LAS VEGAS (AP) - Police in Las Vegas said Monday that 338 people were arrested during three nights of protests over the death of George Floyd - a black man who died in police custody in Minnesota - including demonstrations that ended with violence and officers using tear gas and pepper balls to disperse crowds.
Las Vegas police corrected media reports that officers used rubber bullets, identifying non-lethal projectiles used by officers as pepper balls similar to paint balls but containing an irritant powder. The department said few of those taken into custody faced felony charges.
Most of the 80 people arrested Friday, 103 on Saturday and 155 on Sunday were jailed despite a local court policy calling for most people accused of misdemeanor crimes to receive court summonses instead of time behind bars to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
“People who come here to tear up our community will be booked into jail,” Deputy Las Vegas Police Chief Chris Jones said Monday of an arrest process that has drawn criticism for the length of time people have spent at the Clark County jail and for the release of some detainees on cash bail.
Jones said it takes time to determine if people qualify for so-called “own recognizance” release. Las Vegas Chief Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that none of the people arrested on the misdemeanor charge of failure to disperse should have had to post bail.
The department statement said everyone arrested on failure to disperse or provoking breach of peace charges must go through a booking process that Jones said usually takes several hours and was slowed by volume during the weekend.
Police said at least 25 officers were injured during protests. Jones said some suffered broken bones.
It was not clear if, or how many civilians were injured. Two photojournalists were arrested late Friday, including current and former Review-Journal staffers, the newspaper reported.
Las Vegas SWAT units were deployed and police in riot gear fired non-lethal projectiles at protesters fleeing amid clouds of noxious gas late Sunday. The Review-Journal reported that at least three journalists were hit by non-lethal rounds.
Late Saturday, police said a downtown protest swelled to more than 1,500 people who marched through the city’s business district before they were met by nearly 300 police officers. Unrest resulted in graffiti on federal courthouses, broken store windows, a ransacked pawn shop and damaged vehicles.
The protests resembled demonstrations in dozens of other cities around the country over the death of Floyd, who was seen on video pleading that he couldn’t breathe with a white police officer pressing his knee into his neck for several minutes before he stopped moving.
Police in northern Nevada’s largest city reported more than 20 arrests after Saturday demonstrations began peacefully but turned violent after dark, and paramedics reported several minor injuries. The Nevada National Guard was activated and Reno officials imposed an overnight curfew after City Hall windows were broken. The curfew was reinstated Sunday evening and expired early Monday.
Washoe County sheriff’s officials and Reno city police reported more than 20 arrests on Saturday, and paramedics reported several minor injuries. Downtown street remained calm on Sunday.
Officials in Las Vegas did not impose curfews.
“This destruction does not do anything for the memory of Mr. Floyd. Nothing,” Sisolak said about noon Sunday in Reno, invoking the name of George Floyd, the Minnesota man who died May 25. Behind the governor, volunteers swept up broken glass and painted to cover graffiti on walls while officials blamed violence on those Sisolak termed “a small subset of bad actors” from other states.
“If you’re a bad actor and you came to cause a problem in the state of Nevada, get the hell out of town,” he declared.
This story corrects references to Las Vegas police using pepper balls, not rubber bullets, based on new information from authorities.
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