Governor of Arkansas declares ‘State of Emergency’ following looting, violence

Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The governor of Arkansas declared a state of emergency Tuesday in response to continued demonstrations to protest the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.

The order, signed Tuesday, orders sheriff’s offices and local police departments to operate along with the state Department of Emergency Management under the lead of the Arkansas State Police as a “Unified Command to protect civil rights, and ensure public safety.”

It is set to expire in 30 days, unless it is extended.

In a statement to the Associated Press Tuesday evening, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office minimized the significance of the move.

“This is a normal executive order issued when the National Guard is activated under state control in regard to civil disturbance. Under this executive order, sheriff offices and police departments maintain command and operational control of their respective jurisdictions,” Katie Beck said in her statement.

On Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the protests in Arkansas and across the nation after a violent weekend in Little Rock, saying that he respects the protesters, but that he will not tolerate acts of violence or destruction of property.

He said that it was not until he saw the damage to the State Capitol Saturday night that he realized the Arkansas National Guard support was needed to help protect peaceful protestors and property.

Police made several arrests amid looting and violence in Little Rock Monday night in a third day of protests. In Bentonville, protesters damaged police cars and threw rocks at officers. Tear gas was used to disperse crowds.

Hutchinson signed an order Tuesday that reads, in part:

Our citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and protest and the State of Arkansas is committed to protecting those rights and recent assemblies and protests occurring in the State of Arkansas have been overtaken by destructive and violent individuals, creating conditions of distress for the citizens and businesses of the state and the rule of law must be maintained for the protection of citizens and businesses from violence and damage and there is a need to take protective actions to protect lives and property of citizens being currently impacted by this emergency and additional resources of the State of Arkansas are needed to help relieve the conditions of distress and hazard to the safety and welfare of the citizens of the state.

Read the full declaration below.

Also Tuesday, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott expanded the city’s curfew a day after Arkansas authorities again used tear gas to break up protests outside the state Capitol. Scott said the city’s nighttime curfew will begin 8 p.m. Scott on Monday imposed a 10 p.m. curfew because of the demonstrations and the coronavirus outbreak.

“There are peaceful protesters and there are those that are from outside forces who have every intent and mission to destroy and destruct property and cause chaos in the city of Little Rock,” Scott said. “We have no room for anyone coming into our city to destroy and destruct.”

Scott extended the curfew following the third day of protests at the Capitol over Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd died May 25 after an officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

Demonstrations continued on Tuesday afternoon, as police arrested 28 protesters who blocked a busy intersection in downtown Little Rock.

Police Chief Keith Humphrey said his department also had “pretty credible intelligence” of threats made against local and state officials, though he did not elaborate on who the threats targeted.

Hutchinson said state police arrested five people at Monday’s protest. He said he has not requested any military assistance from the federal government for the demonstrations and didn’t expect to do so. The governor over the weekend mobilized the National Guard to assist local and state police.

“I do not see that in our future,” Hutchinson told reporters. “The role of the National Guard is important, under my control as commander-in-chief of the state military. Their support of the State Police and local law enforcement is what I believe is sufficient in the right direction for this time of protest in the United States.”

Scott marched with demonstrators Monday night and pleaded for calm. But the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported some protesters became unruly. Buildings along Capitol Avenue, including a bank, were damaged and crews put out a fire at the Arkansas Pharmacists Association building.

The Democrat-Gazette reported one of its reporters was assaulted and taken to the hospital late Monday night.

The damage followed mostly peaceful demonstrations throughout the day that included Little Rock’s police chief meeting with protesters outside City Hall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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