TAMPA, Fla. — Groups of people smashed windows and set fire to a gas station into the late evening hours Saturday following earlier protests that were peaceful.
George Floyd's death has led to peaceful protests around the country, with demonstrators demanding justice. But as many protesters peacefully point to concerns about racial injustice, other individuals have created chaotic scenes near the protests, including in Florida.
In Jacksonville, someone near a protest stabbed a deputy in the neck. In Tampa, emergency crews responded to smoke and flames.
Tampa firefighters were called to the Mobil gas station at N. 30th Street and E. Busch Boulevard where a fire broke out, engulfing the entire building. Aerials from Sky10 showed firefighters working to knock down the flames.
Police shut down Busch Boulevard between N. 26th and N. 34th streets in the meantime.
Minutes earlier, people were seen breaking into an AT&T store on E. Fowler Avenue. Several went inside and appeared to loot the business before officers appeared and made a few arrests.
Several people also broke their way inside and appeared to steal from the Gold N Diamonds store farther west on Fowler before police could arrive.
Protesters came face-to-face with police earlier in the evening in the area of the Tampa Police Department substation on N. 30th Street and E. Busch Boulevard. Tampa police said some people looted the Mobil station, and threw rocks and bottles at surrounding officers on bicycles.
"We are aware of the protests underway in Tampa, Temple Terrace and portions of unincorporated Hillsborough County," the sheriff's office said in a Facebook post. "We support everyone’s right to assemble, and we will be on the streets as long as needed in order to keep the demonstrators and those around them safe.
"We are simply asking that everyone express themselves peacefully and with respect to fellow citizens and property."
The evening scenes contrast with earlier peaceful protests in the Tampa Bay area following Floyd's death in Minneapolis. Many people assembled in front of the Tampa Police Museum in the downtown area, later continuing to protest in Curtis Hixon Park.
Hundreds of demonstrators closed the intersection of Fowler Avenue and N. 56th Street during the afternoon as Temple Terrace police, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deputies and Florida Highway Patrol officers kept watch and helped to keep the roadway closed.
People chanted, in part, "no peace, no justice," and, "I can't breathe," referencing what Floyd pleaded to officers while he was on the ground and the officer's knee was pressed upon his neck.
Floyd died while in police custody Monday after officer Derek Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on Floyd's neck as he pleaded, "I can't breathe." Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death.
Chauvin and three other officers were fired.
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