ANDERSON — After a generally peaceful five-hour start, the “No Justice, No Peace” march through downtown Anderson took a violent turn after midnight Saturday, according to Anderson city officials.
A joint press release Sunday from Mayor Tom Broderick, Police Chief Jake Brown and Assistant Chief Micheal Lee said that, after darkness fell, some protesters near the intersection of Madison Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard broke at least one car window and hurled obscenities and water bottles at officers and squad cars.
The car window was broken when a motorist tried to pass through the intersection, according to the release. Police later diverted traffic around the area where demonstrators had gathered.
City officials said no officers or protesters were injured at any point during the march, which was sparked, like many others across the country, by the death of George Floyd when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
“I commend the leadership of our police department and all of our Anderson police officers for successfully managing the events of last evening,” Broderick said.
“Many communities have been less fortunate, and our efforts were directed at taking actions that protected our citizens and their property, while maintaining a calculated presence that would allow the event to end in a peaceful manner.”
The city officials thanked the “majority of the crowd who raised their voices in a peaceful manner.”
“We fully understand and share in your frustrations and understand your desire to be heard on this issue of fair and equal justice for all,” the release said. “The City of Anderson has never tolerated injustice and we will continue to strive to be the best we can be.”
The officials noted that a minority of the protesters “came to incite lawlessness and to put wedges between us. Fortunately, most did not follow the lead of that small group of people.”
While they declined to discuss the APD’s strategy to keep peace during the March, Brown and Lee said, “We were prepared for the worse, while we were hoping and working to achieve the best.”
Broderick noted that some “disturbing and outrageous” Facebook posts sought to promote “illegal behavior.”
An organizer of the march, Cheyenne Hewitt, claimed Saturday that the Anderson police department is corrupt.
“There is so much evidence, and we’re just tired of it,” she said, calling for the APD to be investigated for “fabricating evidence.”
Broderick called Hewitt’s remarks “unsubstantiated and unfounded.”
“Our police officers, made up of men and women, black and white, from all walks of life, work every day taking thousands of calls, putting their lives on the line daily, all with the goal of serving and protecting our community,” the mayor said. “Outrageous statements, made by the uninformed with their own personal agenda do not deserve comment.”
While city officials called the first several hours of the protest march generally “peaceful,” Broderick said that demonstrators blocked some streets, disrupted traffic and caused some downtown businesses to close.
“I don’t think people fully realize that these actions caused several of our only recently reopened businesses to have to shut down,” the mayor said. “I suspect this cost each of these business two to three thousand dollars, which is very unfortunate given the fact they are just now trying to get back on their feet.”