After one of the most violent confrontations seen yet in Orlando’s civil unrest demonstrations, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said tear gas was used on protesters at City Hall after rocks, bottles and a brick were thrown at police officers.
Rolón and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer insisted the city saw many hours of large, peaceful protests and things did not break down into violence until late, as the city’s 10 p.m. curfew was going into effect and police were asking people to leave.
Orlando now is tightening the curfew to 8 p.m. for the central city.
The Mayor pleaded for an end to large-scale protests and a new phase of reaction, anger, and demands for change that have erupted for more than a week since an unarmed, nonviolent black man, George Floyd, died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer May 25.
Rolón said his officers responded with force only because they were attacked Tuesday night. Twenty-eight people were arrested.
The Police Chief said officers have found, in the backpacks of arrested protesters, items such as rocks, fireworks, and slingshots. He said a cache of 200 pounds of rocks was found piled up near the Orlando Police Headquarters, the site of another protest Tuesday. He said at City Hall, a thrown brick hit the protective face mask on the helmet of an officer who was likely spared serious injury by his gear. Someone else tried to stab an officer with a syringe, he said.
“During the entire day, the largest crowd that we had in the downtown area, it was very peaceful. But unfortunately, some chose to not leave, and to throw rocks and bottles at the officers before the gas was deployed,” Rolón said.
Dyer called for “meaningful dialogue” and community partnerships, touchstones for his 17-year administration as Mayor. He vowed that the city would do everything it can to make sure “what happened to George Floyd doe not happen here.”
“Our country and our community is in pain. We’re angry. We’re frustrated. And those who have marched peacefully through our city this week to express their pain, they have every right to use their voices to remind us that change is needed,” Dyer said.
He said he is convinced Orlando residents support what the protesters are saying.
Yet, Dyer pushed on.
“We must move from a place of large demonstrations to a place where we can have meaningful dialogue, and allow our police officers to return to their focus on building relationships with every neighborhood in our city.”
The Police Chief commended the officers for retaining composure and professionalism.
“I cannot be more proud of the members of the Orlando Police Department and how professional they have been during this situation,” Rolón said. “Cannot be more thankful for the professional and assistance that our neighboring agencies have shown and displayed here in the city assisting us to provide a safe environment for the protests.