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Cities across Arkansas saw gatherings of people during the weekend and into Monday protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

CONWAY SETS CURFEW

CONWAY -- Conway put a curfew into effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday and today.

The executive order by Mayor Bart Castleberry states that it was because traffic on Interstate 40 was blocked, a state highway and intersections were blocked, and tear gas was used twice.

Protesters gathered Sunday afternoon and into the evening at the corner of Harkrider and Oak streets and marched to the Commons shopping center, according to a Conway Police Department spokeswoman.

"It started shortly before 3 p.m.," said LaTresha Woodruff, public information officer with the department. "It was a very peaceful protest. ... They held up signs and didn't disrupt traffic at all."

Closer to 5:30 p.m., more protesters showed up and the group of about 300 marched to the Faulkner County Courthouse.

"We wanted to work with them; not against them," Woodruff said. "They gave a few speeches and even prayed at the courthouse then they went back."

The protesters went back to the shopping center.

Counterprotesters showed up in "big trucks," waving the Confederate flag and wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the symbol, Woodruff said.

"There was a small scuffle and one person was arrested," Woodruff said.

Police asked the crowd to disperse at nightfall.

"Many people followed orders but some started throwing water bottles and those who disobeyed orders to stop were instructed several times to leave the street or tear gas would be released," Woodruff said.

The protest ended after 11 p.m. At the end of the night six people were arrested for disorderly conduct and the only report of damage was a broken window of a Conway police cruiser.

WEAPONS DISPLAYED

RUSSELLVILLE -- Numerous protesters took to the Russellville streets Sunday, but were peaceful and respectful, Russellville Mayor Richard Harris said.

"We had one window that was knocked out by a couple of kids, but that was it," Harris said. "We didn't have to have law enforcement do anything significant. I was very pleased with the diligence and sincerity in which they did the protest here. Destruction of property in the name of protest is inappropriate. That shouldn't be tolerated, but citizens have a constitutional right to protest."

Harris said he watched the video of Floyd, who died after a white Minneapolis officer pressed a knee into Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes.

"You look at what was done to that gentleman. It was inexcusable," Harris said. "People have a right to be upset about that."

Harris said some "open-carry" individuals -- those with permits to openly carry firearms -- showed up at the protests.

"I don't think they even lived in our community. Our law enforcement officers interfaced with them. It turned out not to be anything," Harris said. "They have a legal right to carry."

Harris said he further researched the "open carry with intent" law. Act 746 of 2013 clarified that a person may openly carry a firearm so long as there is no intent to unlawfully use the handgun.

"It's a little bit different animal. So we're going to look at it going forward to make sure we understand exactly what the laws are for that type of situation," Harris said. "In all honesty, last night they caused our law enforcement more concern than the protesters did."

A Section on 06/02/2020

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