MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Erie Times E-Edition Article-‘This violence was clearly planned’

Posted by M. C. on June 1, 2020

The 800 pound gorilla in the room everyone else is already mentioning:

Antifa (and its enabler George Soros)
http://tinyurl.com/ycc88so4

Erie police said outsiders most likely fueled the unrest that plunged downtown into chaos late Saturday night and into early Sunday morning.

Police arrested seven Erie residents on Sunday in the rioting, which turned a peaceful protest violent, though Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny said the rioters got help from people who were not from Erie.

He said the situation in Erie mirrored the violence that broke out in other cities nationwide following peaceful protests

Jeff Kidder, 55, cleans up broken glass and debris in front of a building he owns in the 400 block of State Street in downtown Erie on Sunday. The building houses two businesses, including the Ember + Forge coffee shop, and 10 apartments.

Erie Bureau of Police presence was heavy Sunday on lower State Street, which was shut down. [CHRISTOPHER MILLETTE/ETN PHOTOS]

over the death of George Floyd after his arrest in Minneapolis on May 25.

In Erie, “this violence was clearly planned ahead of time by a small group,” Spizarny said in a statement released shortly before 5:30 p.m. Sunday. “It was very similar to the way riots unfolded in other cities across the country and was clearly following the same playbook.

“While those who were arrested all live in Erie, we believe that there were professional rioters present from out-of-town because we overheard them asking for directions. These organizers know how to get away by using the crowd as cover.”

The seven defendants, who were charged and awaiting arraignment on Sunday afternoon, are, according to police records: Robert Walker, 21; Timothy M. Dabrowski, 31; Doneata M. Young, 28; Carlos D. Young, 31; Tyvrah Nicholson, 28; Timothy J. McCafferty, 35; and Alyssa Vanduzer, 22.

Police said the seven were charged with offenses related to the disorder downtown. The processing of the defendants came as shop owners cleaned up the broken windows and other riotrelated damage. Eleven businesses were damaged, mainly along State Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, Mayor Joe Schember said.

A number of the protesters threw large fireworks at the police, and some of the fireworks came from a car that pulled up outside City Hall shortly before the unrest escalated and led to police firing tear gas into the crowd.

“And in our case,“ Spizarny said in an interview, ”people came prepared with large fireworks to attack our police officers.”

Spizarny in the statement described the fireworks as mortars, which are used in fireworks displays, and he likened them to grenades. He also said protesters used Molotov cocktails to try to set buildings on fire.

“This was a situation in which our officers were under attack,” Spizarny said in the statement. “Deadly force was being used against them.”

“Keep in mind that our officers were under deadly assault,” he also said. “They were attempting to peacefully disperse the crowd and were warned several times that they could be arrested. In the meantime, buildings were being lit on fire. Police needed to clear people out so they could get to the people who were causing the damage.

“Right now, our focus is on arresting the arsonists and the looters who set fire to our local businesses and tried to destroy downtown, and on preventing any further damage to our city.”

Schember echoed Spizarny’s comments about outside influence.

“We believe it is people from the outside because no one recognized them and they were asking for directions and for information that would indicate they were not from Erie,“ he said in an interview. ”This is not a surprise because I was aware of this possibility.”

The city on Sunday night remained under the state of emergency that Schember declared at 11:55 p.m. Saturday. Spizarny said the city was prohibiting large gatherings under the state of emergency but was allowing a sit-in to occur from 6 to 8 p.m. He said organizers agreed to end the sit-in at 8 p.m., before nightfall.

“We are hoping we don’t have a repeat of (Saturday) night,” Schember said. “The police presence will be pretty substantial. We will be prepared.”

Police ended up breaking up the sit-in around 6:20 p.m., stating that the protesters were violating the state of emergency order. Police said about 25 people initially showed up, but the crowd was growing.

Schember’s emergency declaration came after Gov. Tom Wolf at around 11:15 p.m. on Saturday signed a disaster emergency declaration to provide assistance municipalities statewide as they respond to the escalating protests in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Schember said Wolf’s office had not contacted Erie City Hall as of early Sunday afternoon.

Wolf at 1:30 p.m.on Sunday held a news conference in Harrisburg on the protests, but did not mention Erie, though the Pennsylvania National Guard on Sunday evening said it had “placed over 600 Guardsmen on state active duty to provide support to local law enforcement in keeping order during protests.”

Bricks also thrown

Police said officers had no reports of injuries to protesters, though a video circulating online showed an Erie police officer kicking a seated protester in the shoulder. The protester told the Erie Times-News that she did not seek medical attention, and police said they are reviewing the video.

During the rioting, as many as eight officers, and possibly more, were injured in the rioting, Erie police Capt. Rick Lorah said Sunday afternoon.

“We’re still trying to collect facts from (Saturday) night and speak with all the officers involved,” Lorah said. “These officers worked exhaustive shifts overnight, and all of the officers who were injured worked through those injuries. None of them went to the hospital and we’re still trying to get an exact number on it.”

