After nightfall, ‘agitators’ show up to disrupt calm of Fort Lauderdale and Miami protests

Officers continue to fire tear gas canisters in Fort Lauderdale

Peaceful protests in Miami and Fort Lauderdale started to move in a downward spiral in both places as night fell Sunday.

But the confrontational demonstrators that were hellbent on creating chaos didn’t seem like the same protesters who were calmly, but forcefully passionate about their cause: the majority of both groups were adamant about wanting to get their message across, about racism, police brutality and the killings of black and brown people.



WATCH LIVE: Local 10 News' continuing coverage of protests in Miami-Dade and Broward.

Posted by WPLG Local 10 on Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Miami and Fort Lauderdale protests were two of many in the United States that have been ongoing since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minnesota.

Miami’s protest, which was destructive and chaotic on Saturday remained peaceful with hundreds of people marching through the streets of Miami for hours in the hot afternoon sun.

Organizers of both events in Miami and Fort Lauderdale started at 3 p.m. and they began to wrap up early in the evening.

Looking for chaos

Officials believe that some disrupters showed up later in the marches to purposely incite violence and chaos.

Around 8 p.m. on Sunday in downtown Miami, Local 10′s Louis Aguirre said there were agitators that were trying to break into a CVS on Biscayne Boulevard by throwing rocks.

That’s when a group of the original protesters stepped in and linked arms and would not allow the CVS to be destroyed.

Police then got the crowd under control with the help of those arm in arm protesters.

Fort Lauderdale’s protest turned destructive, but many believe these, too, were “agitators” that arrived after the organizers of the original protest peacefully dispersed.

At about 7 p.m., Fort Lauderdale police and protesters began to clash. Sheriff Gregory Tony talked to Local 10 News and said that he believed these were people who arrived late on the scene to create chaos.

“We will get it under control,” he said.

Those protesters were seen shooting fireworks at police in riot gear.

What did ignite the first wave of chaos was when an officer pushed a woman who was sitting on the ground across from the city’s public parking garage. Local 10 was given that video by a protester (watch above), shot from the second floor of the garage, that showed the moment of the incident. Other officers are seen grabbing the officer and pulling him away.

Police set off tear gas and flash bangs to disperse the crowd across from the Broward Public Library near Las Olas Boulevard at the downtown Fort Lauderdale garage. The Broward Sheriff’s Office was called in to assist Fort Lauderdale police.

One of the original organizers of the Black Lives Matter Alliance event, which was moved from Lauderhill to Huizenga Park in Fort Lauderdale, State Representative Shevrin Jones, issued a statement about the violence that occurred.

“After a peaceful march where we honored the life of George Floyd, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor, needless violence erupted between police and attendees nearly two hours after we ended. This is exactly what we were there to speak out against. Initial reports and video footage are both disturbing, I urge everyone to go home and depart in the spirit that the peaceful protest ended in.”

In an emergency order, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis instituted a 9 p.m. curfew to get people off of the streets. That curfew remains as well as one that was also put into effect by Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, who imposed an emergency curfew order Sunday evening in response to “growing civil unrest.” It went into effect at 9 p.m. Sunday and remains in effect until 6 a.m. Monday, but the county could extend the curfew.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said there were some people who showed up to Fort Lauderdale that were “agitators” and posted a photo on his Twitter account. The organizers of the day’s peaceful protest, Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, were seen walking around telling people that they needed to clear the area and that the protest was over.

There were scattered areas of destruction. A window of the Starmark building on Southeast First Avenue near Southeast Second Street was broken. Graffiti was scrawled on walls. A Fort Lauderdale police cruiser also had a window smashed out while a police officer was inside. City of Fort Lauderdale cars were vandalized. Around 9 p.m. Sunday night, a vandalism spree severely damaged nine businesses from Las Olas Boulevard to Himmarshee’s bar and restaurant district.


The Fort Lauderdale protest got peacefully underway on stage at the Huizenga Park at the Broward County event, with organizations Black Lives Matter and Dream Defenders bringing the group together at 3 p.m.

The group began heading north around 4:40 p.m. on the corner of Andrews Avenue. They stopped for a moment as a group and got down on one knee and raised their fists. They chanted in unison “I Can’t Breathe,” the words that George Floyd uttered to the police officer in Minneapolis, and what has become a rallying cry at protests through the United States.

They walked to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, where some members of the group pulled an American flag from the pole in front of the building, wrote No Justice, No Peace, and then hoisted the flag back up to its original location.


Miami’s protest, for the most part, remained peaceful.

Around 5:49 p.m., U.S. Customs and Border Patrol did not allow the protesters to go south on Biscayne Boulevard as they would be entering the area of Port of Miami, which would be a violation. The Miami protesters did start to move along.

Singers Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes took part in Sunday’s protest with thousands of others in downtown Miami following the death of George Floyd.

Protesters walked onto the ramp up to Interstate 395. Police blocked off the area to allow protesters to walk onto the roadway. That group left I-395 and began walking along the north side of the Adrienne Arsht Center and through that area of Miami.

PHOTOS FROM SATURDAY: Miami protest against police brutality turns destructive

In downtown Miami, Sunday’s demonstration was organized by Muslim organizations in South Florida, including the ICNA Council for Social Justice and began at the Torch of Friendship, the same location where Saturday’s protest started.

Singer Shawn Mendes was marching with the group. Singer Camila Cabelo was also spotted at the Miami march.

They then moved to the American Airlines Arena and began a peaceful march throughout Miami.

At one point, the large group stopped at the Federal Detention Center, shouting to the inmates, “We see you."

About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local