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LMPD On Demonstrations: 'This Is Now A Riot'

There was a heavy law enforcement presence at protests in downtown Louisville on May 30, 2020.
There was a heavy law enforcement presence at protests in downtown Louisville on May 30, 2020.

Mayor Greg Fischer and LMPD Training Division Commander Maj. Paul Humphrey said in a media briefing Sunday evening that the protests are now "a riot," and anyone out demonstrating tonight should expect a similar law enforcement presence to last night.

The city is under a 9 p.m. curfew. Humphrey said the protests are no longer peaceful once protesters are violating the law — including breaking the curfew.

"When you violate the law to make a statement, it puts people in danger and we have to take steps to stop that," Humphrey said.

Humphrey said protesters have been using explosives like Molotov cocktails and fireworks against the police, and that officers have to defend themselves and the public when that happens.

In response to questions about whether officers should be warning protesters before deploying chemical agents like tear gas and pepper balls, Humphrey said the warning comes when police issue a declaration of an unlawful assembly and tell the crowd to disperse.

"Unfortunately, these situations are very chaotic," Humphrey said. "Individual orders are very difficult to put out. Officers are wearing gas masks, there are a lot of people out there, there's a lot of violence."

"That order to disperse is that warning."

Humphrey also addressed questions about police officers who confiscated water bottles and milk jugs from a protester supply pile on Saturday. He said the water and jugs are not simply supplies -- they're tools for violence.

Milk is used to dampen the effects of the tear gas, which is used to disperse the crowd, he said.

"If it was here for protesters expressing their rights peacefully, we'd provide them water and make sure they're taken care of," Humphrey said. "It's used for refreshing people so that they can go back out and continue violence. We're not going to allow that happen. We're not just taking milk. We're also taking bats, rocks and weapons they're using as well."

Mayor Calls For 'Day Of Reflection'

Fischer asked protesters to stay home tonight and join him tomorrow in a virtual gathering at 11:30 a.m. to honor Breonna Taylor, whose March shooting death by LMPD officers was the impetus for this week's demonstrations.

Fischer said the day was originally planned to honor those lost to coronavirus, but he also wants to acknowledge all those grieving now for Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, among other Black people killed in recent weeks.

Fischer praised a Black Lives Matter protest held Sunday afternoon and said law enforcement will continue techniques that allow them to identify and arrest those violating curfew and inciting problems.

He also apologized to any peaceful protesters who were harmed by pepper spray and other police action, noting there's "no upside" for the city to take willful moves against peaceful protesters.

"The people who are here to peacefully protest, we want you here," Humphrey said. "However, this is now a riot. That's what it's turning into everywhere. We ask that you not participate in that, you do not hang around to observe, and you encourage those who are going to participate in it to leave. Stop that criminal behavior."

Kate Howard is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

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