A massive Cleveland rally for George Floyd turned chaotic Saturday afternoon at the Cuyahoga County Justice center as police fired tear gas continually (and seemingly at random) into the crowd.
Nearly 3,000 people had amassed at the FREE Stamp downtown between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. After chants and speeches there, those assembled marched west on Lakeside to the Justice Center.
There, speakers called for justice in the wake of Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Some invoked the names of Tamir Rice, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, whose deaths at the hands of Cleveland cops were top of mind.
In a beautiful moment, the crowd chanted "WE HEAR YOU" to the incarcerated people at the County Jail and applauded for them.
The majority of the march progressed onward from the Justice Center, but a faction remained and began banging on the windows and throwing bottles. A police unit arrived on bicycles and engaged the front line of demonstrators on the Justice Center steps.
Before long, the police were firing tear gas canisters into the crowd and throwing flash grenades in an effort to disperse. The dispersals were successful, but temporary. Angered by these provocations, the demonstrators fled from the tear gas but then marched back with hands up, only to be fired at again.
By now, many of the marchers from the larger contingent had returned to the vicinity of the Justice Center, and the police began firing tear gas canisters deep into the crowds, further East on Lakeside (where I was perched) and into the park across the street. They were firing at demonstrators who weren't advancing on the Justice Center steps.
Smoke filled the air. Additional police arrived, including the mounted unit and those in riot gear. The protesters began spray painting statues and buildings in the vicinity. Some broke the windows of bus stations. In perhaps the most dramatic action, police cruisers were set ablaze on W. 3rd and Ontario, shooting plumes of black smoke into the air.
At roughly 4 p.m., vehicle traffic into downtown was shut down, and the police began to attempt to disperse the crowds more aggressively. Rubber bullets and pepper balls were fired and tear gas continued to be shot from every angle.