HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - On Tuesday morning, all that was left of the protests from the night before were chalk messages written on the sidewalks surrounding the Madison County Courthouse. There was no apparent damage after approximately 1,000 people protested the death of George Floyd for more than four hours.
The protests were relatively peaceful as Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray said there were two arrests made. One of the people arrested did pull out a weapon during the demonstration.
McMurray said they encourage people to use their first amendment rights and express their frustrations, but police did make moves to disperse the crowd once the protest began running late.
The protest was scheduled to go from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. McMurray said protest leaders tried to bring things to an end at 5:30 but a crowd still remained around 7 p.m., so officers began using smoke to disperse the crowd. One of the smoke grenades also contained a substance called “CS irritant.”
On Tuesday afternoon Huntsville Police also confirmed that pepper spray was used on some protesters who would not disperse.
In a separate conversation with HPD spokesperson Lt. Michael Johnson, he said seeing George Floyd killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin on video is extremely frustrating and upsetting to not only communities across the country, but also police forces.
“99.9% of law enforcement does not behave like that and when you see a video like that it’s not just disheartening for the citizens, it’s disheartening for us," Johnson said. "We’ve worked very, very hard over the course of our careers to maintain a good public image and now we have an incident hundreds of miles away that is affecting all of the hard work we’ve done right here in Huntsville.”
Johnson wants to make sure people know why law enforcement are at these protests.
“We do expect people to express their first amendment rights but we also want to remind people we are here to protect them," he said. "To protect their right to protest peacefully, but we are also here to protect them from outside agitators and criminal activity that may occur.”
Protesters we talked to said they want people to hear their message, systemic racism must be dismantled and police policies around the country need to be reformed.
The organizer of the protest said he was really impressed with how many people came out to support the cause.
“It gives me hope because it really seemed like not a lot of people were reposting it, I wasn’t seeing a lot of people saying they were coming,” Brendan Lewis, the protest organizer said. “But this is so much more than I expected and this has made me love my city so much more.”
Early Tuesday morning, crews with City of Huntsville Landscape Management began removing all of the rock around the square in downtown Huntsville. We asked the worker in charge if they were removing rock so it could not be thrown, if future protests turned more violent. The worker would not comment.
It is important to note late Monday night during a press conference, Johnson said there were a “couple” of rocks thrown at law enforcement officers during the protest.
There is another protest scheduled for Wednesday at 5 p.m., the Madison County NAACP is hosting the “Rally Against Police Brutality” at the Madison County Courthouse.