Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, members of the Lincoln City Council, and Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister today shared their outrage at the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, affirmed the rights of people in Lincoln to make their voices heard, and implored residents participating in local demonstrations calling for justice to remain peaceful. In the aftermath of the murder of Floyd, a gathering of several hundred people in the area of 25th and "O" streets resulted in injuries, property damage and arrests early this morning.
Chief Bliemeister said a peaceful group began demonstrating in the area about midnight. Shortly after 2 a.m., a westbound car traveling at a low speed struck a woman who was in the street. The crowd then began to encircle the responding police vehicle and ambulance. He said, at that point, a small group of protesters became violent, which resulted in looting and a fire at a convenience store, nine reports of vandalism, and objects being thrown at the responding officers.
The Nebraska State Patrol assisted Lincoln Police Officers in responding to the incident. Eight LPD officers were injured, but only one required hospitalization. Three police vehicles were damaged. Three individuals were arrested for failure to disperse. The driver involved in the accident has been contacted by police, and that investigation is ongoing at this time. The condition of the woman who was struck is unknown, although her injuries were not considered life threatening.
The investigation into the incident continues and Bliemeister asked those with video or other information to contact LPD at 402-441-6000 or Crimestoppers at 402-475-3600.
"We are all angry at the continued violence, racism, and unequal treatment we have seen inflicted on African Americans and people of color across our country," said Mayor Gaylor Baird at a morning news conference. "We have all seen it happen time and time and time again. We are outraged. People should be outraged at what happened in Minneapolis and in so many other places across our country. It is a shameful pattern, and it must end."
She continued, "Across our nation and here in Lincoln, people are calling for change, for a better world free from racist bigotry that still plagues our communities. Protesters in Lincoln have largely been peaceful and respectful. I fully support their calls for justice. Last night, however, anger turned into violence and destruction here in Lincoln. We can't have that. That honors no one."
Members of the City Council who spoke at the news conference echoed the Mayor's call to keep protests peaceful and safe for all involved.
"What's happened recently in Minnesota gives rise to a national conversation that needs to happen, that has happened in fits and starts for centuries," said Council Member Sändra Washington. "I'm asking us all to think about this opportunity as a moment we, too, can continue that conversation or start that conversation if you've never participated before. Talk about what it means to live in a community where everyone feels respected, where everyone feels safe, and then let's find ways to get there together."
"Use your free speech rights to tell people that we want change, and work within the system to get change," said Council Member Bennie Shobe. "I want everyone to put on a better display of empathy - empathy for people in different ethnic groups, empathy for people in different social classes, empathy for law enforcement and victims of crime alike. Try to put yourself in the place of the other person and act with empathy, care, and compassion. Let's be an example to the nation of what a good community looks like."
"Our righteous outrage against these recent events must be expressed, but in the best way that protects and safeguards the future of our state, our country, and our democracy, and that is through non-violence," said Council Member Jane Raybould. "Yes, we must stand up and yes, we must speak out against all those that foster, inflame, and embolden hateful and racist actions and oppression, but in a calm and respectful manner that honors so many who have fought for civil rights all these years."