Peaceful protest turned violent leads to damage, cancellations

(Photo Supplied/John Finch)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO): “I never thought this would happen here.”

That’s the sentiment spoken and written by many, in social media posts, messages, phone calls, and in-person conversation, after what started as a peaceful protest in downtown Fort Wayne against police violence against black people – spurred on by the recent viral video of a man who died while being taken into police custody in Minneapolis as a police officer kneeled on his neck – turned violent Friday night.

Rocks and water bottles were thrown at police, who had shown to try and get some demonstrators to stop blocking the intersection of Clinton and Fourth Streets. Some of them were walking against traffic, others were sitting in the road. There are some reports that these people were younger than the majority of the demonstrators and may not have been directly affiliated with them.

Someone started throwing bottles at police. Tear gas was deployed, affecting both the protesters and the journalists who were there to cover the event as it happened.

“As the demonstration moved along, it began to get more aggressive and the safety of the public was being put at risk,” said Mayor Tom Henry. “The Fort Wayne Police Department ultimately had to respond in a manner to protect the public’s safety.”

The “I can’t breathe” demonstration started peacefully at the Allen County Courthouse at 5pm, with about 300 attending, but by midnight, the windows of numerous downtown businesses had been shattered and there were still some small ongoing clashes between angry protesters and police.

Out of caution, the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana canceled today’s Farmer’s Market, and some businesses have closed, either to make repairs or out of safety concerns.

A “Downtown cleanup” Facebook group has been launched, encouraging people to show up at 10am to help clear some of the damage and debris.

The Fort Wayne Police Department is planning a press conference for this morning. As of 7am, no arrests had been reported.

Jenica Collins, who had organized Friday’s initial demonstration, told the Journal Gazette she didn’t want “this.” A follow-up demonstration was scheduled for 2pm today but may have been called off.