A protest in downtown Greenville escalated tonight, where protestors damaged multiple police cars and property which led to tear gas use after calls for the SWAT team.
The protest comes after multiple days of protesting in Greenville which were sparked after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The protest began at 5 p.m. at the Town Commons, and the group then moved to outside of the Greenville police station at 500 S Greene St., where multiple protestors spoke on their grievances against the Greenville Police Department.
The protest remained peaceful while outside of the police station, although a smaller group within the protest called for violence and for the station to be burnt down. Other protestors responded and chanted no to violent actions.
Marcus Hicks, an East Carolina University alumnus who graduated in 2018, attended the protest and said when peaceful protests are used, nothing truly changes. He said he hopes now that the protests have become a nationwide event that something may finally change.
“I see more people speaking up about it and not just African Americans. There’s all races coming forth and showing that they care about the black community,” Hicks said in a written statement after the protest.
Hicks said it’s important for the protests to not lose steam and die down, and he believes calling for equality on a daily basis is the way that change is created.
The protest then moved down Fifth Street, where another small group of protestors jumped on the tables outside of Sup Dogs and threw the food off of the tables as others chanted “No justice, no peace.”
Sup Dogs responded to the event on Twitter and said, “Here is what happened. We are fine. 99% of the protestors were peaceful.“
The protest then returned back to the Town Commons, where the movement of the crowd stopped. Protesters then began to beat police cars and break the windows as the SWAT team began to arrive.
Greenville PD then tear gassed the protestors near the Town Commons at 7:14 p.m. and the Chief of Police, Mark Holtzman, announced on Twitter that all downtown businesses had to close at 7:27 p.m. The protestors then damaged the confederate monument outside of the Pitt County Courthouse.
As of 9:06 p.m., the protest continued and the police increased their presence downtown to try and curb the protests.
Taylor Lucas, an ECU alumna from the class of 2019, said in a statement that she was happy that people came together in order to protest peacefully. She said the protests are a way that underrepresented communities can have their voice heard.
“I think when law enforcement stops seeing protests as a threat and see it as a demand for help, is when we will be able to make more progress towards justice and equality,” Lucas said in a written statement after the protest.
The East Carolinian will continue to post updates about the ongoing situation.