Alabama protests turn ugly with vandalism, fires and arrests

Published 12:16 pm Monday, June 1, 2020

Demonstrators smashed windows, set fires and tried to topple a Confederate monument in downtown Birmingham on Sunday night as unrest erupted around the country after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

The evening began with a peaceful afternoon rally at Kelly Ingram Park but ended with the vandalism of more than two dozen buildings and businesses.

“Birmingham this is not us. This is not who we are. This is not how we taught the world how to protest.

Violence, bullying and chaos is not the road to reform,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said Monday.
Woodfin said the city is declaring a state of emergency and implementing a city-wide evening curfew.

Birmingham police reported that more than two dozen businesses had been looted or damaged. Twenty-four people were arrested. Woodfin said two media members were injured.

Demonstrators tied a rope and tried unsucessfully to pull down a 54-foot tall Confederate monument in downtown Birmingham’s Linn Park. Protesters then took spray paint and hammers to obscure the inscriptions on the towering monument.

Demostrators did manage to topple a statue of Charles Linn, an industrialist who fought for the Confederacy, to the ground. The park is named after Linn.

Johnny Grimes, owner of Wheelhouse Salon in Birmingham, cleaned up smashed windows and computers Monday morning. The salon had just been cleared to reopen after being shut down for two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re devastated. We’re frustrated, but we understand. We understand the frustration that the African American community is experiencing. We sympathize with them and share in that frustration,” Grimes said.

“I hope that this isn’t all for nothing. I hope that this does spark some type of national conversation on race, racial reconciliation, police brutality and how the African American, black community is treated in America,” Grimes said.

Protests have erupted around the country to protest what happened to Floyd, an African American man, on May 25. Floyd was on the ground and handcuffed when a white police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

Woodfin indicated that the city will try to take down the Confederate monument but will see if it can be given to a museum or other group.

He said the fine the city may face for violating a state law banning the removal of Confederate and other long-standing monuments, is more affordable than the cost of continued unrest in the city. The protest came the evening before Monday’s state holiday in Alabama celebrating Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in a Monday statement said state assets are available to any city that requests help.

“Regretfully, the natural anger and frustration of Mr. Floyd’s death has now spread to our state and what started out as peaceful protests in some of our cities yesterday afternoon turned ugly last night,” Ivey said.

The mayor made a plea for peace, saying civil disobedience is not the same as civil unrest.

“Birmingham the world is watching,” Woodfin said.