Kentucky’s Attorney General pleaded with armed demonstrators to remain peaceful Saturday as opposing militia groups faced off in downtown Louisville.
By late afternoon, the groups appeared to be withdrawing from the area. The standoff comes as federal agents deploy to major cities in a “surge” President Donald Trump says is aimed at curbing gun violence. That involvement is sparking backlash from both protesters and local officials.
Some local officials are speaking out against the federal involvement: Baltimore and Philadelphia attorneys threatened to charge federal officers who assault or kidnap protesters; officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said federal agents should respect the city’s police reforms, and Seattle’s mayor called the use of federal agents “frightening.”
More developments this weekend:
In Louisville, police confirmed Saturday that three members of a Black militia were struck by gunfire when someone’s gun discharged while participating in a demonstration Saturday.
A federal judge late Friday blocked Seattle’s new law prohibiting police from using pepper spray, blast balls and similar weapons that was passed following confrontations with protesters.
A judge on Friday denied a request to restrict federal agents’ actions when they arrest people during nightly protests. The order was sought last week by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum over federal agents’ actions in Portland.
In New York, a protest held in response to what activists called racist social media posts by Rockland Sheriff Louis Falco drew several hundred people to the streets outside the sheriff’s headquarters Friday afternoon.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Burlington, Vermont, on Friday night to speak out against federal agents being deployed in Portland, Oregon, and across U.S. cities.
Here’s a look at what’s happening today:
Downtown Louisville was again the site of protests Saturday as armed militia groups and Black Lives Matter protesters faced one another on opposite sides of barricades set up by Louisville Metro Police Department officers.
Cries of “Black lives matter” were heard through downtown. One man yelled “Don’t fire unless you’re fired upon.”
Police confirmed three members of the NFAC, a Black militia that stands for “Not F**king Around Coalition,” were struck by gunfire when someone’s gun discharged while participating in a demonstration Saturday. All three victims went to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. There are no suspects at this time, police said.
The NFAC announced earlier in the week the group would be coming to Louisville to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by police in March.
In response, the Three Percenters, a far-right militia group, announced later in the week that it will have “boots on the ground” in Louisville.
Reporters at the scene estimated dozens of Three Percenters and hundreds of NFAC members were gathered. By late afternoon, both groups appeared to be withdrawing from the area.
The demonstrations follow a Friday protest where 76 people were arrested after setting up an impromptu block part and blocking off Market Street downtown. The protest had been organized as a March for Freedom, and activists listed demands for business owners, including hiring a more proportionate number of Black workers.
The protests come as pressure builds on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron as his office investigates the killing of Taylor, who was unarmed in her apartment when Louisville police shot her one night in March. Black Lives Matter activists are among those demanding that the officers be charged in the death.
On Saturday, a few protests are planned in Grant Park, where a statue of Christopher Columbus was removed by the city early Friday. First, a pro-police protest and counter-protest are planned in the afternoon, followed by a Black Live Matter protest at 5 p.m. local time.
Dozens of pro-police protesters gathered near the former site of the Columbus statue Saturday afternoon for a “Back the Blue” rally, chanting “we love CPD.” Counter-protesters gathered across the street as dozens of officers on bikes stood between the groups.
More than a thousand people had expressed interest in a later rally for defunding the police.
Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef, an activist and South Side resident who organized the protest, said he changed the location of the event away from the Back the Blue rally to keep the protest safe and peaceful.
Yosef said the protesters were calling on the city to decrease the police department’s $1.8 billion budget and instead invest in mental health services, public schools, housing and small businesses.
“That funding could be redirected to entrepreneurs who have dreams to open businesses that could be assets to our community. That money could be used to rehab decaying buildings,” Yosef said.
On Friday, thousands of people gathered in the streets hours after a U.S. judge denied Oregon’s request to restrict federal agents’ actions when they arrest people during protests that have roiled the city and pitted local officials against the Trump administration.
A persistent crowd of protesters remained outside the federal courthouse into the early hours of Saturday as fireworks were shot at the building and plumes of tear gas, dispensed by U.S. agents, lingered above. One person was stabbed and taken to the hospital, police said. A suspect is in custody.
Also Friday, the District of Oregon U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that 18 protesters will face federal charges, including assaulting federal officers and failing to comply with a lawful order.
For two months since the death of George Floyd, protests in Portland have been ongoing and tensions have recently escalated after unnamed federal agents in unmarked vehicles began arresting protesters. Recently on Wednesday, Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed by federal officers along with a large crowd after he tried for hours to calm angry activists demanding police reform.
The Department of Homeland Security has dispatched a team of officers to Seattle as a precaution against a new round of protests expected this weekend, as the federal government’s law enforcement footprint continues to expand in major U.S. cities.
Authorities said the number of officers, about a dozen, does not compare with the more than 100 dispatched to Portland, where demonstrations against police brutality have continued since the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
With additional demonstrations planned Saturday and Sunday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan appealed for protesters to reject the violence and destruction that marred public displays Sunday and Wednesday.
Contributing: Chris Kenning, Hayes Gardner and Ben Tobin, Louisville Courier Journal; Grace Hauck, Trevor Hughes and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Protest updates: Louisville armed militias arrive; Portland stabbing