Watch Mayor Bill Saffo and District Attorney Ben David announce the state of emergency and citywide curfew in the middle of the protests in downtown Wilmington Sunday night:
WILMINGTON — In a brief Facebook statement, the City of Wilmington announced it was implemented a state of emergency curfew effective until Monday morning.
The late-night announcement on Facebook, which was not initially accompanied by any details, followed a purportedly ‘peaceful protest’ on the City Hall steps. While there were questions about the origin and purpose of the protest, in its early hours the event did seem peaceful, although it did grow in size and eventually blocked traffic on North Third Street.
According to District Attorney Ben David, several people associated with the protest were believed to be armed and, according to David, “openly displaying” weapons — which David categorized as “violently protesting,” something he said was supported by neither the First or Second Amendments. David said this led to law enforcement efforts to disperse the crowd and, when those were not effective, the more aggressive tactics used by WPD and NHCSO.
As night falls, the protests moved onto Front Street in downtown Wilmington. Restaurant workers and downtown residents described cops and deputies firing tear gas which burned their eyes and noses. Reporter @markdarrough is on the scene: pic.twitter.com/GNBeffXKeZ— Ben Schachtman (@PCDBen) June 1, 2020
Above: Authorities fire what appear to be flash-bang and tear-gas grenades at protestors in downtown Wilmington.
A task force manned by New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office deputies in riot gear and Wilmington Police Department officers responded to the protests and, shortly before 8 p.m., began firing what participants described as ‘tear-gas grenades’ (the Wilmington Police Department called them ‘inert gas canisters’).
In the following hour, the protest moved to North Front Street, where authorities continued to fire what appeared to be ‘tear-gas’ type canisters. What was initially reported as flash-bang grenades may have been fireworks thrown by protestors.
At one point, law enforcement agents appeared to kneel in unison, appealing to protestors to disperse. Apparently, this gesture did not effectively end the protests.
Editor’s note: According to a protestor who was on the scene, fellow protestors did actually join WPD officers, reciprocating the gesture. The moment of calm was short-lived, apparently ending when NHCSO apparently began firing rubber bullets.
Around 9:30 p.m. the City of Wilmington posted notice of the curfew:
One hour later, the city released the formal emergency declaration, along with a statement:
PROCLAMATION DECLARING A STATE OF EMERGENCY IN THE CITY OF WILMINGTON
The tragic death of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th of this year has sparked protests and mourning across our entire nation. Peaceful protests and demonstrations are a core First Amendment value of our Democracy and are both appropriate and rightly supported.
However, at times and in certain places, appropriate peaceful protests have been followed by civil unrest and accompanying violence. Our nation has witnessed physical violence against innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers, damage to property and looting, and buildings have been set on fire with arsonist intent. While the peaceful protests are proper, the violent civil unrest that has followed some of them is criminal and a grave danger to the public.
The protests that have occurred in our City of Wilmington have largely been peaceful and proper. However, recent events have shown that some individuals have sought to incite criminal civil unrest and their actions now pose an imminent threat of severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property to the City of Wilmington.
As Mayor of the City of Wilmington, I am authorized to declare a state of emergency pursuant to Section 6-17 of the Wilmington City Code.
Pursuant to Section 6-17 of the City Code, I have determined that a state of emergency (separate and distinct from the state of emergency that is due the COVID-19 pandemic) now exists in the City of Wilmington.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Bill Saffo, Mayor of the City of Wilmington, do hereby declare a state of emergency in the City of Wilmington. For the duration of such proclamation, all employees of the City of Wilmington shall be designated and recognized as emergency personnel and shall cooperate in the implementation of the City’s emergency plan. During the state of emergency, the citizens of the City of Wilmington are urged to comply with emergency management advisories as issued from time to time.
The following prohibitions as authorized by Section 6-17 of the City Code, and as denoted by a check in the box that precedes each specific prohibition, shall apply within the area of this state of emergency until such time as the state of emergency is declared to be at an end or that said prohibition(s) are specifically removed:
Curfew: The entire City is now under a curfew that shall apply to the hours of 9:30 pm to bam. No person shall be in public, including streets and sidewalks, parks, places open to the public, or public areas of any nature during curfew hours.
Dangerous Weapons & Gasoline: Except for lawfully possessed firearms (handgun, rifle, or shotgun) and ammunition,
This proclamation shall be effective immediately.
Proclaimed at 9:30 PM. on the 31st day of May, 2020.
Bill Saffo, Mayor