By JAKE BLEIBERG and JIM VERTUNO Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) — Dallas police enforced a nighttime curfew by making dozens of arrests Sunday night, in a crackdown after several days of demonstrations that saw multiple eruptions of violence.
Dallas officials earlier in the day announced the curfew that would run from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., and squad cars and police on foot quickly moved in to pick up anyone still on the downtown streets once it started. Dallas police tweeted photos Sunday night as officers started making arrests, and within a few hours announced at least 70 arrests and noted “there is very little activity occurring in the downtown Dallas area.”
Police Chief U. Renee Hall said the curfew could be in effect “for the next several days” and that several suburban police departments had volunteered officers to help.
“We will not tolerate any more damage to our city,” Hall said.
The curfew measure was put in place as Texas cities braced for the possibility of another night of unrest and sought to prevent a repeat of the violence that broke out at weekend protests over the death of George Floyd and the treatment of black people by police.
Thousands of people took to the streets in cities throughout the country Friday and Saturday to protest Floyd’s death after a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck down for several minutes as Floyd pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving. Floyd grew up in Houston and his body is set to be returned to the city for burial.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a statewide disaster on Sunday, which allows him to designate federal agents to do the work of local police. These moves come as some Texas organizers are calling off demonstrations and others said they planned to proceed.
“Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement.
“However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive. As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss.
Dallas also closed several downtown civic buildings to the public on Monday, including a civil courthouse and the county administration building.
In Austin, the state Capitol grounds were closed Sunday after it was vandalized Saturday. One group cancelled a rally because they felt they couldn’t ensure the safety of African American protesters. But other protesters still gathered outside the Capitol, and marched on city hall and police headquarters.
Some protesters also walked onto an Austin highway and blocked traffic Sunday afternoon. The city didn’t have a curfew and hundreds of demonstrators stayed on the streets between the Capitol building and police department after dark. Smoke billowed over the roadway as police cleared out the protests and then formed a line to stop them from re-entering. Some protesters said the smoke was tear gas, but police said on Twitter that they did not use tear gas.
Late Sunday night, live television cameras showed police firing bean bags or rubber bullets and pepper spray into a crowd of several hundred still gathered outside of the police station.
Houston police have reached out to Floyd’s family to offer security as they return his body to the city, said Chief Art Acevedo. But news reports that the chief offered the family a police funeral procession were based on a misunderstanding, Acevedo said.
“We’re really worried about people getting hurt and people getting sick” while Floyd’s body is moved, he told The Associated Press. “What I’m talking about is keeping everyone away so we don’t have any problems.