.
Protesters in Phoenix resisted calls to disperse after police declared the protest an unlawful assembly around 11 p.m., the Arizona Republic reported. Chanting “I can’t breathe,” dozens faced police in riot gear, who shot rubber bullets at protesters and used pepper spray on others, the Republic reported. Video footage showed some being arrested, but when reached by phone, a police spokeswoman declined to answer any questions.
The protests continued well after midnight in Phoenix and numerous other cities. Some protesters could be seen wearing face masks, although their primary focus was on a different kind of epidemic in America than the novel coronavirus.
“It’s too easy to say we’re in a pandemic,” one protester in Denver, Kira Pratt, told the Denver Post. “Black people are at risk every day just living.”