A peaceful protest turned into a skirmish with police officers in downtown Dayton, as hundreds gathered to protest the death of George Floyd.
Around 400 people gathered midday Saturday to protest police violence against Black people. Floyd died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd down with his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Protesters began to gather at the front of Dayton’s Federal Building around 11:30 a.m., filling the lawn and sidewalk areas.
“We standing in solidarity with Minnesota and other places across the country,” said Donald Domineck, one of the organizers of the protest and the chair of Dayton’s chapter of the New Black Panther Party. “We want the people in Washington to know that we fed up with the violence against people.”
Protesters held signs that said “No justice, no peace,” and “I can’t breathe.” Cars drove by and honked in solidarity. Police officers on bikes circled the block periodically.
“When we talk about systematic racism, it’s not only for police, it’s also in education,” said Lynda Huggins, a former teacher and assistant principal for Dayton Public Schools. “We need this more than just on the days when police’s knees are on our brother’s neck. We need it every day. We need it on the west side of Dayton. We need it when Good Sam was going down. We need it when Krogers are closing.”
Around 1 p.m. the crowd began to march, filling the streets and chanting “Enough is enough,” and “Get off my neck.” Police blocked off roadways using bikes and police vehicles to contain the crowd and stop oncoming traffic. The crowd marched across downtown Dayton and through the Oregon District.
At around 2 p.m. the crowd reached the intersection of Jones Street and Wayne Avenue near the entrance to U.S. 35, where a row of police officers blocked the road with their bikes.
A police announcement issued a public safety order to disperse: “I command all those assembled to immediately disperse, which means leave this area. If you do not do so, you may be arrested or subject to other police action.”
Some protesters encouraged the group to turn around and march the other way. Some backed up and chanted from down the block. Others stayed close to the line of police officers as they were ordered to disperse.
Police then put on gas masks. A few protesters threw water bottles at the police, and the police used tear gas on the crowd.
Protesters brought jugs of milk and baking soda to help those with tear gas in their eyes. At one point several police officers tackled one protester to the ground. The Dayton Police Department reported that one officer was injured after protesters threw rocks and bottles of water at police.
The police used tear gas and pepper balls several more times to disperse the group, and a few protesters threw water bottles at the police officers.
By 3 p.m. much of the crowd had dispersed. Police officers with shields slowly walked forward in a line while protesters turned around to walk in the other direction.
Despite the confrontation with the police, Domineck said he thought the event went very well.
“The rally at the Federal Building was very productive and the passion of the people out here, I think it can’t be denied,” he said.
As far as police using chemicals on the crowd, he said that was par for the course.
“This is what is going to have to happen in America for our attitudes to change. We don’t want it to get to this. We don’t want anybody to get hurt. But if it gets to this, it gets to this,” he said.
Another protest on “Racism & Black Violence” was planned for 7 p.m., and police continued to report groups of protesters throughout the afternoon and early evening. At around 7:30 p.m., the City of Dayton imposed a curfew on downtown Dayton from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. “until the threat to public safety has been eliminated.”