Only one small melee erupted, when a protester charged a man who was shouting profanities at the marchers. Fellow protesters subdued him.
LAS VEGAS (CN) — Scores of police in riot gear — some in SWAT vehicles, some wearing gas masks — followed a peaceful 200-strong Black Lives Matters protest on a winding route near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Tuesday night.
One small skirmish erupted in the four-plus-hour march when a lone protester rushed a bystander who was shouting profanities at the group from a gas station.
Neither the protester, who was immediately subdued by fellow protesters, nor the elderly heckler was injured. The protester, who said he is 21 years old but declined to be identified, was not arrested. A swarm of police detained him briefly, then allowed him to rejoin the protest.
“I got carried away,” he said after he was released.
Police presence grew steadily as the crowd, which at the 8 p.m. start numbered about 100, gradually swelled to 200. Most carried signs and continuously chanted, “Black Lives Matter,” and “Say his name! George Floyd!”
Protester Tyrone Ramon, 25, works for a cable company in Las Vegas. He said he sees racism daily as he enters customers’ homes.
“People prejudge me as soon as they see me, then after they talk to me, they change,” he said.
Ramon said he understands the anger erupting in scores of cites across the nation. He does not expect a harsh sentence for Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with George Floyd’s murder on May 25.
Volunteers who leapfrogged the march gave water to protesters as they made their way through the commercial heart of the city.
Jada Stinnett, 22, was handing out water and first aid kits with gauze and saline solution. She has been bringing supplies every night this week. On Monday, she was helping on the Strip when police ordered them to move, then stepped very close to their truck, making it difficult to get out.
They were directed to a side street, and police blocked that street, Stinnett said.
“They cut us off and would not allow us access to the protesters,” she said.
More than 100 officers from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the University of Nevada Police followed Tuesday’s protest, keeping traffic at bay and occasionally asking protesters to stay out of the street. At several points officers allowed protesters to kneel or lie in the street.
The officers’ goal was simple, said police Lieutenant Nate Chio just before the march began.
“We just want to make sure everyone is safe and that their message doesn’t get hijacked by people who are out here to commit violent acts,” Chio said.
By 11 p.m. police had donned gas masks, but the crowd remained peaceful, with constant urging from leaders to follow police instructions and remain peaceful. Until at least 11:30 p.m. they did, though the protest continued and was moving toward the Strip half a mile away.
Tuesday’s protest came on the heels of a Monday night march that started at Fashion Show mall on the Strip that was followed by two shootings.
At the former Lloyd D. George Courthouse on the south Strip, a man with multiple firearms who appeared to be wearing body armor approached officers at about 11:20 p.m. and reached for a weapon, according to a news release from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police.
The man, who was not identified in the statement, was shot and killed.
Eight minutes later, Officer Shay Mikalonis was shot in the head from across the street at the other end of the Strip while he was subduing a protester. Mikalonis was in critical condition Tuesday, police said.
The suspect, Edgar Samaniego, 20, was caught shortly after the shooting when homicide detectives identified him from security video that showed him firing the handgun, according to the police statement.
Samaniego is charged with one count of attempted murder on a police officer and two counts of discharging a firearm in the city.