What started out as a solemn march honoring George Floyd turned into a destructive riot last night in downtown Eugene.
Several hundred people - at least 300 according to some bystanders - gathered in the downtown area.
Early footage showed people peacefully walking down the streets, chanting the name of George Floyd, or "Black Lives Matter". But soon, police began to warn motorists away from an "unruly" crowd who were occupying a lengthy stretch of the city around 11 pm, between the Ferry Street Bridge and Chambers Street, and primarily along 6th and 7th Avenues.
By midnight, the intersection at Washington and 7th was blocked by a growing bonfire.
Demonstrators began dragging several dumpsters, tables, traffic cones, and signs into it, and fireworks were heard exploding at the scene.
Once rioters began smashing windows of several neighborhood businesses, police intervened. Tear gas was seen billowing out, causing the crowds to largely disperse.
Some activists confronted those destroying property, yelling “This is not love!”
The EPD says a second fire was started on Lawrence subsequently, with a crowd of more than 50 people.
“What is happening tonight is not a legitimate, free speech event,” said EPD Chief Chris Skinner. “It is illegal, irresponsible, is destroying local business and city property. It threatens the reputation of other peaceful and lawful events that don’t damage our city and put our residents and guests in harm’s way.”
Some social media observers noted that most of the destruction was carried out by whites, purportedly in the name of black justice. One person tweeted that black people will “get blamed” for it, while another noted the bonfire was dangerously close to a homeless camp.
Many protests have happened nationwide, to protest Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Derek Chauvin - the now fired Minneapolis Police Department officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck - has been charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. Three other officers who were present have not yet been charged or arrested.
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