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Downtown scene begins to clear after police and protesters clash

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — What started off as a peaceful protest at the Allen County Courthouse green Friday evening turned into something drastically different.

The downtown Fort Wayne protest organized to demand justice for George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, started off with people chanting "I can't breathe" at 5 p.m.

As the evening went on, protesters spilled into the streets and completely stopped traffic on Clinton Street.

Fort Wayne's NBC camera crews saw protesters getting on top of a semi-truck.

Another Fort Wayne's NBC Journalist Karli VanCleave spotted several people sitting in the road at Clinton and Main Street.

That's when Fort Wayne Police responded.

The FWPD formed a line of officers in riot gear telling people to get out of street around 8 p.m.

Our cameras captured police spraying tear gas into the crowd.

When protesters approached the police riot line, our cameras also captured officers spray pepper spray at them.

Several crew WPTA crew members were caught in the crossfire of tire gas while filming live reports as well.

Fort Wayne's NBC journalist Tom Powell captured video of people smashing windows of a law office on Berry Street.

Fort Wayne Police Public Information Officer Sofia Rosales-Scatena has asked the public to not come to downtown Fort Wayne and to stay home.

As of about 10 p.m., it appears that much of the crowd has dispersed from the courthouse and have formed in smaller groups in the surrounding areas. Police remain in the area.

Veo, the company that provides e-scooter and bicycle rentals in Fort Wayne, said they are stopping services until Saturday morning at 8 a.m. due to the scene downtown.

Mayor Henry released a statement to the media on the protests just after 9:30 p.m.:

"Our country and community are hurting as a result of the passing of George Floyd. It's a terrible tragedy for our society. Mr. Floyd's death did not need to happen, and we pray tonight for his family and the many others who've faced injustices.

The City of Fort Wayne respects the rights of individuals to participate in peaceful demonstrations. Tonight's demonstration in downtown Fort Wayne began peacefully. As the demonstration moved along, it began to get more aggressive and the safety of the public was being put at risk. The Fort Wayne Police Department ultimately had to respond in a manner to protect the public's safety.

It's vital that we come together united as a city that cares about one another and supports each other. That's what we've been committed to in an effort to make Fort Wayne the best city possible. Now more than ever we need to respectfully and peacefully engage in productive dialogue and understanding as we grieve together, knowing that we can have better days ahead of us."

The situation is rapidly developing. Fort Wayne's NBC has a team of journalists at the scene and will continue to bring you live coverage on the air and online.

This is a developing story. Check back in for updates.

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.

Jazlynn Bebout

Jazlynn Bebout is the Assignment Desk Editor and Digital Editor at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @jazlynnsb

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