ATLANTIC CITY — Close to 300 people showed up Sunday afternoon to protest the killing of George Floyd specifically and police brutality in general in front of the Atlantic City Public Safety Building.
But the peaceful afternoon protest gave way to looting of stores, confrontations with police and crowds of people roaming the city’s streets Sunday evening. In response to the chaos, the city enacted an 8 p.m. curfew. The activity seemed centered on Tanger Outlets The Walk, a midtown section of the city lined with outlet stores.
Several of the stores, including Brooks Brothers, The Vans Store and Polo Ralph Lauren, had their storefront windows broken and items stolen. Another store, Tommy Hilfiger, suffered the same fate, a broken window, but double-paned glass kept the crowd from gaining entry.
Scores of people ran through the streets in different directions. On Michigan Avenue, one man, his hands behind his back, appeared to be under arrest. Another man was seen being put inside a police vehicle.
“Unfortunately, the peaceful protest that took place earlier by many has transitioned to criminal activity now taking place by a few,” Atlantic City police tweeted from the department’s official account after 6 p.m. “If you can, avoid Atlantic City at this time.”
Earlier in the day, the protest occurred with few incidents.
People marched peacefully and chanted such slogans as “No Justice, No Peace!” and “Black Lives Matter!” as they marched to block part of the Atlantic City Expressway. The group then stopped in front of Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall to make and listen to speeches.
The march was led by Steve Young, president of the National Action Network, based in the resort.
“All those who died, they died in the street, so justice was handled in the street, judge, jury and prosecutor. So, if we are going to get justice, it’s going to have to come from the streets. We understand that,” said Young at the start of the rally.
Young had those who were able to move to the ground with their stomachs on the street and their hands behind their back for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
As people were on the ground, they repeated some of the last words of Floyd, which included, “I can’t breathe,” “Get off my neck,” and “Momma.”
Young recited the names of the numerous black people who were killed by police violence in recent years.
They included Eric Garner of New York, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, and Tamar Rice of Cleveland.
Early in the rally, before the protesters started marching away from the public safety building, Young warned any agitators in the crowd to behave because there were people in the crowd who would remove them if they caused any trouble.
The crowd moved from the front of the public safety building at about 1:30 p.m. and started walking north on Atlantic Avenue. Many people were documenting the event with their phones. People wore face coverings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but social distancing was not taking place.
For a brief period of time, the protesters blocked the exit off the Atlantic City Expressway at Christopher Columbus Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue. Police vehicles held back the traffic as other protesters sat in the street.
After leaving the Atlantic City Expressway area, the protesters walked east on Michigan Avenue through The Walk and headed for the Boardwalk, where they stopped at the outdoor stage at Kennedy Plaza.
Troy Oglesby, 57, also of the National Action Network, said the resort is full of hurt and that the work is just getting ready to start.
“Chicken Bone Beach is done. We want our share,” said Oglesby, alluding to the city’s exclusively black beach on Missouri Avenue during the first half of the last century. “We have to form a citizen’s council. ... Dr. Martin Luther King said that if you stand by and do nothing, then you have encouraged what happened. Don’t stand by.”
One of the persons mentioned at the beginning of the rally was Derreck Mack, 18, who lived here.
Mack was shot and killed by police Dec. 17, 2012, near the Stanley Holmes Village apartment in the resort. Police said Mack began to pull a gun. His mother, Ruby Conde, who spoke during the rally, filed an unsuccessful civil lawsuit that said her son was unarmed and was shot in the back as he attempted to surrender to police.
“Not everybody is a criminal. I buried my son, my baby,” said Conde through a bullhorn in front of Boardwalk Hall.