A peaceful protest in downtown Nashville became violent Saturday night, leading Mayor John Cooper to sign an executive order declaring a state of civil emergency. Metro Police also issued a curfew for the city, starting at 10 p.m. CT and later called the crowd gathering outside the courthouse an "unlawful assembly." Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee also mobilized members of the state National Guard. The protest was against police brutality following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody Monday.
During the day, Cooper and other government officials attended the peaceful "I Will Breathe" rally, which became a march through downtown. Following the march, the demonstrations turned violent, with protesters starting to bash in windows of police cruises around 5 p.m. CT, reports The Tennessean. Police officers later arrived on horses, and some people began throwing bottles and rocks at the officers. The protest moved towards the Tennessee State Capitol, where protesters knocked down the statue of Edward Carmack, a controversial lawmaker with racist views who was shot and killed in 1908.
A line of police now advancing and they’re using flash bangs again. They’ve been repeatedly telling people to get off the property pic.twitter.com/nD2LyilTqo— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) May 31, 2020
At 8:45 p.m. CT, Cooper announced he signed Executive Order No. 9, declaring a state of civil emergency. "This afternoon’s rally for George Floyd and racial justice was peaceful. I attended and listened," Cooper wrote in another tweet. "We cannot let today’s message of reform descend into further violence. If you mean our city harm, go home."
The crowd has moved into the street in front of the courthouse now. “Justice for Dan Dan, f—k the police” is a reference to Daniel Hambrick, killed by a Nashville cop who was indicted for murder and is awaiting trial. pic.twitter.com/U7BXOj8V1m— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) May 31, 2020
Metro Police later confirmed there will be a 10 p.m. CT curfew. Officers also used more tear gas around City Hall, warning people of "unlawful assembly." Moments later, Lee confirmed he mobilized the National Guard at Cooper's request. "The threat to both peace and property is unacceptable and we will work with local law enforcement and community leaders to restore safety and order," Lee tweeted. "This is not a reflection of our state or the fundamental American right to peaceful protest."
Protests have been ongoing across the country following Floyd's death in Minneapolis on Monday. All four officers involved in Floyd's death were fired. On Friday, prosecutors charged Derek Chauvin, the officer who put his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, leading to his death, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors said the other officers may face charges as well.