One officer suffered facial injuries after a protester threw a brick that struck the officer’s face shield, shattering it, Lorah said.

“Mostly injuries were from objects thrown at the officers, but we had some burns from fireworks that struck officers,” Lorah said. “We had some bricks and rocks that were thrown at and hit officers, so they obviously have bumps, bruises, cuts and burns. It’s going to take a day or two for us to fully understand the extent of some of these officers’ injuries.”

Police also are investigating a shooting that occurred Saturday night. Police found a man who had suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh at about 11:10 p.m. at Fifth and State streets.

The victim has not been cooperating with detectives, Lorah said.

“Our detectives are working on that, but the victim is being less than forthcoming with how or when or where he was shot at,” Lorah said.

Downtown Erie remained under a heavy police presence Sunday morning as city crews cleaned up the area around Perry Square and lower State Street after a peaceful demonstration against police brutality in Minneapolis turned into a riot.

In Erie, the rioters smashed the windows of storefronts between Fourth and Fifth streets as the Erie police SWAT team, wearing helmets and carrying shields, fired tear gas on a crowd that numbered about 100. Protesters threw water bottles and large fireworks at the police, fueling the disorder.

Cleanup commences

On Sunday morning, police cruisers blocked off State Street between Fourth and Seventh streets. Crews used brooms to sweep up glass and other debris as building owners and others inspected the damage.

Among the businesses damaged was Ember + Forge, the coffee shop at 401 State St. Its windows were smashed and someone had tried to set a fire inside. The owner of the building in which Ember + Forge does business, Erie architect Jeff Kidder, was cleaning up glass on Sunday morning.

“People have the right to express their thoughts, but I feel that people could have made their point in another manner,” Kidder said.

The coffee shop is below 10 apartments, and Kidder said he is upset that someone would light a fire in a business so close to the apartments.

Also at Ember + Forge was John Buchna, executive director of the Erie Downtown Partnership.

“I don’t have words,” he said. “It’s more than the physical (buildings). It’s the people involved. I think Erie is better than this.”

The partnership posted a message on its Facebook page: “This is a very frustrating and difficult time for Erie and for our country. We see your frustration and we feel it too.

“Racial and social inequities are always magnified under economic strain such as the kind we are experiencing right now. These issues have become impossible to ignore.

“We will work diligently to help with the cleanup efforts in Downtown Erie, to help the affected businesses, and to listen to our community and work toward actionable solutions to these inequities.”

Farther south, at 502 State St., the Starbucks had its windows broken. No other damage was reported there.

Other buildings with smashed windows included the historic Cashier’s House, 413 State St. It was built in 1839. The Erie Downtown Development Corp. has its office.

Security cameras

Buchna said security camera footage from outside several State Street businesses, including Ember + Forge, as well as footage from cameras in Perry Square is in the process of being reviewed by police, because that footage is believed to contain images “that could be valuable in the investigation.”

Ember + Forge is among a number of downtown businesses that have obtained security cameras through the Erie Downtown Partnership’s security camera grant program.

One stipulation regarding those grants is that businesses agree to turn over any video that could assist the police in an ongoing investigation.

“There are security cameras throughout the downtown because of our grant and because of the Erie Innovation District,” Buchna said. “That footage is being reviewed in light of these events.”

The Erie Innovation District installed several security cameras in Perry Square as part of Erie’s Smart City initiative.

The downtown smart city pilot project was announced in April 2018 and focused on downtown and Perry Square. New LED lighting, video surveillance cameras and free Wi-Fi were installed in an area encompassing State Street between Sixth and 12th streets.

EDDC CEO John Persinger and Matt Wachter, its vice president of finance and development, were in the organization’s headquarters at the Cashier’s House at mid-morning on Sunday. The building’s windows facing State Street had been smashed out during the riot.

Persinger said the broken windows and resulting mess were the only damage to the building, and that apparently no one entered the building and stole anything. He said he did understand that someone tried to set a fire out front but did not succeed.

“You can replace windows. You can’t replace people,” he said.

‘Undercurrent of restlessness’

Gary Horton, president of the NAACP of Erie, did not attend the rally Saturday. He was not familiar with the organizers and said he feared volatility, given events unfolding across the country.

Horton is concerned that the violence perpetrated distracts people from the issue at stake.

“We have to be courageous and disciplined enough to maintain focus on the real issue — systemic, structural, continual and historic oppression, suppression and violence rooted in anti-blackness, especially state-sanctioned violence against black men, women and children.”

The riots Saturday show the “undercurrent of restlessness in our own kids, the desire of our own kids to have better, to do better, to want better. All these people walking around and talking about how great Erie is. They’re not saying it from these kids’ shoes when they can’t get a job, they don’t have any money.

“I think we have to reassess what we do for people who have no hope and the factors that lead them not to have any hope or trust,” Horton said. “And then we have to invest in that if it means anything to us.”

Digital content editor Christopher Millette and staff writers Lisa Thompson and Kevin Flowers contributed to this report.

 

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