ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange County has enacted an overnight curfew after several businesses were vandalized in the Mall at Millenia area following demonstrations across the area over the controversial death of George Floyd.
What You Need To Know
- Demonstrations involving hundreds take place in Orlando area Saturday
- Orlando Police chief said a small number of people threw rocks, bottles
- Half-dozen businesses near Mall at Millenia damaged; 8 arrested
- Mina: 2 arrests in county jurisdiction overnight not related to protests
The curfew for unincorporated Orange County and for those in the city of Orlando is from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night and will last until further notice, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said during a news conference Sunday.
"What happened to George Floyd was horrific, unacceptable, and it wasn't the first time," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
He, Demings and Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon stressed that for most of Saturday, hundreds peacefully demonstrated throughout the city. Rolon said two groups — one at Lake Eola Park and another at the Pulse memorial that marched toward Orlando City Hall — converged at the Orange County Courthouse in downtown Orlando, where they continued their peaceful demonstration together.
Rolon said his officers allowed the protests to take place with no interruption, despite some demonstrators blocking busy Colonial Drive at one point and State Road 408 for several hours.
"We support your demonstrations, we stand with you, we join our voices together with you, but we don't welcome violence or hatred," Dyer said.
As one person was being taken into custody by Orlando Police downtown — Rolon didn't specify where — a handful of people tried to intervene, pulling the person away from officers. Fireworks were then launched at the officers, Rolon said. That's when pepper spray was deployed to "de-escalate" the situation.
Two men were arrested in downtown Orlando, one in his mid-20s and another in his mid-30s. At least one was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer.
As that was taking place, peaceful demonstrations — "I can't emphasize that enough," Rolon said — were taking place on S.R. 408 downtown. After several hours, a few threw rocks and bottles at the officers, Rolon said. That's when officers deployed smoke, not tear gas as was reported on social media, he said.
After the S.R. 408 demonstration dispersed, a smaller group of less than 100 people gathered at Orlando Police headquarters on the west side of downtown Orlando. At some point, fireworks and bottles were thrown at officers inside the building, he said. When the officers put on masks and appeared to be taking steps to deploy smoke or tear gas, the throwing stopped. The demonstrations were allowed to continue uninterrupted after that, Rolon said.
Businesses damaged near Mall at Millenia
Elsewhere overnight, police responded to what Rolon described as "looting" in the Mall at Millenia area. He said after officers got tips indicating threats of destructive behavior at the mall overnight, as many as 30 police vehicles arrived at the mall Sunday morning. Rolon said when the suspects saw the police presence, they turned their attention to standalone stores near the mall.
At least six businesses sustained damage, and eight people were arrested in connection to the incidents, Rolon said.
Windows were knocked out at the 24-hour Krispy Kreme off Conroy Road. Krispy Kreme owner Todd Buras said his business has about $10,000 in damage, and the experience really scared the employees inside when it happened.
Buras said around midnight, the store was surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of people throwing bricks and breaking in.
“To threaten nine employees working in there, doing just their jobs, they’re kind of scared to come back,” he said.
The shattered windows and broken signs still littered the ground Sunday.
Buras said his general manager was inside the doughnut shop with employees when the attack happened, and he tried to stop it.
“He’s pleading with them, 'Please, please don’t come in and wreck our building. Please, we give to the community, we do giveaways, please.' And then, finally he called me at midnight, he’s like, 'I’ve got to get out of here, it’s just insane out here,' and the employees had left,” Buras said.
Next door to the doughnut shop, the Panda Express and The Container Store also had windows shattered. The Jared jewelry store across the street was also vandalized Saturday night. One employee said they found shell casings, but luckily, security prevented anyone from getting inside.
After such a dark night, a glimmer of hope shined through. Many employees from the vandalized stores, including the Krispy Kreme, showed up Sunday morning to help clean up.
“You know, it warms my heart. All the employees came in this morning and they’re doing a great job cleaning up," Buras said. "They’re all behind you and you kind of walk in and they’re all clapping like, 'Let’s fix it up, let’s get going and fire the fryer up and get the doughnuts rolling.' So yeah, people really rally together when crazy stuff happens,” Buras said.
2 deputies hit by concrete expected to be OK
In Orange County's jurisdiction, at least a half-dozen businesses were broken into or damaged Saturday or overnight but were not related to the demonstrations going on downtown, Sheriff John Mina said Sunday. There were two arrests, including at a beauty shop on West Colonial Drive in which an unexploded Molotov cocktail — a water bottle filled with gasoline — was found inside.
Two deputies were struck with pieces of concrete Saturday. Both were expected to be OK, Mina said.
"We cannot have property damage, and we certainly cannot have violence," he said. "Stay peaceful and (we should) not to have the type of violence and destruction we have seen."
Mina said both he and deputies have been at the Windermere home owned by Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis officer charged in Floyd's death, where peaceful demonstrations have taken place for days.
"I want to strongly denounce now the criminal actions of the officer in Minneapolis. It was indefensible, unexplainable, and definitely a violation of the law. ... (Officers around Central Florida) did not like what we saw. We understand our nation is hurting, our nation is hurting," Mina said. "We've been at that house and have been keeping everyone safe. Many people are upset, and I get that."
Orange County Mayor Demings, who preceded Mina as county sheriff, shared his perspective as a black American and father of sons and grandsons.
"We have systemic problems with racism in America. ... The racism that we have in America, I have certainly experienced. So I get it in understanding the call to action we're seeing across America. As we respond to the call to action, that response has to be one that's thoughtful and peaceful and with a healthy respect for the rule of law. We can't as a civilized society accept violence and destruction of the property of others.
"I stand with the law enforcement officers who have served currently and in the past, and the leaders who stand against the oppression and the wrongful use of force on anyone. But certainly, we see the disproportionate use of force on people of color. I've spent the better part of my life now trying to bring about change by working from within our governmental units to bring about that change. So I'd say to all those who are responding right now, it has to be one that's peaceful and nonviolent."