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Fort Wayne Police, City leaders call for unity following night of unrest

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Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed addresses journalists the day after protests turn into unrest in downtown.
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - After a night of unrest and another protest scheduled for Saturday afternoon, area leaders are asking for peace.

Friday evening, organizers planned an "I Can't Breathe" protest at the Allen County Courthouse green to demand justice for George Floyd.

Floyd was an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. The white officer who knelt on his neck for several minutes is now facing murder charges in his death.

A large gathering of protesters filled the Allen County Courthouse green and sidewalk early Friday evening.

However, as the night progressed, some people filled the streets and some were seen climbing on vehicles on Clinton Street.

The Ten Point Coalition was called in to usher people out of the street. Some people complied, while others stayed in the intersection.

That's when police stepped in and the clashes began.

Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed began a Saturday morning news conference calling for unity.

"We stand here today united. We say that peaceful protests are welcome in our city. For a few hours that protest was just that: peaceful. But then events took place for a turn violent," Chief Reed said.

"However last night is not the answer. We will not let this happen again."

Law enforcement said 29 people were arrested. The charges were primarily disorderly conduct and failure to exit an emergency area. Most of those people are being held without bond until they can have their court appearance.

Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux said a local judge authorized those 29 people arrested to be held on a 72 hour hold. ABC21 is working to learn this judge's name.

Chief Reed said people were throwing rocks and water bottles at officers, and two police officers were injured.

"We want peace in our city. We want productive conversation moving forward."

Fort Wayne leaders and law enforcement believe Friday evening's protests that started off peaceful and then led to clashes with police were sparked by outsiders.

Allen County Sheriff Gladieux said he believes people who came from out of town helped rile up the crowd

"My agency will be handling things a little bit differently. We will not tolerate water being thrown at our officers. There will be no second chances," Sheriff Gladieux said.

"There will be no questions. No second chances. It will just be a quick band ride a few blocks north."

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said what happened last night is not a representation of our city.

"That's not the way that you demonstrate here in Fort Wayne," Henry said.

"My friends, last night was not Fort Wayne...this will not happen again in our city."

Saturday morning, citizens are cleaning up the mess of glass, dirt, trash and other debris left from the unrest.

Pastor Luther Whitfield Fort Wayne UNITED said his heart grieves with the Floyd family.

"I understand the anger. I understand the injustice that takes place so many times," Whitfield said.

"But what I'm also afraid of, is if we condone what happened last night, then we are being unproductive. We are doing a great disservice, a disgrace to the Floyd family."

Pastor Robert Bell, who represents the United Pastors of Fort Wayne, said last night was a wakeup call.

"We do not condone the behavior that was shown last night. The protesters had a right to protest. They had permission to protest. Somewhere, somehow, it got out of hand," Bell said.

Fort Wayne United Director Iric Headley said the motive last night was good, but the method was the issue.

"We want what took place in Minneapolis to stop," Headley said.

"But to everyone out there: your voices need to be heard. But they cannot be heard, and they won't be heard. They will be diluted and distorted by what we've seen. Our community did not deserve what we had last night."

It is unclear if protesters will gather again Saturday afternoon.

ABC21 will have a team of journalists ready to bring you live coverage this afternoon and on ABC21 News at 6 and 11 p.m.

Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She serves as the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @KaylerJayne.

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