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Police officers stand in formation against protesters throwing rocks and water bottles during a demonstration next to the city of Miami Police Department, Saturday, in Miami. Protests were held throughout the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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Miami protests turn to torching, vandalism, looting

Protesters briefly shut down Interstate 95 in both directions

Miami protests turned violent as a small group set fire to multiple police cruisers, prompting police to respond with tear gas and fireworks to disperse the crowd, witnesses said.

The mayor set a 10 p.m. curfew.

At one point, Interstate 95 was shut down in both directions as a group of protesters stood on the busy roadway. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez warned on Twitter that the highway protest was “creating a dangerous situation for themselves and others. This is not the place or way to protest.”

Police officers later used bicycles to push back an increasingly rowdy crowd throwing rocks. Cars were also vandalized, including those belonging to protesters.

Later Saturday night, videos on social media showed dozens of people breaking into stores at Bayside Marketplace, a popular outdoor shopping center in downtown Miami.

Miami-Dade police tweeted that 38 people had been arrested in connection with Saturday’s protests.

“It started off peaceful and we were just walking around chanting stuff, trying to have all our voices heard and when we got to the police department that’s when things started to get a little rowdy,” said Savano Wilkerson, a 22-year-old West Palm Beach resident.

He was overcome by the tear gas, along with others around him.

“I had to get milk poured in my eyes twice because I was hit with the gas twice,” he said.

Police issued a dispersal order, warning protesters they would be arrested for trespassing if they did not leave the area.

Liseth Hatta, a 27-year-old student at Florida International University, said the protest was largely peaceful with many in the crowd of about 500 singing and urging each other not to break windows or hurt businesses.

But when they arrived at the police station, another group of protesters also converged there and things escalated within minutes.

“There was a sniper on the roof with the police chief standing next to him and they started throwing smoke bombs to the crowd. Most of them were kids. They couldn’t have been older than 21. Everyone ran away screaming,” she said.

Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina confirmed some were arrested, but said “it’s not a big number.”

“The restraint the officers have shown, I’m incredibly proud of their efforts,” he said, condemning Floyd’s death, adding he should still be alive.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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