This story has been updated.
City officials lifted a temporary curfew on the downtown area Saturday afternoon as San Antonians protested the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25, for the eighth day.
The curfew, which began on Wednesday night and was originally planned to go through Sunday night, only affected the downtown business district. From 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Wednesday to Friday, people were not permitted to be outside in the area unless going home or to work, seeking medical attention, fleeing dangerous situations, or experiencing homelessness. Though police officers patrolled the area each night, protesters stayed past 9 p.m. each night in Travis Park without incident.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg signed an order lifting the curfew Saturday afternoon.
“The dialogue between the City, organizers, and demonstrators is a welcome development that is emblematic of the San Antonio way, and I am encouraged that we are able to end the curfew sooner than planned,” Nirenberg said in a statement.
On Saturday, a morning protest in Alamo Heights drew more than 300 people. Later, hundreds more gathered downtown to continue sharing the message: “Black lives matter.”
Nearly 200 protesters gathered at the San Antonio Public Safety headquarters Saturday afternoon, pledging to support the black community in everyday life and at the polls. A group of people that dubbed themselves “the Radical Registrars” set up under a tent and provided voter registration cards. Members said they registered over 200 people since Monday, including 25 people as of 4 p.m. Friday.
Anthony Sanchez, a U.S. history teacher at East Central Independent School District, told the crowd that they need to “be organized in their protesting and organized at the polls.”
“History books are filled with stories about those who have power and those who do not, and those with the power get it through votes,” Sanchez said. “When we are united at the polls we can create change.”
Sanchez said that he didn’t feel comfortable telling his students they “have a voice to make protest, to make change, if I am not out here protesting for change,” before finding children in attendance to help him lead the group in chants of “black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.”
Protesters took some time to socialize as the evening wore on, and as Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us” played, two people began a simple dance routine. More people joined until two dozen were following the steps, and the crowd cheered when the song finished.
Katelyn Menard, one of the protest’s leaders, shouted instructions as people joined in to dance to “Bikers Shuffle” by Big Mucci: “Right, right and up.” As that song melted away, the next in the queue, Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” started with a syrupy intro. The dwindling crowd, now closer to 100 people than 200, cheered as a handful of people danced and sang along.
“Give yourselves a round of applause,” Menard said after the “Cupid Shuffle” ended. “We’re wrapping things up … but we’ll see y’all tomorrow, right? Be blessed.”
At 7 p.m., after 40 minutes of dancing, protesters cheered and began to leave.
Protesters have continued to return to the San Antonio Public Safety headquarters each day to chant outside the building. Some protest organizers met with San Antonio Police Chief William McManus several times over the past week, McManus said.
“We agreed to work together to ensure the safety of demonstrators, police officers, civilians and their property,” McManus said in a statement. “The San Antonio Police Department remains committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of all who peacefully protest while also ensuring the safety of people and protection of property. I hope this will be a strong foundation for an ongoing conversation about the relationship law enforcement agencies have with our community.”
Antonio Lee founded Young Ambitious Activists, one of the organizing groups behind protests in San Antonio. He lent his voice to the City’s Saturday news release about lifting the temporary curfew.
“It’s been our goal all along to have a safe, peaceful space for all to make their voices heard,” Lee said in the news release. “Maintaining the peace is critical to making positive change in our community. I’m thankful that the San Antonio Police Department agreed to work with us to lift the curfew. We are looking forward to building a stronger and more transparent relationship with SAPD so that we can enact real change and make San Antonio a safer place.”
But Matthew Alonzo, a teacher at Somerset Independent School District who participated in Saturday’s demonstrations downtown, was not convinced that the police department was truly building an effective relationship with protesters.
“If people are being peaceful and we are getting rid of the curfew for that, why aren’t the police out here engaging with the community about the change they are asking for?” Alonzo asked. “This is a community meeting. This is a sharing of ideas. Why aren’t the police being engaged in the community meeting and listening to what people have to say? The mayor has been out. Where are the police?”