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El Paso police say tear gas & bean bags were fired at protesters, 2 officers hurt, 3 arrested

UPDATE: El Paso police officials confirmed Monday that tear gas and bean bag rounds were fired into Sunday's protest crowds.

Police said two officers were injured in the protests by demonstrators who threw rocks, bottles and "projectiles" at them. Authorities did not describe the extent of the injuries, but did indicate that the attackers disappeared into the protest crowd and escaped.

A 20-year resident of the neighborhood where Memorial Park sits described the scene to ABC-7: “It made a big splat on one of the (officer's) shields and then more bottles got thrown and the cops fired the gas and they dispersed like cockroaches," Armando Cardoza recalled on Monday.

Three arrests were also made during the protests, police said, but those arrests were unrelated to the assaults on the two officers.

Some who participated in Sunday's protest questioned the need to use gas on the park crowd and accused the police of being overly aggressive.

“I did inhale gas," activist Guillermo Casimiro told ABC-7 on Monday. "I did get it on my face. People with medical supplies laid me down and poured milk on my face and sprayed my eyes with solution. We wanted to be heard but they shut us out. They wanted to shut us out so hard they had to throw gas.”

ORIGINAL REPORT: EL PASO, Texas -- The El Paso Police Department headquarters at 911 Raynor Street as well as Memorial Park in central El Paso were the scenes of protests Sunday evening against police brutality in the wake of the Minnesota death of George Floyd.

As it reached midnight, only a few dozen protesters remained outside the police station. Things appeared to be calm and winding down.

Nonetheless, a heavy and visible police presence remained outside of the building. In addition to EPPD officers, there were also state troopers, constables, park rangers and FBI agents as well as officers from Hudspeth County.

At Memorial Park around midnight there were no more protesters, but plenty of debris to be found littering the park grounds; police were in the process of documenting some of the debris as potential evidence.

Earlier, police fired tear gas in the park as it neared 10 p.m. to disperse a crowd that had apparently gotten rowdy; there was no word of any arrests, a police spokesman told ABC-7. Police couldn't immediately say if Antifa or other activist groups had shown up in El Paso.

Former longtime El Paso Times reporter Aaron Montes, now a city council candidate, witnessed officers in riot gear firing gas canisters.

The protests, which had started around the dinner hour when it was light out, went long after dark at both the park and police headquarters, where it was a calmer scene.

"I can't breathe," "No justice, no peace," "Black lives matter" and "George Floyd" were among the chants the crowd of thousands of protesters shouted in unison in front of the police headquarters when their rally first got underway for the evening.

As the street became packed with protesters, some took to the rooftops of nearby buildings. Officers sought to clear people gathered on the roof of the Davita Kidney Care building directly across the street from their headquarters.

Montana Avenue near the police building was closed to traffic after protesters spilled onto the road, but about 90 minutes into the protest police told demonstrators to clear the street and reopened it to traffic.

At one point, the police actually had to break up a brief altercation that took place between different factions of protesters in front of the police building.

Law enforcement helicopters could be heard flying overhead and horns honked from passing cars as some of the marchers headed to Memorial Park to stage another demonstration there.

At another point, officers in riot gear could be seen by ABC-7 crews getting into police vehicles that headed out from headquarters to Memorial Park where they deployed a short time later.

Protesters orchestrated a powerful moment when those officers first arrived at the park.

The situation started to get tense in the park at points during the demonstrations as protesters blocked police.

There were also concerns that tensions could escalate and confrontations or clashes take place.

Some officers reported being assaulted by having bottles thrown at them in a few incidents at Copper and Copia, one of the main march spots.

In another instance, a police SWAT vehicle was spray-painted by protesters.

Officers took a knee with some of those protesters to diffuse the potentially confrontational situation and keep it from getting out of hand.

There was another instance of officers taking a knee later in the night outside the police department as protesters and officers shared a musical moment.

Some protesters had left the park at dusk before things got rowdy and headed back again to the police headquarters building.

As night fell, hundreds remained outside police headquarters.

Things were boisterous there but remained mostly peaceful into the night.

Some even shared free water and pizza with their fellow protesters at the demonstration scenes.

El Paso's was the latest of many demonstrations taking place in cities across the nation sparked by the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, one of whom is now charged with his murder.

The El Paso demonstration, word of which was spread by social media, was the first protest to occur in the Sun City. The department's headquarters was struck by vandals early Saturday morning who spray-painted messages about Floyd on some walls of the building.

Saunday's protest crowd in El Paso was dominated by younger people.

The protesters gathered initially by the hundreds in the park before heading to the police headquarters.

The only other protest in the Borderland this weekend involved dozens of college students along Main Street in Las Cruces in a rally that was peaceful.

Some other protests this weekend across Texas in cities like Dallas, Houston and Austin turned confrontational and violent at times, resulting in hundreds of arrests.

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

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Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the former Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.


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