FARGO, N.D. — What started out as a peaceful march through Fargo to protest the death of George Floyd turned ugly Saturday night when protesters damaged buildings and vehicles in the city's downtown after a two-hour, face-to-face showdown with police.
The violence followed a day of speeches honoring Floyd and a march of hundreds of people that started at a downtown park and wound through southwest Fargo and West Fargo. However, another group of more intense demonstrators gathered on a downtown street about 6 p.m., at which time the Fargo Police Department tweeted: "Protesters are not peaceful now."
Dozens of protesters went face-to-face with police in riot gear for a couple of hours while others lobbed water bottles at the officers. Police unleashed several canisters of tear gas shortly after 8 p.m., which led several protesters to began throwing rocks at officers. Others began smashing windows at the Hodo, a popular boutique hotel and bar, damaging vehicles and moving dumpsters into roadways.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Saturday night authorized the state National Guard to help local law enforcement, stating in an executive order that the "rule of law must be enforced to protect the general public, protesters, and first responders from those who engage in illegal activity."
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney declared a state of emergency that would expand the powers of law enforcement to help protect people and property. A curfew for downtown Fargo was put into effect at 10 p.m.
"I believe tonight's actions are the result of outside influences who are not reflective of our people," Mahoney said.
Earlier in the day, more than a couple thousand protesters of all ages walked through the city chanting and carrying signs that said "No Racism, No Riots" and "I Can't Breathe." The march was monitored closely by law enforcement personnel, some of whom were dressed in riot gear, outside the main Fargo police department. They used their vehicles to cut off entrance to a satellite precinct along the way.
No major incidents were reported during the march.
Protests have been taking place around the country over Floyd's death earlier this week in Minneapolis. Floyd died after an officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he pleaded for air and stopped moving.
One of the participants in the Fargo march, Rev. Kevin Cassiday-Maloney of First Congregational Church, said earlier Saturday there was anger among some of the protesters but "nothing that wasn't within the bounds of civility." Several younger protesters rode on skateboards and others pushed baby strollers.
"It was extraordinarily hopeful," Cassiday-Maloney said. "Just the mix of people, for one thing. It gives me hope to see people in their 20s and 30s, particularly, wanting to rebuild the world."
The group that sponsored the march put out a statement Saturday night expressing remorse for the violent events in downtown.