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Allegations of police violence are '100% unequivocally false,' West Palm Beach mayor says

Police chief claims officers were locked in 'heated battle' with protesters on Sunday night
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Posted at 10:40 AM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-01 16:20:13-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Claiming police were locked in a "heated battle" with violent protesters who were hurling rocks and bottles at officers, West Palm Beach leaders defended their response to a series of unstable demonstrations that left businesses badly damaged on Sunday night.

Mayor Keith James and Police Chief Frank Adderley held a news conference Monday morning, saying a day of peaceful protests across the city on Sunday took a dangerous turn into the evening.

Adderley said that around 7:30 p.m., not long after hundreds of protesters peacefully marched across Interstate 95 and shut it down near Okeechobee Boulevard, "things kind of changed."

Aerial view of protesters involved in standoff with law enforcement on I-95
This bird's eye view from Chopper 5 showed the line law enforcement formed to block the protesters who were walking along Interstate 95, May 31, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"Members of that group, and I'm not saying all of them, but a certain part of that group decided that they were gonna take this to another level," said Adderley. "They began attacking, not just our department and members of our department, but people that were innocent."

"A small group of individuals whose actions were not peaceful in nature committed acts of vandalism, violence, and destruction," said James.

City leaders said, at that point, the decision was made to issue a citywide curfew from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m.

WATCH NEWS CONFERENCE:

FULL NEWS CONFERENCE: West Palm Beach police defend response to violent protests

RELATED: Shots fired outside Palm Beach Outlets, several stores damaged

James and Adderley denied allegations that police instigated a violent confrontation around 9 p.m. on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters.

"Let me be very clear. Those allegations are 100% unequivocally false," said James.

Adderley added that police never used tear gas to disperse the crowd on Clematis Street, only smoke.

"The people that talk about 9 p.m. should've been there at 7:30 p.m. when they were throwing bottles, rocks at not just the police, but other people that were being attacked at time," said Adderley.

Aerial shots fired outside Palm Beach Outlets
Police block the entrance to the Palm Beach Outlets from Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard after shots were fired in the area, May 31, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The police chief said officers arrested at least five protesters on charges of aggravated assault, inciting riots and resisting arrest.

Adderley believes many of the protesters who started the violence on Interstate 95 were not West Palm Beach residents, but were instead from Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Charred Mercedes-Benz on car lot in West Palm Beach
This charred car for sale was found on the Mercedes-Benz of Palm Beach lot the morning after peaceful protests led to looting, June 1, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"I saw people that don't live in this city that created this problem for us," said Adderley. "The majority of the individuals that were the agitators were not West Palm Beach residents."

Calling the ongoing violent protests around the country in response to the death of George Floyd a "community problem," James urged the public to remain peaceful and be allies with police, not enemies.

"Each of us can play a role in helping our communities heal," said James. "We are faced with a choice. Do we move forward with this continued polarization, with hatred, with violence? Or do we move forward together with peace, with justice? I believe in my heart that, at least for this city, we will and we must choose the latter."

RELATED: Looters ransack T-Mobile store in Royal Palm Beach

A citywide curfew will be in effect for West Palm Beach every night from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m., ending on Wednesday at 9 p.m.

The mayor can choose to extend that curfew or terminate it before Wednesday night.