SAN DIEGO – Demonstrators marched through much of the day and late into the night Sunday near downtown San Diego, protesting the death of George Floyd and the issue of police violence.
CHP officers stopped traffic on both northbound and southbound I-5 downtown around 12:30 p.m., also shutting down connector ramps from state Route 163 and state Route 94. Police also closed inbound and outbound traffic on the Coronado bridge.
Shortly before entering the freeway, the crowd knelt below an underpass as officers tried to stop them from moving onto the Imperial Avenue exit. Organizers of the protest also tried to lead the crowd off the freeway, but some protesters refused to follow.
That group was still moving along I-5 as of 1 p.m.
Earlier Sunday, the group of protesters gathered at the Hall of Justice to begin the march, first heading toward Little Italy around 10:30 a.m. Most of the crowd were wearing facial coverings, many carrying signs. They took a knee together, with fists in the air.
At about 11:45 a.m. the crowd turned and began marching down A Street, where a group of San Diego police officers were blocking the street. Chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot!” could be heard from some of the protesters. Many of the protesters kneeled in front of the police, chanting “George Floyd.”
The march continued west on West Hawthorn Street toward North Harbor Drive along San Diego Bay. They then marched south on North Harbor Drive and ended up at the San Diego Concourse.
The size of the crowd was described by one reporter at the scene as being four city blocks long.
San Diego police officers said shortly after noon that they were monitoring the demonstrators, and that protesters were remaining peaceful.
A short time later, the march made its way onto I-5. The department acknowledged the protesters and reiterated that they were “remaining peaceful,” but said that they were escorting a separate group that was staying on side streets near E Street.
By about 2 p.m., at least one large group of demonstrators had returned to the Hall of Justice, according to SDPD, while another group gathered outside police headquarters.
Some threw rocks and bottles at officers, but things calmed down with “no force used” by officers, the department said on Twitter.
As of about 3:40 p.m., officers declared an unlawful assembly order downtown in the area of Broadway. Officers say they’ve been deploying tear gas in the area of First and Broadway, requesting people “please leave that area.”
“We are asking everyone to disperse immediately due to the escalation of violence (and) vandalism by the protesters,” the department said in a tweet.
Officials from the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System said its Fashion Valley Transit Center is closed. MTS also is not serving its Fashion Valley and Hazard Center stops, the agency said Sunday.
Just after 4 p.m. Sunday, the city of Poway put into place an “emergency curfew” beginning at 8 p.m. In a news release, the city said recognizes and supports “every individual’s first amendment right to free speech,” but the curfew protects “our city and deter(s) unlawful activity.”
Just after 4:30 p.m., officials from the California Highway Patrol said eastbound and westbound lanes of the Coronado Bay Bridge are “closed for an unknown duration.” Travelers are being encouraged to use alternative routes.
On the closure, the Coronado Police Dept. added, “Please avoid that area.”
Around 5 p.m., San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer weighed in on the day’s protests, saying, “We hear you.”
“We hear your passion and we hear your pain,” Faulconer said in a tweet. “The mission of police is to facilitate and protect the ability to peacefully exercise the first amendment, because we will not tolerate violence in San Diego.”
He added, “Please exercise our right as Americans to protest — peacefully.”
Three local municipalities now have curfews in place for the evening. They include La Mesa, which is closing to the public at 7 p.m. and reopening Monday at 7 a.m. Both Santee and Poway have a curfew in place beginning at 8 p.m. with each being lifted after 5:30 a.m. Monday.
Other local and regional leaders have been discussing San Diego-area protests throughout the day. In an interview with Fox 5, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said it’s “very, very unfortunate it has come to this.”
“The incident in Minneapolis was very, very bad — very tragic,” she said. “Hopefully it’s just a one-of-a-kind-type of incident to that extent, but the police officer has been arrested with third-degree murder charges and he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. And it doesn’t mean that all law enforcement is bad.”
Jacob, who first was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1992, said peaceful protests should be supported, but that “we need to come together and condemn the violence and destruction we saw in La Mesa and other parts of the country.”
In an emailed statement, San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez noted that people of color in San Diego and elsewhere are “rising up in frustration and anger.”
“We have been here before, far too many times – and we are tired of protesting the systemic racism that exists in police departments and other institutions,” Gomez said. “We’re tired of demanding justice.”
Gomez said a joint announcement “on action” is coming Monday with Faulconer and San Diego Councilmember Monica Montgomery.
As of about 6:40 p.m., officers said a majority of protesters “have walked from downtown to the County Administration Building” on Pacific Highway.
As of about 9 p.m., the California Department of Transportation said the southbound I-5 and westbound I-8 ramps to Rosecrans Street are closed “due to police activity.”
At around 10 p.m., SDPD said officers and vehicles were being “assaulted with rocks” near Union and A streets. The department also said a protest at Pacific Highway and Broadway was declared an unlawful assembly due to “acts of violence and vandalism.”
Officials from North County Transit said in a tweet its BREEZE Route 350 will have a detour for the rest of the evening Sunday. With the Westfield North County Mall closed by police due to protests, its route “will not service the mall,” the agency said.
Check back for updates on this developing story.