Peaceful Erie protest for George Floyd turns violent

Broken windows at Lucky's Food Market in Erie (Capital-Star photo by Hannah McDonald)

ERIE, Pa. — A peaceful protest in downtown Erie against the death of George Floyd, police brutality and racism turned violent on Saturday night.

According to reports by Erie Times-News, the violence began after fireworks were fired at City Hall and a window at the police station was broken. The unrest, which local law enforcement described as a “riot,” began around 9:30 p.m., and lasted for roughly three hours. 

Videos taken by protesters show tear gas being fired at demonstrators by state and local police in riot gear at protestors as the officials moved in a line down State Street. One, through a bullhorn, yelled to the crowd, “Disperse immediately.” 

Just after midnight, the city issued a statement on Twitter: “The peaceful protest in downtown Erie has turned into a riot. The situation has escalated, and we are in a state of emergency. Do not go downtown. We ask all residents to please stay in your homes while our Erie Police Officers try to calm the situation and disperse the crowd.”

Demonstrators moved back, losing several blocks as the police line advanced. Police fired rubber bullets at the crowd. Protesters responded by setting off fireworks aimed at the police formation. 

The protest dispersed and quieted down shortly after midnight. 

By Sunday morning, it was hard to imagine the  chaos relayed by multiple accounts on Twitter and YouTube.

Downtown was quiet under a boldly blue sky. Erie city police blocked off the section of State Street from Perry Square to Third Street, where the violence occurred. Aside from the barricades and broken windows, it appeared  to be a quiet Sunday morning.  

(Capital-Star photo by Hannah McDonald)

The businesses  damaged include Ember + Forge, The Tap Room, Lucky’s Food Mart, the historic Cashier’s House and more, all on the 400 block of State Street. There have been no reports of looting. 

(Capital-Star photo by Hannah McDonald)

On Sunday morning, business owners, community members and Erie County executive Kathy Dahlkemper walked along the street surveying the damage, cleaning up broken glass, and boarding up windows with plywood. 

Police are overseeing the ongoing clean up efforts. 

Correspondent Hannah McDonald covers Erie and northwestern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow her on Twitter @HannahMcD0nald