The slaying of Houston-native George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25 has sparked nationwide protests, including several protests in San Antonio over the weekend.
San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh said more than 5,000 people were protesting peacefully downtown on Saturday. While the majority of San Antonio protesters were peacefully demonstrating, a small number of “agitators" turned violent, according to the mayor.
The messages were clear on the flooded streets of downtown this weekend, with marchers carrying signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “End Police Brutality.” But what about local leaders? What do they think of the killing that has rocked the globe, even amid the coronavirus pandemic?
Mayor Ron Nirenberg
"Clearly racism in America is an underlying condition, which makes the criminal justice system deadly for communities of color. Reform is the only cure and we hope that the voices that are lifted up today are done so peacefully and that we can build from that, a movement that progresses a lot of these issues,” Nirenberg said on Saturday night during a press conference.
“San Antonio is, in many ways, a birthplace for American civil rights, we have a long tradition of peaceful protests," he said.
“I’m proud of the San Antonians who came out to protest injustices peacefully. Your voices will be lifted up,” Nirenberg added.
During last night's COVID-19 briefing, I was asked to comment on the Justice for George Floyd vigil.— Mayor Ron Nirenberg (@Ron_Nirenberg) May 31, 2020
I'm proud of the San Antonians who came out to protest injustices peacefully. Your voices will be lifted up.
The right message won't be lost among a few wrong choices. pic.twitter.com/Kw8dU2WIk4
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus
"What happened in Minneapolis to Mr. Floyd is an absolute tragedy. What happened to the police officers is an absolute justice in this case,” said McManus on Saturday during a press conference ahead of the local protests.
“This is a tragedy beyond words and, as I wrote in my statement for this evening, that our hearts go out to the Floyd family. We don’t teach that kind of tactic. It’s an absolute step back for all law enforcement," said McManus, who was referring to Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck. The New York Times reported Sunday that Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
McManus later commented on the local protests, saying that they were largely peaceful except for a select few.
"The planned demonstrations from earlier today were peaceful and the organizations did exactly what they said they would do to keep others safe. The situation was escalated by some bad actors whose only intent was to incite violence and cause destruction. The actions of a few do not represent the majority of those who came out to peacefully demonstrate,” McManus said.
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales
“People are angry. They are angry about the senseless murder of George Floyd. They are angry because, in the United States, the way you are treated by the criminal justice system is too often influenced by the color of your skin and the amount of money in your bank account. I too am angry. Anger is powerful. Anger can fuel change.
But anger can also be destructive. We saw that last night in San Antonio. Thousands of peaceful protestors showed up to constructively call for change. Then, a handful of people undermined a powerful message by turning to destruction and looting. When we allow anger to turn us toward these types of actions, we often harm ourselves and our community more than we harm the people and institutions that made us angry in the first place. I share their anger but their actions were wrong and will not be tolerated.
We need change. Now is the time to come together and use our anger to fuel positive change. Change is hard and it takes work. Speak out. Let your voice be heard. Get involved. Be like the thousands of people that peacefully protested last night. Vote.
We are better than what we saw last night. Let us have the strength and courage to have hope and fight the good fight. Those who choose destruction will harm themselves as they harm others and will be held responsible for their choices.”
The protests began Saturday afternoon at Travis Park in downtown San Antonio before moving to San Antonio Public Safety headquarters and then the Alamo.
A curfew was issued for San Antonio overnight on Saturday and Sunday after the damage at Rivercenter Mall.
City Manager Erik Walsh
“You know, last night was a series of destructive events that was really done by a small group of individuals, and I don’t mean in terms of numbers. We had over 5,000 people downtown last night and we had a peaceful demonstration. And the organizers of that, of that march, did exactly what they said they were going to do,” Walsh said.
Hear his full comments about the protests and the curfew in the segment below.