Des Moines police use tear gas as crowd damages courthouse

In this May 29 photo, Marcus Lavon of Des Moines raises his hands during a protest in Des Moines. Protests have been erupting all over the country after George Floyd died earlier this week in police custody in Minneapolis. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register via AP)

DES MOINES (AP) — Officers used tear gas Saturday night to break up a protest and vandalism at the Polk County Courthouse in downtown Des Moines.

Live video from WOI-TV showed a small group of people spraying paint on the courthouse and breaking at least one window on the building’s first floor. Police arrived about 9:40 p.m. and shot tear gas about 10 minutes later, causing what appeared to be about 250 protesters to scatter.

The protest Saturday night started at the Des Moines police station and marched west over the Des Moines River and ultimately to the courthouse.

That incident and an earlier march were held to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Video from WHO-TV showed dozens of people marching in Des Moines chanting slogans such as, “I Can’t Breathe” and “No Justice, No Peace.” The crowd then knelt on a bridge, briefly blocking traffic.

Floyd’s death in Minneapolis sparked days of unrest there and protests across the United States. Floyd, who’d been handcuffed, died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. Chauvin now faces murder and manslaughter charges.

The Des Moines protesters called for the arrests of three other officers involved in detaining Floyd.

On Friday night, a rally turned violent after organizers said “a small group” refused to leave and began damaging property, The Des Moines Register reported.

When protesters threw bricks, police officers in riot gear pushed against them, and at least one officer sprayed chemical irritants into the crowd.

Community activists and religious leaders were planning a Sunday candlelight vigil and a Monday evening rally at the Iowa Capitol.


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