Updated May 29, 2020 - 10:54 pm
A demonstration that started peacefully Friday with hundreds marching on the Strip to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned into tense standoffs with police and multiple arrests by the evening hours.
Two officers were injured, one of whom was transported to a hospital, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Dori Koren said during a media briefing Friday night. He said that between 30 to 40 demonstrators were arrested, but that numbers were fluctuating.
“We are still dealing with protesters on Las Vegas Boulevard, but that number has shrinked quite a bit,” Koren said just after 9:30 p.m.
Just before 9 p.m., Sheriff Joseph Lombardo tweeted: “The LVMPD stands with our community and censures any police brutality. As we continue to facilitate spontaneous and planned protests, violence or property damage will not be tolerated.“
Earlier, at around 8:30 p.m., about 150 protesters who remained were being pushed down Flamingo Road toward Koval Lane by dozens of officers in riot gear.
Metro officers occasionally rushed the crowd to encourage them to move back, and multiple people were seen being led away in handcuffs. Shortly afterward, the protest heated back up, and protesters were seen throwing rocks.
Metro spokesman Larry Hadfield said Friday evening that he didn’t know if officers used pepper spray or tear gas during the protest, and Review-Journal reporters didn’t see any tear gas being used.
Hadfield said the department called out additional units and planned to be at the scene all night.
Shortly before 6 p.m., police at Bellagio Drive and the Strip told protesters that they were violating Nevada law by blocking sidewalks and travel lanes and had 15 minutes to disperse.
A similar order was given at Fashion Show Drive, where a crowd of people were confronting a line of officers.
The protest was organized through Black Lives Matter flyers on social media and billed as a “march for justice, march for peace.”
No one person took credit for organizing the protest. People handing out flyers and water said a group of social media users scheduled it.
John Garcia, 26, was wearing an American flag scarf around his neck as he marched toward the Circus Circus casino about 3 p.m. He said he believes that without protesting, police brutality will continue.
“I just feel that things are getting worse,” he said.
As the evening went on, protesters became more confrontational with police, screaming profanity and throwing water bottles. But the protest as a whole was peaceful, with most people marching and holding signs with messages such as, “I Can’t Breathe,” “Stop the Murder” and “Say Their Names.”
Lauren H., who declined to give her full last name, appeared to be one of the people using a megaphone to lead the protesters. She was there when police first started pushing the crowd back at Fashion Show Drive and Las Vegas Boulevard.
“I thought it was going to get worse,” she said, saying the crowd seemed angry and sad.
Maya Negash said she came to the protest to show support for “people who died from racism.”
“Peace, that’s what we want,” she said. “We want the police to stop attacking us.”
Floyd, whose death has sparked protests in multiple cities, died after officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while Floyd lay handcuffed on the ground.
Three other Minneapolis officers were at the scene after a local grocery store called police to report that a man had tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
Floyd was unarmed, and a video that captured his arrest shows him pleading with officers, saying he couldn’t breathe. All four officers were fired from the department, and Chauvin was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Vinh Tran, 19, arrived with a group of three others at Circus Circus about an hour after Friday’s protest began. They had trouble finding parking.
Being silent would mean “being complacent with the pain and suffering our black community goes through,” Tran said.
Some of the protests in other cities sparked looting, violence and fires. On Thursday night, demonstrators set fire to a police station in Minneapolis that officers had abandoned.
On Friday, before the Las Vegas march started, police officer Alejandra Zambrano said officers regularly assigned to the area would be available if needed.
“We respect everyone’s right to peacefully assemble, and we monitor any and all events that occur on the Strip,” Zambrano said.
Nevada law enforcement leaders on Thursday distanced their agencies from the Minneapolis officers’ actions.
Lombardo, Clark County’s top police officer, wrote on Twitter: “The death of Mr. Floyd is deeply disturbing. The officers’ actions and inaction are inconsistent with the training and protocols of our profession and the LVMPD. I can assure you the LVMPD will strive each day to continue to build your trust.”
Contact Katelyn Newberg at email@example.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Julie Wootton-Greener, Glenn Puit, Alexis Egeland and Amanda Bradford contributed to this report.