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City of Syracuse, Onondaga County under state of emergency, curfew imposed due to protests

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh declared a state of emergency and imposed an emergency curfew early Sunday, as protests in the city escalated. The state of emergency and curfew were extended to all of Onondaga County by County Executive Ryan McMahon Sunday afternoon

Protesters gathered in front of the Public Safety Building in Syracuse Saturday afternoon, to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, who was black, died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The office has since been charged with murder.

For much of the day, protests were peaceful and officers did little to stop protesters. They marched from downtown Syracuse to Solvay and back, the crowd growing as the day went on. By Saturday night, hundreds were back in downtown Syracuse. Police say around 9:30 p.m., things started getting more violent. Windows were broken at the Public Safety Building and multiple reports indicate that some people were trying to set fire to the building.

Police in riot gear formed a line between the protesters and the building and pushed them back. Reports say police fired rubber bullets or some other non-lethal projectile. Some protesters said tear gas was used. 

Just after 11 p.m. Saturday, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh released a statement calling for peace. 

Credit Michael Riecke / for WRVO News
for WRVO News
A Syracuse police officer fixes a surveillance camera

“Late tonight, some protestors turned more aggressive and dangerous despite urging otherwise from most of those involved,” Walsh said. “I ask all participants to stop any actions that risk their safety and that of our City and to disband. My commitment is firm to strengthen and improve police community relations and ensure equitable law enforcement in the City of Syracuse. We can emerge from this national crisis stronger than ever.”

At 12:30 a.m. Sunday, Walsh issued a state of emergency and established a curfew in the city. It will remain in place until the state of emergency is lifted. The curfew bans anyone from being out in public from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. The curfew does not apply to those who provide essential services.

As the protest started coming to an end early Sunday, police said a few stores on North Salina St. were damaged and being looted. 

Syracuse Police said in a statement that “fewer than 10” arrests were made.

Protests are expected to continue Sunday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday afternoon 200 State Police were being sent to Rochester to help that city with protests. The governor's office said they are working with Syracuse and Albany to determine if State Police are needed in those cities as well. Cuomo also said he was placing the National Guard on standby to assist police, if needed. 

Jason has served as WRVO's news director in some capacity since August 2017. As news director, Jason produces hourly newscasts, and helps direct local news coverage and special programming. Before that, Jason hosted Morning Edition on WRVO from 2009-2019. Jason came to WRVO in January of 2008 as a producer/reporter. Before that, he spent two years as an anchor/reporter at WSYR Radio in Syracuse.