Tense confrontations between protesters and police follow peaceful marches in Downtown Miami, Coral Gables

MIAMI (WSVN) - Tense confrontations between police officers and protesters who are calling for justice in the death of George Floyd are unfolding in Downtown Miami after peaceful demonstrations and marches in the area and in Coral Gables shut down traffic in major roadways.

City of Miami Police are reportedly using tear gas in an effort to ward off demonstrators outside the department’s headquarters, Saturday night.

Cameras captured officers wearing protective gear and shields as some protesters were seen throwing objects at the building.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has ordered a countywide curfew of 10 p.m.

Hours earlier, protesters took to the streets in both Downtown Miami and Coral Gables to add their voices to nationwide calls for justice in the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minnesota while being taken into custody by four police officers earlier this week.

7Skyforce HD hovered over what appears to be close to 1,000 demonstrators near the Torch of Friendship as they made their way down Biscayne Boulevard, near Northwest First Street, just after 5 p.m.

Just before 6 p.m., protesters shut down part of Interstate 95 near Downtown Miami.

Protesters in this group began gathering at around 3 p.m. near Bayfront Park under sweltering conditions. What began as about 200 people has continued to grow exponentially throughout the afternoon.

Participants held up large signs that read “When will it stop?” and “Justice for George Floyd.”

“We’ve had enough,” said a woman. “We’re here protesting police brutality.”

Meanwhile, about 200 protesters marched down Miracle Mile in Coral Gables as they headed in the direction of City Hall.

“Say his name!” a protester yelled.

“George Floyd!” demonstrators responded.

Other protesters chanted, “Stop police brutality.”

Cellphone video that sparked outrage across the country showed Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck on Monday as he lay handcuffed on the ground. Floyd was heard saying, “I can’t breathe.”

“We watched the video. The whole world has seen the video,” said Ralph Etienne, a demonstrator in Coral Gables. “He had a knee on his neck for almost eight minutes, maybe more, and that’s just not right.”

Chauvin was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, but protesters said authorities need to take action against all of the officers who were involved in the incident.

Protesters said they want to call out social and systemic injustice for people of color.

“Unfortunately, minorities face a lot of difficulties and a lot of obstacles,” said a man in downtown Miami.

“They’re literally taking us out one by one. We have to stop it. We have to come together and really fight for this,” said Coral Gables demonstrator Ashley Jean-Baptiste. “This is the fight. We’re in a war right now.”

Drivers honked in support of the demonstrators in Miami after they blocked traffic on Biscayne Boulevard.

Speaking earlier on Saturday, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez encouraged people to stand up for what they believe in but asked everyone to refrain from violence.

“We want you to exercise your First Amendment right. We want you to get whatever pain and anguish that you’re feeling inside out, but we want you to do it in an appropriate manner,” he said.

The protest in Downtown Miami was originally scheduled to wrap up at 6 p.m., but more and more people have continued to join the peaceful marchers, all under the supervision of Miami Police.

Demonstrators began surrounding City of Miami Police headquarters, just before 7 p.m., and the situation later began to grow increasingly violent

In addition to I-95, the William Powell Bridge was shut down as a precaution.

Just before 7:30 p.m. Miami Beach Police tweeted out that the MacArthur Causeway was closed in both directions.

Social distancing was at a minimum, but most protesters were seen wearing masks or other face coverings.

The event in Coral Gables was scheduled to last until 7 p.m., after demonstrators held a rally outside City Hall.

7News cameras captured protesters directly addressing police officer standing outside the entrance to City Hall.

“[Change] hasn’t come soon enough, so I’m out here so say, ‘You know what? This has got to stop,'” said protester Rickki Goodman. “I want them to stop killing us and stop killing our people, because everyone matters, OK? Black lives matter.”

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