ORLANDO, Fla. – In a news conference held Monday by city leaders, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said 30 demonstrators were arrested Sunday after peaceful protests over George Floyd’s death turned violent.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the police chief met to address the community after protests spanned the city for many hours Sunday, mirroring similar demonstrations that occurred Saturday.
A curfew was put into place for Orange County and will remain in effect from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. until further notice.
“So what began with again peaceful demonstrations at Lake Eola, a large group, another one went to City Hall, another one went to the Orlando Police Department, was peaceful and then one group who was here at (the Orlando Police Department) decided to transition over to (State Road) 408 and (Orange Blossom Trail). Officers anticipated that that would happen,” Rolón said. “A group began to try to get onto 408, members of our groups of officers formed a line and as the group approached bottles and rocks began to be thrown at the officers. At that point gas could have been deployed, instead, what the officers did, they just used small bursts of pepper spray to try to get the crowd to move on and they did.”
Rolón said groups of demonstrators then began to merge, creating massive crowds of mainly peaceful protesters.
“Over the period of this event yesterday, that group grew to 4,000 individuals is what we’re estimating,” Rolón said. “They went on, and like they did on Saturday, they started marching. Our officers did everything to facilitate the process. We wanted to provide a safe environment to the demonstrators as we have done here since Saturday. Everyone was following along and then they got to the area of Colonial and I-4.”
The chief said demonstrators then tried to walk up the I-4 on-ramp and crowds began to get unruly. Protesters began picking up debris from I-4 construction sites and threw them at officers, who were hit with things like rocks and bottles.
“At that point, officers had to deploy gas. When the officers began to deploy gas the crowd began to disperse but a group of them stayed on the on-ramp and they eventually were down on I-4… they were literally taking the barrels, there are some heavy tire-like weights that are put on those, and they were throwing them over the edge of I-4 to the traffic and roadway below. Thankfully no one was hurt at that point,” Rolón said.
Gas was deployed against protesters a second time that evening when crowds began to once again throw items at officers. Rolón said the protests quieted around 11 p.m., about an hour after curfew.
“There were some arrests, so far we have up to 30 arrests, but some of those come from what happened after 11 o’clock,” Rolón said. " We had a heavy, heavy presence of law enforcement partners along with our retail establishments… Some took the opportunity to break into approximately eight places."
Rolón described a particular incident along Conroy Road and Kirkman Road at a gun shop, which led to multiple arrests.
“Orange County deputies were providing surveillance in that area and noticed two suspicious vehicles at the (gun shop),” Rolón said. Those vehicles took off when (deputies) responded. Some individuals ran immediately. OPD caught one of them with the assistance of a Brevard County K-9. Another was caught and the county helped with following, with the help of chase, and followed someone to a Pine Hills area - that vehicle was stopped, individuals were taken into custody. Another one made it all the way to Polk County - that vehicle was stopped by (the Florida Highway Patrol)."
Because gas was used to subdue protesters, Dyer said he would be taking steps to improve transparency between police and the community surrounding the incident.
“Today, as part of our continued commitment to our community and to continue to build trust and transparency, I have directed our police department to proactively pull body camera video from incidents over the last couple of nights where tear gas was deployed to be released to the public,” Dyer said. “Due to the volume of the footage and due to the length of the protest and the number of officers involved, know this will take a little bit of time but we are dedicating a team to specifically work on this and to expedite the review and release of these records.”
Rolón said that as long as protesters take to the street, OPD will be there to ensure everyone’s safety as they exercise their rights, but cautioned that illegal and dangerous activity will not be tolerated.
“The message we want to deliver is that we want to continue to support the citizens who want to come out and be part of a demonstration, we want to provide them a safe environment,” Rolón said. “We are going to do everything in our power to control traffic, we are going to do everything we can to keep them safe. What we will not tolerate is those individuals that are tarnishing the reputation of the organizers who are trying to do the right thing, disrupting the quality of life here in our great city just because they are trying to take advantage of the opportunity to do something unlawful.”
Police said the following places sustained damage:
- Food store at 211 N. Parramore, front door smashed
- Beauty Depot at 764 S. Tampa Ave., smashed front
- Game Stop at 2907 E. Colonial Drive, vandalized, broken window, burglarized
- Best Buy at 4601 E. Colonial Drive, smashed glass door
- Shooters World at 4850 Lawing Ave, smashed windows
- 4000 S. Semoran Boulevard, front door smashed.
- Adams Jewelry at 3810 Corrine Drive, front glass break
- Pizza Kitchen at 1803 E. Winter Park Road, front door smashed