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Dozens of protesters march through downtown West Palm Beach

FHP blocks all I-95 entrance, exit ramps from Okeechobee Boulevard
Posted at 1:25 PM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 00:46:46-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Dozens of protesters gathered Tuesday in downtown West Palm Beach, marching for justice after the death of George Floyd.

A large group gathered for a "black lives matter" protest Tuesday afternoon on Clematis Street.

They then took to the streets, marching for hours into the night while holding signs and chanting.

First, the protesters made their way through Rosemary Square to the West Palm Beach Police Department.

From there, it was on to the Meyer Amphitheatre along the waterfront.

Later, they marched onto Okeechobee Boulevard, where some sat and others laid on the ground with their hands behind their backs.

Then they turned onto Australian Avenue, where more of them did the same.

Protesters could be heard chanting "black lives matter" and "don't shoot."

After assembling at Flagler Park, the protesters marched along Flagler Drive toward the Royal Park Bridge, which connects West Palm Beach to Palm Beach.

Police and deputies in protective gear stood in formation on the west side of the bridge, preventing anyone from crossing. The drawbridge was also raised to prevent access to Palm Beach.

Police and deputies stand guard along the Royal Park Bridge during protest
Police and deputies form a line across the Royal Park Bridge to prevent protesters in downtown West Palm Beach from crossing into Palm Beach during a "black lives matter" demonstration, June 2, 2020.

At one point, a brawl broke out between police and a man who riding a bicycle in the crowd, screaming and shouting at officers and other protesters.

"Don't let him ruin it for you," Deputy Chief Rick Morris told the protesters before informing them that he would have to leave.

The man continued to pedal past the group, yelling, "Stop shooting," before an officer knocked him off his bike and tried to restrain him.

Deputy Chief Rick Morris and officer try to restrain man during protest in West Palm Beach, June 2, 2020
Deputy Chief Morris and another officer try to restrain a man during an otherwise peaceful protest, June 2, 2020, in downtown West Palm Beach, Fla.

As the man continued to resist the officer, Morris and other officers intervened, eventually placing him in handcuffs and leading him away.

Morris thanked the protesters who protected his officers during the disturbance.

The protest also wreaked havoc on the roadways leading in and out of downtown West Palm Beach.

A view from WPTV Chopper 5 showed the Florida Highway Patrol blocking all Interstate 95 entrance and exit ramps from Okeechobee Boulevard during the protest.

Several businesses on Clematis Street were damaged during an unstable protest Sunday night.

Some witnesses said police officers instigated a confrontation by firing rubber bullets and tear gas at the crowd.

However, West Palm Beach's mayor and police chief denied those allegations earlier this week, saying officers had come under attack earlier in the night when a peaceful protest on Interstate 95 took a dangerous turn.

"Let me be very clear. Those allegations are 100% unequivocally false," Mayor Keith James said at a news conference Monday. "A small group of individuals whose actions were not peaceful in nature committed acts of vandalism, violence and destruction."

Police Chief Frank Adderley added that police never used tear gas to disperse the crowd on Clematis Street.

A citywide curfew will be in effect for West Palm Beach every night from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. until further notice.