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After hours of peaceful protests in downtown San Antonio on Tuesday, police officers shot tear gas and projectiles at protesters near the Alamo Plaza amid a brief standoff.
The protesters had marched there shortly before 10:30 p.m. from Travis Park, where they had spent about 20 minutes peacefully chatting with one another. Some leaders suggested taking the demonstration to the Alamo after an earlier stop at the Bexar County Courthouse.
Alamo Plaza was closed Tuesday night beginning at 8:30 p.m., the fourth consecutive night city officials had closed the area to vehicular and pedestrian traffic following escalated tensions Saturday that turned violent after dark.
At the intersection of Crockett Street and Alamo Plaza on Tuesday, protesters met a line of officers on bicycles and on foot, all wearing standard uniforms. After a couple of water bottles were thrown at the officers, a line of police with batons, face shields, and helmets advanced toward the protesters.
A few protest leaders urged the crowd not to start violence. “Not at this protest,” one person said. Others called to the group to raise their arms in the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture commonly used at protests.
Soon after, there was an explosion, several loud pops, and a cloud of tear gas. Protesters scattered, running west on Crockett Street. As they reached Losoya Street, more police on bikes and in dark green uniforms formed another line and fired tear gas and projectiles at protesters running south of Losoya Street. A San Antonio Express-News reporter tweeted he was hit with what appeared to be a wooden projectile.
Before that altercation, hundreds of people protesting the death of George Floyd gathered at the Bexar County Courthouse, marched to the San Antonio Public Safety Headquarters, and back to the courthouse in the pouring rain.
The hours-long gathering was peaceful as protesters and speakers assembled back in front of the courthouse around 6 p.m., chanting, “No justice! No peace!” and “Say his name! George Floyd!” The death of Floyd, a black man in police custody in Minneapolis, has sparked demonstrations, including many marred by violence, in cities around the nation.
Janet Richardson and Janice Hurn watched the group from a few feet away. The two women said they were there in support of the protests against police brutality and in honor of Floyd, who died May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck as Floyd lay handcuffed on the ground.
Richardson didn’t attend Saturday’s much larger protest and march, but said she was impressed by the large youth turnout on Tuesday.
“I see the passion,” the 53-year-old said. “This age group is on it.”
Protesters used the north steps of the county courthouse as a stage, using a bullhorn to share experiences and remind each other why they gathered: to speak out against black people being killed by police officers. After two hours of chants and cheers, the group departed for one last march to police headquarters.
But hours later, protesters continued marching. By 9 p.m., they had walked through downtown, stopping traffic and continuing to shout, “No justice! No peace!” Though some of them tried to stop and talk to watching law enforcement, other protesters waved them along, shouting at them to continue moving.
Police officers blocked off roads, watching for protesters’ next move. One officer who helped block the access road from Commerce Street to East César E. Chávez Boulevard said it was difficult to anticipate where the group would go next.
Protesters walked to the edge of U.S. Highway 281, turned, and walked back to the courthouse where they lay on the ground and shouted, “I can’t breathe!”
Earlier in the day, Alexus Haywood stood at the same courthouse, holding a sign that read “No Justice, No Peace” in thick black marker. She wanted to be there in person so she could be in the middle of “all that’s going on.”
“We can’t be silent in situations like this,” she said.
She attended Tuesday’s protest with her mother Michelle Eads, little sister Khloe Johnson, and grandfather James Bryan. This was the first time the family had attended a protest together, Eads said.
“We need to make a change,” Eads said. “[Floyd] was someone’s father, brother, cousin. I have a son. I have five grandsons, and I pray they make it home safe every day.”