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Phoenix police fire tear gas at protesters downtown

PHOENIX — Phoenix police fired tear gas Sunday night at protesters who marched downtown after the city’s curfew, local media reported.

Officers wearing riot gear fired tear gas and fireworks at protesters about 9 p.m. as they walked down 7th Street to Interstate 10, the KPNX TV station reported. It appeared several people were taken into custody by police, KPNX said.

The confrontation happened hours after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency Sunday and announced a statewide, weeklong curfew after several nights of protests turned destructive and violent.

The curfew will last from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night until June 8, Ducey said in a statement, adding that the emergency declaration “authorizes an expanded National Guard mobilization to protect life and property throughout the state.”

The Republican governor also said police “will be equipped to make arrests of individuals who are planning to riot, loot or cause damage and unrest.”

Earlier Sunday, the protests held in downtown Phoenix appeared to be peaceful, according to local media reports,

An hour before the curfew went into effect, activist Armonee Jackson told protesters in the parking lot of an art gallery downtown that they should avoid any violence, the Republic reported.

“Listen to me: We are not ending in violence. I refuse to end in violence,” Jackson told the crowd.

David Riutta told the newspaper that he came out to protest police brutality and wants to see a panel of civilians investigate officers’ use-of-force cases.

Protests have erupted in U.S. cities and Europe in the days after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing.

Phoenix’s first protest unfolded after a Friday vigil for Dion Johnson, a 28-year-old black man who was fatally shot during an encounter with state trooper along a city freeway.

Downtown Phoenix has seen three consecutive nights of protests with damage done to 18 buildings that Police Chief Jeri Williams said will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.

On Saturday night, people knelt with their hands up in the streets outside Phoenix police and municipal buildings, chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Black lives matter.” Officers used flash-bang grenades to disperse the crowd.

Police said 114 people were arrested on suspicion of rioting and unlawful assembly with five also accused of aggravated assault on a police officer.

Seven juveniles were detained for curfew violations and charges of rioting and unlawful assembly, police said.

In Tucson, protesters damaged some downtown buildings and vandalized the city’s police station over two nights leading to a handful of arrests.

The upscale Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale was targeted by protesters for the first time Saturday night with some people smashing windows at a dozen stores in and around the city’s Fashion Square before grabbing goods.

Scottsdale police said in a statement that 12 people were arrested on various charges and “at least one assault has been reported and millions of dollars in damages and theft occurred.”

Volunteers used shovels and brooms Sunday to clean up broken glass at the damaged Scottsdale stores and covered windows with plywood boards.

“The looting and violence we saw last night, especially in Scottsdale, simply cannot be tolerated. And it won’t be,” Ducey said. “Destruction of property does not qualify as freedom of expression.”

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