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San Antonio’s downtown streets were relatively quiet Sunday night as police officers enforced its 10 p.m. curfew to stem possible criminal activity after a night of vandalism and looting Saturday.
Smaller, peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in Travis Park and near Alamo Plaza wrapped up at or before 10 p.m. Sunday. A few young people stayed to sit on a ledge of the Hipolito Garcia Federal Building on East Houston Street at North Alamo Street, but most left after police informed them that the curfew was in effect.
Two men on bikes also left when it became apparent that the officers weren’t going to arrest anyone or advance their line for simply standing there.
“I know people who have gotten killed by the police,” said a young black man who spoke to the line of police prepared to enforce the downtown curfew. The man, who declined to give his name, was given a promotion in the U.S. military on Wednesday, just two days after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minnesota, which sparked protests in cities across the U.S. He feels conflicted about the promotion in the context of racial and social injustices.
“We support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” he told reporters just before curfew. “And I feel as if crooked police officers that kill black – not even [just] black people, innocent, unarmed people – are domestic terrorists. I can’t fulfill my duty to my people when they do that and get away from it.”
“That’s why I was out here in the rain,” he added. “We just wanted our message to be heard. We hate that people were looting and all that. That’s silly. That doesn’t help anything. … We don’t want anything bad to happen to anybody.”
He urged others nearby to observe the curfew. It was unknown late Sunday if police had made arrests or conflicts arose elsewhere downtown.
About 30 people had gathered earlier in the day at Travis Park in preparation for a peaceful rally to continue the message of justice system reform from the peaceful Justice for George Floyd march on Saturday. Surrounding them and a photo stage were signs made for the weekend’s activities.
On a large white sign in the grass, people scrawled out messages to law enforcement in the wake of Floyd’s death.
“It’s basically something for … people [to] share their ideas on how we can better communicate what the police do to try to prevent these kinds of situations [and ensure] those steps are actually being taken,” said Antonio Lee, who founded the Young Ambitious Activists platform over the weekend in response to the violence, aimed at spreading a more positive message.
As they departed Travis Park to march in the streets, rain dumped on downtown – but they marched on. “It started pouring down. It was beautiful.”
They purposefully avoided Alamo Plaza, where some protesters clashed with police and an armed group of civilians on Saturday after the formal event concluded.
They said a prayer and left the park to respect the curfew, which lifts at 6 a.m. It’s unclear if Mayor Ron Nirenberg will extend it.
“We’re here for the right reasons,” he said. “They have a set of rules they put out for a reason – for the safety of the community. We’re not here to break rules. We’re not here to riot. We’re not here to cause problems.”
As a police helicopter hummed above the park, shining a light on the dwindling group, he looked up.
They came back and lay face-down – with their hands behind their heads – for nine minutes: Floyd was held down on the ground, hands cuffed behind his back as Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Chauvin was fired and charged with murder and manslaughter.
“About three minutes in – it was hard [for me] to breath,” Lee said. “Imagine a knee on your neck.”
He hopes the peaceful protests and rallies of the weekend will spark an awakening in San Antonio and America.
“We want to be heard. We want to be acknowledged. This has happened too many times. When is someone tired of being tired? We are exhausted. We’re ready to just love … and grow as a community.”