‘I feel their anger and their fears’

Protesters taunt police on U.S. 13 in front of Delaware State Police Headquarters and Capital Inn of Dover on Sunday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — City officials and religious leaders on Monday called for social justice and racial equality, greater opportunities for youth and positive relationships with police in the aftermath of Sunday’s violent protests that left several businesses vandalized and a citywide curfew in place.

Also Monday in Dover, Gov. John Carney offered a message to the black community in Delaware that “I feel their anger and their fears.

“That’s part of my responsibility, to make sure every one of our citizens white, black and brown have an opportunity to be successful.

“I want that for all of our communities and in particular the African-American community with the long history of discrimination and racism in our state and our country.”

Earlier in the day, Gov. Carney was part of a teleconference with governors nationwide that included President Donald Trump.

“That caught me off guard and I think every other governor on the line,” Gov. Carney said. “The president basically was complaining to the governors about not taking strong enough action against the protesters.

“ … Right from the beginning the president went on this rant … about the response of governors across the country and the unwillingness of some to call out the National Guard …

“Those are difficult decisions that any governor has to make so we had frankly a short discussion because not many governors spoke up which is not normal for a call like that.”

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen speaks during a press conference at Dover City Hall on Monday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A Sunday that began with a peaceful gathering sparked by the recent death of George Floyd in Minnesota that left an officer charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter escalated into violence as the day continued.

Two arrests and no injuries reported during several hours of unrest in the area of the Dover Mall and Delaware State Police headquarters next to U.S. 13. Protesters were in the area until nearly midnight, police said. The protests came a day after violence erupted in Wilmington as well.

During a roughly 45-minute press conference Monday at City Hall, leaders from the city, NAACP Central Delaware Branch and Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Dover and Vicinity spoke on the ongoing concerns regarding race relations with police, pledging to enhance conversations moving forward to benefit all.

Gov. John Carney talks with police officers Monday.

The Rev. Rita Mishoe Paige lamented her belief that the demonstration showed young people “want better opportunities and they have lost (their) sense of hope and they (think) the system has probably failed them and we have probably failed them too.”

According to Anne Smith, Central Delaware Branch president, “We are done dying” and the key it not happening again comes from understanding and reacting to the root causes of the initial strife. Ms. Smith urged more community members to vote, participate in census counts, run for office and become more involved in community issues, along with oversight on police use of force.

Protesters gather Sunday night in front of the Delaware State Police Headquarters on U.S. 13. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Mayor Robin R. Christiansen spoke and distributed a message to attendees which included “We want and need to have open, honest, calm and reasonable discussions about social injustice and racial inequalities.

“We all serve a purpose, we all add value to our community and our families …”

The governor was debriefed by DSP leadership at headquarters about the response to the protests and lauded their efforts afterward.

A piece of plywood covers a hole were looters broke into the Cricket store in Dover on Sunday night. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s a really difficult decision for law enforcement because (of) folks, not the protesters that are local, but those that want to engage the police in a violent kind of way, to kind of make their point about police brutality … (for police) to show restraint and not be pulled into that I think was important in the response,” the governor said.

“There’s always a line, though, and when people cross that line the law enforcement agencies need to take appropriate action to stop that kind of behavior.

“It’s a tough line particularly because of what they’re trying to draw you into, these anarchist groups, particularly Antifa, that want to … get arrested, they want to have group arrests, they want to … taunt the police and they want law enforcement to do things to make their point about police tactics and what we saw here in Delaware was appropriate restraint but knowing there’s a line that once you cross is acceptable.”

According to Dover Police, one arrest was initially made after a rock was allegedly thrown at an officer’s vehicle. Later in the day Chief Thomas Johnson said a second arrest followed an investigation.

On Sunday, the city declared a state of emergency and enacted a curfew running from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice.

Police said that a Cricket Wireless store was heavily looted and officers responded to several broken glass alarms at businesses that were also vandalized.

An injury-related call for assistance at the time was not believed to connected to the protest, police said.

“We had an injured female that called 911 for help at the Capital Inn on N. DuPont Highway that we believe was unrelated to the protests,” according to a Dover Police Facebook post.

“Our special operations teams did extract the victim through a crowd of protesters to get her medical attention for her injuries without incident. Our teams remain on scene to ensure the safety of the crowd and others in the area.”

Dover PD message

Just before 10:30 a.m. Monday, Dover Police released a message on Facebook that read:

“Good Morning, Dover. We want to thank you for all the messages of support while we worked with the large crowds that gathered throughout the city yesterday and throughout the evening. All of our officers are safe.

“While we did have some incidents of property damage and looting last night, it represented a small percentage of the crowds that gathered to exercise their First Amendment right to protest the tragic death of George Floyd and the larger issue of social justice & racial inequality.

“It is important to know that there are a lot of false rumors on social media regarding the events that took place last night. While we understand the significant interest in what was happening, we know that these rumors cause unnecessary panic and heightens emotions throughout our community.

“Moving forward, we are committed to working with gatherers who wish to exercise their First Amendment Rights in a lawful manner and holding important conversations with community leaders and our citizens about important issues involving the criminal justice system.

“We also would like to thank our law enforcement partners who came to assist us last night: Delaware State Police, Delaware State University Police, Dewey Beach Police, Milford Police Department, South Bethany Police Department, and Smyrna Police Department.

“Be safe, stay well, and spread a little kindness today and every day.”

For about 90 minutes at the corner of Broad and Main streets in Middletown Sunday, around 35 gathered with signs from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. “to stand in solidarity with Breonna Taylor and George Floyd,” organizer Niya Whitfield said.

“Everyone is against police brutality, including the police. I moved here from Philadelphia last August and the support I saw (Sunday) from police gave be a perspective I’ve never seen before.

“It was very impactful to me and my family.”