Police in riot gear clash with protesters in Harrisburg

Cynthia Fernandez
Spotlight PA

Hundreds of people gathered Saturday at the Capitol building in Harrisburg and marched through the city, protesting George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and police brutality.

Protesters chanted and held signs that read “no justice, no peace” and “I can’t breathe.”

The peaceful demonstration later turned chaotic, as police in full riot gear clashed with protesters and, according to witnesses and social media reports, deployed what appeared to be pepper spray. 

A demonstrator who did not want to be identified out of fear of online retaliation said she saw a teenage girl who had been doused with pepper spray on the ground blocks from the Capitol, near the Susquehanna River.

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“There were protesters standing in front of a cop car. There were no violent actions displayed; they were just standing in front of the car,” she said. “All of the sudden, police in riot gear started coming from behind the car and people started scattering.”

Some protesters stayed and refused to disperse. 

“Suddenly, there was screaming and running,” she said. “It did not turn violent until the cops showed up.” 

At the Capitol, a small number of protesters threw plastic bottles at police in riot gear barricading the entrance to the building. Two ambulances stood by. 

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said in a tweet that two Capitol Police officers were hospitalized and “several patrol cars [were] badly damaged by bricks.”

In a statement, Gov. Tom Wolf noted that across the state “people are protesting violence and injustice that occurs far too often against people of color.”

“Everyone should speak out because no one should be at risk of harm because of oppression or racism. We have seen these injustices happen in the commonwealth, and this week, we were all shaken by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota,” he said. “As Pennsylvanians protest, I urge everyone involved to be peaceful and to keep each other safe.”

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