Update, May 31: Nine arrests were made overnight, with charges ranging from disorderly conduct to public drunkenness according to Gainesville Police.
Windows were broken at Slack Auto Parts on Jesse Jewell Parkway, and approximately six Gainesville police vehicles were vandalized, police said. A small group of protesters had begun to gather Sunday night.
Sunday night police posted the following statement on social media.
Previous article: As with large crowds nationwide, hundreds of protesters swarmed downtown Gainesville streets Saturday night to vent their anger about the death of George Floyd, the black man who died in police custody in Minnesota earlier this week.
The May 30 protests began peacefully but grew more tense as the night wore on, with demonstrators at times getting close to law enforcement — many of whom were in riot gear — and yelling at them in the middle of Jesse Jewell Parkway at Main Street.
Protesters also threw rocks and water bottles and later firecrackers.
No injuries had been reported as of midnight, and only one person had been arrested. But shortly before 1 a.m. the situation escalated with a large group of protesters running down Jesse Jewell Parkway and police making several more arrests.
Protesters chant in Gainesville
The protest began earlier in the evening near the pedestrian bridge on Jesse Jewell, with crowds waving signs that read "I can't breathe" and "Black lives matter." They also chanted "I can't breathe" and "No justice, no peace" while some passing vehicles honked horns.
"It's been peaceful," said Stephanie Tench-Anderson of Gainesville. "There hasn't been any fighting or anything."
But what began as a small protest grew after dark. She said protests got "noisier" when police put up roadblocks.
“We can’t tear down our own city," said Irene Lipscomb, director at Newtown Florist Club. "We need to be heard,” she said, and police brutality and racial profiling must stop. People should be rightfully charged, she said.
"But don’t tear it up just to get your point across," she said, noting that local police were willing to sit down and talk with residents.
Gainesville Police was assisted by Hall County Sheriff's Office deputies and Oakwood Police at the scene.
Kevin Holbrook, Gainesville Police spokesman, said authorities prepared for large crowds "given what’s going on around the country."
“It (Atlanta protests) touched all of us," he said. "We’re all Georgians. And that’s not Gainesville. We understand. We sympathize with these individuals. And I’ll be blatant and honest, we have a lot of the same views on this incident."
A crowd of protesters surrounded Holbrook as he was speaking with The Times and one knocked Holbrook's helmet off. Another picked it up from the ground and placed it in the back of the police truck as Holbrook darted into the street and called for backup. At least a couple of firecrackers were thrown as backup came in from the square.
Protesters are particularly vocal over Floyd's treatment by police. An officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.
They are decrying years of deaths at police hands.
Demonstrations in Minneapolis have left parts of the city a grid of broken windows, burned-out buildings and ransacked stores.
"To me, all four cops (involved in holding Floyd) should be in jail," Tench-Anderson said. "They should all (be charged) with first-degree murder.
Shannon Casas of The Times and the Associated Press contributed to this report.